Every year, BTN asks business travel buyers to rate the hotel brands with which they conduct business. This year, Courtyard gained its spot at the top, ranked by surveyors as the number one hotel brand in the upscale tier. Courtyard was also ranked number one in most of the survey categories, used to determine the final ranking: arranging group travel, data quality, helpful/courteous service, physical appearance, public business amenities, in-room business amenities, overall price/value. Now whereas, it might ease our pain to think they mean surveyors, like George Washington, we know otherwise. Ms. Janice Milham (she played with us for awhile and apparently didn't like what she heard Seriously rethinking staying at Courtyards anymore ) is justifiably proud; after all, she's running a brand and it's ranked number one - not too shabby. A tip of the cap to Ms. Milham.
We'd better stop our bellyaching, concede defeat, and continue sharing ideas about techniques, trips, restaurants, activities, misleading pricing traps, and good deals if we're ever going to (because currently, we're getting crushed).
Although, there are more CYs than any other Marriott brand, so maybe CY rose to the top because just about every business traveler has stayed at one. I'm not sure how the other chains stack up as far as the number of hotels favored by business travelers, but one can almost always find a CY.
I visit CY fairly often, but it's almost never my first choice. My experience is usually mediocre to good, certainly not something I would rank at #1.
I'm guessing that like the "most liveable cities," CY is about average (or slightly above) in everything while other chains might only be good in one area which results is a lower overall rating. A possibility?
As someone who has worked too many years in marketing research both as a client and as a consultant, I know that these industry surveys can be very misleading. "Most' can mean a lot of different things, and ranking data is typically a bad indicator of overall satisfaction. Ranking results are typically heavily influenced by the number of people who have had any experience with the brand. If 100 people are familiar with Courtyard and 10 ranked it first, it would outperform another hotel chain with only 15 familiar with it and 8 ranking it first. Which is a better hotel chain? Additionally, many of the the specific areas that were ranked may have absolutely no importance to an individual traveler when making their decision. Most consumers make 'trade-off's, (such as price vs location convenience or other factors) when making their selection, and the decision criteria may change for each stay. Therefore, these industry surveys typically overstate importance of many factors, and totally miss key decision influences. They also tend to reward those who have the greatest market presence.
I recently was asked to complete a financial service survey sponsored by American Express. It was probably one of the most poorly designed surveys I ever started, and I dropped out after spending 15 minutes answering questions about services that had no value to me (and I had only completed 30% of the survey). I was asked to rate several features for services that I had already indicated that I never used. Garbage in, garbage out.
This is great news for Marriott since its a survey of the very people Courtyard seeks as guests, the regular business stayer.
Obviously not all hotel chains are not created equal, and so it's important to realise that this survey ranks within tiers. It had to beat off Hilton Garden Inn, Crowne Plaza, Hyatt Place, Radisson, Four Points, Springhill Suites and Doubletree. None of these brands have the location numbers of CY, most much smaller. I'm not going to vote in a survey for a place I haven't stayed at.
The fact that CY has risen to the top this year seems to justify the decision to modernise the lobby and bring in the coffeehouse concept. If guests enjoy their stay they're likely to vote, and likely to uprate their scores even on the more mediocre stuff.
Remember, Courtyard is a business brand, nobody is saying "Woohoo, I'm off to the Courtyard Fresno, another one off my bucket list", and this business survey is precisely that, but because these voters are exactly those Marriott wants to attract to CY, this is a real boost, kudos to Marriott for pulling Courtyard up. We may not like the way it did it, but, yes, erc, this clearly shows Marriott knows it's market!
