So, a year on the "dark side" later:
2013 saw a total of 26 nights with Marriott, and 99 at a Hilton property. Enough time for a reasonable evaluation.
What do I miss? Points. Lots & lots of points. No doubt about it, Marriott Rewards gives me more points and things to do with them than Hilton. Keep in mind, what I do with my points may differ from you, but for my preferences (stuff from MR/SkyMall mostly), it's a better value. I haven't used many of the Hilton points as they accrue at a much lower rate, and merchandise (or nights) seem to be at a lower exchange rate overall. So from that particular perspective, I'll still remain loyal to The House That JW Built to keep that bank filled.
What don't I miss? The Bistro. That is the most McDonald's/Walmart concept I can think of where it relates to attracting regular clientele. If I'd only been to a single CY, I'd think it's a great idea, but after the 40th or 50th one, c'mon, man! If I sought a generic, unified corporate market-tested concept, there's always Olive Garden, Red Lobster, et al. I still like a wee bit of uniqueness. I don't miss the loss of Platinum Welcome gifts at full properties. Was the half-bottle of wine and bowl of nuts really breaking the bank? 500 points, gee, thanks. I don't miss Platinum Premier, either. It got nothing except an annual cheesy gift and a black card. As an LPE, I get the same benefits and treatment as I ever did with PP, so no great loss.
Now, Hilton isn't all that either. I've had properties that were as underwhelming as any in the Marriott family (I'm looking at you, Doubletree), a 30-year old Hampton in East Nowhere, Kansas is still a depressing crackerbox, but I've also had some really nice experiences. Embassy Suites is a terrific brand concept, HGI's are usually above average, and I can actually get a cup of coffee without shelling out $2.50. The Hampton in Lexington, VA is really something (a renovated 200+ year old home as the main house), some surprising on-property restaurants (a Ruth's Chris attached to an HGI? Yup). As a Hilton Diamond, I even get reserved parking spots at some of the properties. How cool is that?
I think the biggest difference between the two majors shows up in the budget and mid-range properties. Marriott has a more consistent presentation, while Hilton tends to more variations within a brand. I prefer the variety, personally. At this point, I don't see a reason to move back to Marriott as a full-time provider, but I'm never going to abandon it entirely, either. I'll still make sure I get my 25 or so per year (or at least as long as Megabonus hangs around), and in some locales, Marriott has a better selection (Manhattan, for example), or may be the only one there (Victoria, BC).
So there you have it. I'm coming out as bi (-hotel). I still have 20-30 Marriott nights this year pending (plus burning 120K at the Marriott New Orleans in June for a REAL VACATION!), but I think that for whatever time I have remaining on the road it'll be predominately Hilton (at least until they irritate me beyond redemption).
Now if there was only a Hilton HHonors® Insiders...
I'm a Marriott fan. I'm also a huge fan of McDonalds, Walmart, Olive Garden, and Red Lobster. Never been inside Ruth Cris or any other high priced chain steak house. I love the backbone of America, especially KS, where I have a beautiful grandson, they understand clean living, hard work, family (not global) values, and generally don't complain. I reitterate my position that everytime a MR member crosses over to the competition, another door opens for someone else . You actually haven't painted a particularly pretty picture of Hilton. I feel pretty sure that Hilton has at least considered their own version of MI but either didn't want to actually hear the feedback from their most loyal customers or just plain don't care.
I believe that your above opinions are held by many. It's funny that many Insiders, loyal enough to participate in this community, spend more time complaining than extolling the virtues of the Marriott way. jkernitzki's update was a fair and balanced summary of what he found on the dark side. I'll stay where I'm at and do my best to make Marriott a better place for all.
On a separate note, if you and I ever have the chance to get together, I will treat you to a steak at one of those 'fancy' steak places. The steaks are usually very good, and the beer is very cold.
I'm not a necessarily a "fan" of either, I'm just a consumer that wants value, a reasonable amount of respect for my patronage, and a reason to return. Given I'm on the road throughout NA no less than 35 weeks a year, I actually like to know I've been somewhere different. Local culture, history, food, and people are the only things that make it more like an adventure and less like "another week, another Courtyard (or Hampton)."
If I was content with all the sameness, I wouldn't travel in the first place, but I get that many others want that familiarity as an anchor of sorts. For me, I'd go nuts if I had a never ending routine, seeing the same people, places, meals, etc. That's one of the main reasons I have the job I do.
I think that's the whole point (and strength) of MI: It gives an opportunity for all of us to share our experiences and (relatively) unbiased observations. It has the ability to make us all smarter consumers, and maybe—just maybe—since Marriott hosts this site, they will hopefully take the many viewpoints into consideration where it comes to what they offer and how it's presented.
Thanks for your sharing your experiences. From what I read Marriott does have a better rewards system over Hilton. What was your experiences like with the Hilton executive lounges? I had heard that Hilton has scaled back on the number of lounges in their properties.
I haven't stayed at enough full-service Hilton properties to give a fair evaluation, but truth be told from my limited exposure to the Executive Lounges, I'll take a Marriott Concierge Lounge given the choice. That's based on what the traditional amenities have been for morning, evening, and late evening goodies. Actually, some of the full Marriott breakfasts up there were amazing! That, and I prefer the honor bar to Hilton's "we'll get it for you" method. Not like I was filling my glasses extra-full or anything, mind you...
Going to the crux of my partial "migration", if I were staying at nothing but full-service, it's unlikely that I'd have ever moved. It's the mid-line properties that are the bulk of my stays, and that's where Marriott has fallen behind Hilton, IMHO. I'll still stay, but given a choice between CY and say, an HGI or Embassy, I'll take the latter in a New York minute. Yeah, that's not a direct comparison (that'd be Hampton, I guess), but there's another point; Marriott has no direct challenge to those others.