To offset the sticker shock of the new rewards structure and remain competitive with other loyalty programs, I'd like to see Marriott implement several enhancements to the new rewards program:
Bring back Pointsavers
In order to qualify and maintain Elite membership, many Insiders accumulated points in the hundreds of thousands. Pointsavers in all categories and brands will stimulate point redemption and offset the sticker shock. With costs skyrocketing throughout the value chain, Pointsavers is a great way to deepen Elite loyalty and retain business. A couple of ideas:
Marriott ~is~ listening: Pointsavers Making a Comeback?
Introduce Free Stay Credit + Bonus Points
To promote rewards redemption and further increase loyalty, for every night stayed using points give one night credit towards the next rewards level and:
Enforce No Blackout Dates At All Participating Brands
Eliminating StayAnytime Rewards and replacing with No Blackout Dates without clear upfront standards for enforcement undermines the credibility of the rewards program. Currently, Platinum Elite has 48-Hour Guaranteed Availability but it is unclear if this benefit excludes reservations using points. Without looking at the fine print in the Terms & Conditions, I assume reservations using points are excluded. In fact, I try to reserve months in advance when redeeming points to ensure availability. In order to plan a 5 night stay at a Category 8 hotel using 200,000 points 8 to 10 months in advance, we need enhanced Trip Planning tools online backed with Elite membership support. Recognizing that commissioned sales at any hotel will try to advance book the highest percentage of rooms, the odds are that sales will win every time at the expense of highly loyal Elite. Level out the playing field and Marriott will regain trust and confidence.
I'm not sure I see how "remaining competitive with other loyalty programs" is really an issue. I've only been part of Marriott Rewards for a year or so, but I've been a member of plenty of other rewards/loyalty programs, and the revised program still seems pretty competitive to me. Who else is better at this point?
Maybe it's just a sign that I travel too much--I spent 8 months out of the last 12 away from home--but the lure of being upgraded to nicer accommodations for travel I've already committed to is much stronger for me than how many points I earn towards yet more travel.
Now, if I could redeem points for additional vacation time, I'd probably care a lot more :-), but as it stands I'm not sure I see how much value the changes you're suggesting would really provide.
Is it really so much about the points for everyone else?
Great question(s), it's my privilege to respond.
Marriott Rewards points do not appreciate in value, gain interest over time and are not inflation proof. Due to changes in the Rewards Program**, there is extensive disappointment due to perceived and an actual decrease in value‡‡. The flip side is an actual increase in Marriott's cost to operate resulting in "sticker shock"++ . Two examples:
As recent as 2007, Marriott offered PointSaver Rewards allowing redemption for less points. Pointsavers would help to offset the increased 2009 redemption levels.
FreeStay Credits and Bonus Points
Currently, if you redeem points for a hotel stay, the nights are not credited to the quota of nights needed to qualify for renewal of your Silver, Gold or Platinum status. Even if you spend additional revenue for dining, spa, golf, etc. during a free stay, you are not given credit for the night. Rather than a Reward, it's perceived as a penalty. Freestay credits recognizes and rewards customer loyalty - which is the point of the program.
Free stay Bonus Points strikes a parallel with the 50% Bonus on base points that Platinum currently receives under the 2009 program. In 2008, it was 30% Bonus. Free stay Bonus Points could be fixed or variable, but the message they convey is, "thank you for your loyalty and your business."
Since rewards points are not inflation proof, the most sensible approach is to use them as they are earned. Pointsavers, Free Stay Credit and Bonus Points would jumpstart redemption while stimulating additional revenue for those properties smart enough to develop vacation, getaway and escapt packages that include breakfast, dinner, spa, golf and other services for a fee or points.
Either way it is a win-win for Marriott's loyal customers helping them to enjoy the benefits of Marriott Rewards for leisure or business, as well as keeping Marriott at the forefront of lodging and hospitality with the best customer loyalty program.