This wont change my decisions, there are only 2 CYs in the UK anyway. Whenever I book I always weigh the elite benefits into the cost and most recently when staying in Barcelona, this meant I eschewed the slightly cheaper AC (a recent Marriott brand acquisition, elite-benefits-wise like a European CY) in favour of the Renaissance where, once I'd included the free elite breakfast into the cost, the Ren turned out cheaper. Likewise, I'm in Philly next week and decided to stay at the Marriott instead of the (slightly cheaper) CY next door, but again the Marriott elite benefits made it the better deal...
and now the meat of the thread
Thanks to the above who took the time to respond and thanks to the more than 160 who read/viewed
The true purpose of my post was to highlight essentially what all five repliers in one way or another touched on; in spite of what Insiders think, Marriott, knowing their market and how to best serve and promote within the industry that service, currently does not need to listen, nor react to the views of Insiders.
We write about the decline of recognition of loyalty and Marriott virtually sweeps (again) the Freddie Awards.
We write about the removal of coffee and the service at Beastro and Marriott wins Top Brand in the Tier Award.
We write about the snafus, narrow window of availability, and modest value of FlashPerks and PlusPoints and Marriott wins Best in Business Travel and is lauded for their 'innovation'.
We write about the misleading, if not deceptive, pricing schemes in the matrix and the tightening/eroding of longtime customer service policies and Marriott continues setting record revenues, RevPar, earnings, and stock prices.
The takeaway from above - Insiders is not the forum for instituting change at Marriott (FlyerTalk, easily at 10 to 20 times larger than Insiders, is just as frustrated with the trends, yet just as ineffective in impacting Marriott's current strategic direction).
and now, the message
So back to Insiders - if you skim through the past 200 threads on this forum, no more than five are about actual travel write ups of recent trips Insiders have made. This forum used to have terrific write ups of Insider travels practically daily, often leading to tremendous conversations and ideas. I know I planned several trips, London, Indy, Costa Rica, Aruba, Portsmouth, Asheville, and even a Baltic Sea Cruise based on the wonderful insights provided in this forum.
I have noticed several folks now just write reviews instead and whereas I never want to see reviews clog up the threads again, unfortunately reviews do not provide a vehicle for an exchange of ideas, which is where the real brainstorming begins.
Some excellent travel write ups have been dropped into blogs, which for all purposes, until Marriott changes the interaction format, might well have been sent to the Helen Keller Institute for the number of folks who see them, again depriving the forum of the 'multiplier' effect.
The depth of Insiders traveler knowledge continues to be shown when someone asks a specific question about an area or trip, but of course that limits the discussion to a much narrower field. Just this week alone we had three new Insiders participate in the forum with over 4,000 nights between them. The forum's knowledge base is its greatest weapon against combating the overwhelming leverage currently held by the travel industry.
If, along with all of the other Insider topics, we can get back to the sharing of trips among ourselves (even the local weekend trip to a museum or theatre etc. has significant potential for an excellent exchange), we will once again be dealing from strength and will greatly enhance both the value of the forum and the experience of our future travels.
So let's go Insiders, give it a try; fancy photos and clever notes are not necessary, just share your travel experience and let the forum run with it, we will all benefit from the exchange and as shown from the post above, if we want the best benefits out of our travels, we must look to ourselves, not the hard charging Marriott machine.
Keep on keepin' on Insiders
Not sure how hotels get ranked, and my experiences at Marriott properties remains "mixed",but generally favorable. By way of explanation, I mean it depends on the particular location. For instance, having stayed at many different Marriott facilities throughout N.A. and Western Europe, there are exceptions to the "rule".
The Courtyards I've stayed in NYC, Orlando, Portland, OR (near Willamette River), Toronto Etobicote (airport area) and Charlotte (South Park), I believe, are quite nice and consistent - even received upgrade at the Orlando facility and free breakfasts for my wife and myself, while others have been somewhat disappointing. I too was disappointed when they discontinued their breakfast buffets and subscribed to Starbucks counter service. I'm not a Starbucks fan anyway.
The Spring Hill Suites facility in North Scottsdale (Phoenix) and Buckhead (Atlanta) are a couple of my favorites, while others are rather lacking in many ways.
I realize that Fairfield Inns & Suites are not designed as "top drawer" in hotel amenities, but I've seldom stayed in one where I didn't think I got my money's worth, so to speak. A Ford Pinto should not be compared with a Toyota Lexus!
Overall, I've been generally pleased with Residence Inn facilities, with the ones in Savannah, Bellevue (Seattle, WA), Portland (near convention center), Montreal, all receiving high marks from me, although I agree with others that in some instances their breakfast and evening, complimentary lounge foods have deteriorated some.
fschumpert my man, however they're ranked, Marriott seems to always win.
We can discuss whether it's pure volume (I'm convinced that's the answer to the Freddies), sound strategy (CY seems to hit the sweet spot of availability, price range, and service level for the business traveler) or reputation/competitor vulnerability (Fortune loves Marriott in oh so many ways) or of course, most likely, some combination of it all, but the bottom line is, our travel experience is most heavily impacted by the quality of the interaction at the property level.
With that in mind, I ask that you, one of our most productive Insiders with regards to sharing travel experiences, drop those puppies into the broader category of Discussions (Marriott Rewards) the next time you share those great photos and travel tips.
Similarly, veterans such as the following who all recently had excellent blogs or photo albums ( some that I missed until they were gone), in the future consider tossing these bad boys into the mainstream of the forum and let's dance, each of these would have had a much longer shelf life in the Discussion zone;
jakeal (thanks for jumping in above) Southern swing good stuff - # of viewers could have set on a swing
bejacob - I-35 and Rt. 66 trip - an eye catcher (the catch, only 28 eyes)
IAHFLYR - Sugarland Texas, a sweetheart of an overview with you and your sweetheart
vaboywnder - MVC Grand Vista Orlando - a strong Insider market with a keen message
ks77 - Oahu and Maui (great stuff and fantastic 'glitch' background story)
and participants of this thread, where as of right now, close to 8,000 nights are represented
toss in an occasional write up of one of those nights - wow, great fuel for the intellectual fires.
We've got the goods; like Marriott, let's highlight them effectively for maximum impact.
Next week I'll have an Atlanta write up (meeting a celebrity Insider) and then I'm off to my FlashPerks Boston followed by the DC Insiders Get Together at the Mayflower Friday November 7th - 6 pm. So I'll put my posts where my mouth is. Go man, go.
Great stuff for sure, and I will put future reports into the Discussion category. Sadly, only one Marriott stay planned until the end of the year at the brand new Residence Inn Fort Myers at I-75 and Gulf Coast Town Center: Fort Myers Extended Stay Hotels with two more early next year at FS Marriotts.
I'd rather stay at a FS Hilton than the CY offered in NYC and have a more user friendly room in a more centralized location for our plans, plus the rates are actually comparable for a higher room category at the Hilton when I booked it months back.
P.S. Whoops I lied, just remembered a golf tournament in Puerto Vallarta for a week stay this December at the Puerto Vallarta Hotels | CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta.
Message was edited by: IAHFLYR
erc, you nailed it on the blog posts. I still plan to put my county collecting travels in my blog despite the lack of visibility beause I believe that is the right place for it. I'll just have start tagging more Insiders in the blog to get them to read it.
Other travel or comments I'll keep as discussions. I might even have to post a blog entry highlighting my trips and then create a discussion about specifics related to travel issues or the pros and cons of specific Marriott properties. My blog may only get a few views, but at least its in good company.
For what it's worth, I only have 1 night at a CY booked (out of 6 nights) on my upcoming DC, MD, VA trip (CY Ocean City) and only because I scored an ocean view room (off season, I'll admit) for right around $100.
Still doesn't make them #1 in my book.
Thanks for the follow up, now we're cookin' with gas.
Although I don't necessarily recommend this (because otherwise you could end up with marks on your permanent record - although profchiara is the expert at informing us about non-Marriott travel, so there is a blueprint for how to do it with style) don't rule out writing up your trip even if it's a non-Marriott stay. You could possibly share insights about the area. Here's a few examples ranging from traveler pal to borderline subversive (everyone knows I love me some Marriott, so perhaps sometimes, The Man, to his credit, 'looks the other way' ).
Non Marriott (timeshare) stay with sharing of Insider input
Uh, oh, getting edgy - Non hotel stay (w/competitor)
Wild man status - TravelZoo deal killed my fave SpringHill Chicago River North $$$$
Just a quick glance through each thread will demonstrate how others (like jerrycoin) pick up on the travel area discussion and superbly run with it - providing great insights (and we avoid turning it into a gripe session, instead we just discuss the reality of the new "arms length, protect yourself at all times" travel world)
IAH -no doubt you're already on double secret probation (the company you keep), what the heck, let 'er rip
b.e. -CY burns your mild mannered hide, doesn't it? Better proceed with caution, you're 1 step from postal
f.s. - well, if you're a novice, you're certainly Rookie of the Year, great stuff, stay at it
I will add that one nice feature that CY has over SHS, RI, TPS, and FFI is that the platinum arrival bonus is 400 points (plus something from the marketplace) as opposed to 200 (OR somthing from the marketplace). For a short stay (like most of mine) a few CY nights could add a fair number of points over those other brands. This helps explain why 7 of my last 18 stays are at CY.
Overall, CY is alright. It's just not better than that.
All about the points, baby. Why else would I bother with those silly badges?
BTW, which badge (other than the Platinum one) do you think I earned first?
If you guessed
You're a winner!
Why would I pass up 25 free points on travel I had already booked? As long as I don't have to tweet #LoveMeSomeSHSWaffles, I'm good. (at least until the next points devaluation ).
Thanks for the compliment , erc! Although I will feel very guilty doing so (not for Marriott since they no longer have a presence, but because of the Ledra), I am going to post about my recent stay in Athens over the weekend. I stayed at a hotel in Plaka and it was amazing and made me like the city a whole lot more. That takes nothing away from the Ledra, but it would have cost me a lot more to be in a location must less convenient. Anyway, I plan to keep it up, since I see nothing that will change me back to a Marriott stayer. It (and other frequent guest programs) were great for me in their time, but no longer. I haven't gone to the competition, just independent and boutique hotels and have been very, very happy on almost every occasion.
I recently posted a photo page regarding "Country Inns" in North America, listing several places, such as the Ben Miller Inn and Elmhurst Inn, both in Ontario, and the Captain Whidbey Inn and Salish Lodge, in Washington state and the Timberline Lodge in Oregon; however, I was this week informed by the Marriott Insider Community Manager that they had declined to publish this post as it appeared to be a "commercial" for other places, which was the farthest thing from my mind. Therefore, to keep in the good graces of Insider overseers I removed the photo page and references to these unique places as choice destinations.
There are no Marriott properties in either of the places where I listed some of the "Country Inn" that I've enjoyed during my travel throughout North America. I always stay at Marriott properties when available, or most convenient to do so, but the "country inns" do provide an unique, enjoyable alternative. Regret Marriott's decision about this,but I'm not one for fighting this, but those who have never driven to near the top of Mt. Hood, east of Portland, OR, to stay/eat at the Timberline Lodge, you're missing a real treat!
Thanks IAHFLYR and superchief1 and Natalie at NathalieF for your comments regarding my earlier photo submission for "Country Inns", which no longer exists on "Insiders", at the C.M. request. "Country Inns" are by definition in the country, and there generally are no Marriott properties located in the area; therefore, not in competition with Marriott. However, these inns (Timberline Lodge, the Ben Miller Inn (photo below), Elmhurst Inn, Salish Lodge, Captain Whidbey Inn, etc., to name a few) are, in my opinion, worthy of travelers' consideration, much like are B&B's in the UK, and this is the reason I recently created the photo entry.
Seriously, this is the kind of thing that should be posted because it involves so many places of interest to many Insiders. For those of you who are considering what I did (more or less cutting ties or making stays of about 1-2 nights a year when convenient), I have found an excellent credit card. I met my Delta Amex Reserve MQM bonus this year and I probably won't use it (or Delta) after next year if they don't change things. The Barclay's Arrival World Elite Plus Mastercard gives 2 pts for every purchase on everything, a 40,000 mile credit after $3000 of purchases in the first three months, and extremely significant travel credits. Last I checked it was listed by most as the best credit card for frequent travelers. Here's one review but anyone can check others. There are no limits on where you stay, what airline you travel, etc.
PS -- I've just been exploring my Barclay's card more and they have a 'mall' that is the equivalent of skymilesshopping. Plus they have a travel website where you get actual points accumulated to your credit card account (which can be used maximally for travel but also for other things). I'm just figuring it all out now, but this is my card. Since I'm already Delta Platinum Medallion Elite Plus (with two remaining international trips -- to Salisbury UK for the Jack the Ripper conference in 10 days and Venice in the second week of December), I really have to decide what to do. I probably will use the Barclay card for my Marriott stay at Heathrow because I won't have Marriott points worth anything, and the Barclay card trumps (at least until Jan 1) both Amex Reserve and Sapphire (which I'd been using after I made my MQMs).
Now that is a sad sad thing to read fschumpert. That type of response will add fuel to the further reduction of useful travel information and experiences being posted if it is ONLY for Marriott properties.
What do others think of that type of censoring?
If I might play "devil's advocate" for a moment, I agree with your assessment - for reasons set out below, it was surely fanciful to believe it could be otherwise - but I do not accept that this is a cause for pessimism, quite the contrary in fact.
My argument runs thus:
1. If ever there was an example of misplaced expectations, it was the belief that Insiders - an in-house site - could influence on major commercial issues, significantly and consistently, the organisation that created it. It was not created for this purpose, nor had the ear of those (GMs were supposedly barred from entering the site) with access to the crucial levers of change. For Marriott, it has served - as much as anything else - as a proxy for the "customer services" in handling complaints etc; as a place where members who were in the main already long-standing Marriott clients could let off steam harmlessly and, more important, privately.
2. If those who submitted complaints are serious about the grievances they articulate - instead of being mildly irritated about a marginal diminution in status and financial advantage - they should take create an active lobby and take their concerns to an external site - TripAdvisor, to name but one. In this context, the "reputational risk" posed by a well organised, coherent, critical voice, in a highly competitive market place, might cause the likes of Marriott to think twice.
3. My grounds for optimism lie in the hope that Insiders might take this moment to refocus on the bigger and wider challenge of travel as opposed to the micro issues of "points, upgrades, free breakfasts, cancellation policies etc" that have come to dominate its agenda over the past few years. Travel itself is both a challenge and an opportunity: it rewards those interested into getting to grips with differing cultures, cuisines, customs, constitutions, languages and traditions; willing to confront the sometimes uncomfortable reality that we approach these differences, in an ever globalising world, through a mind set that, consciously and subconsciously, is distinctively "western" in its preferences and prejudices.
All this at a times when the "West" is in decline in relative terms; and in the case of Europe in absolute terms as well.
The challenge for this site is to use the shared experience of travel (in the broader sense) as a means of better understanding and engaging with the world in which it takes place.
All best wishes,
Well, we don't hear from you often, but when we do...bam, you knock it out of the park for a home run (baseball or cricket ). If I had marked my post as a Question, your reply would be marked Correct Answer.
You take my observation above (not complaint, but reality) that we can't institute change with the Insiders forum and elegantly (and eloquently) point out that we never should have expected to in the first place and I agree.
We have numerous cases just this week of how several travelers have had superb interactions with Marriott in spite of the current economic leverage Marriott wields. With the burden of the illusion of changing Marriott off of our shoulders, we can more effectively focus on enhancing everyone's travels, through the sharing of experiences, insights, techniques, and ideas.
Your post also demonstrates the 'brainstorming' effect of tossing ideas out there among the substantial group of travelers that make up this forum. The multiplier effect comes into play as one idea leads to another, until sooner or later we have a powerful gameplan for optimizing our travel.
Hoping all is well with you, it's good hearing from you. Thanks for the input.