This article in a trade journal for hoteliers, contains longitudional data on the impact of loyalty programs on bottom lines. Not surprisingly Marriott has led the pack over the course of the study.
Worth a look.
Before anyone breaks a wrist patting his or herself on the back for being the "leader of the pack", the validity of the Market Metrix study in the context of Q1 2009 is highly suspect. The information used in the study was collected in 2008 prior to the announcement and implementation of the 2009 Marriott Rewards Program changes. While the downward spiral for Marriott appears reasonably accurate, there is evidence that the % slippage downward is accelerated.
Results based on average performance of all brands within each company. January - September 2008
Market Metrix portrays one of the contributing factors extremely well. Insider-generated reviews of hotel experiences found here, flyertalk.com and elsewhere exploded as a result of the premature announcement of the 2009 changes. Regrettably, Marriott underestimated the influence and credibility that 'word of mouth' adds. Elite satisfaction and/or dissatisfaction with guest-facing changes is multiplied delivering a quicker topline or bottom line impact. Instead of telling a handful of people about a less-than-satisfying experience with Marriott, Elites are communicating with millions of visitors online. These viewers in turn are able to act on what they read and shift brand preference to suit needs that are undergoing re-prioritization. Instead of leading the pack with the best Loyalty Program as your post asserts, Marriott has successfully illustrated how best to accelerate defection.
To be constructive, it is imperative that Marriott engage Elites BEFORE speaking to the world and respond to concerns instantly. This needs to be done at all levels from the property to corporate. Let's start with directives that restore guest-facing services like Reservations. Make 'No Blackout Dates' bullet-proof. Restore knock-your-socks off Concierge services. Train the Front Desk to respond in ways that don't provoke confrontation. That will build loyalty and not defection.
Guests who read a review prior to their stay were more satisfied with their experience (+2) and were more likely to recommend that hotel (+4) compared to guests who did not read a review. This is not surprising. Reviews often provide guests with clearer and more realistic expectations for their hotel experience. Younger leisure travelers and women are more likely to read reviews prior to hotel selection. *
I doubt that other hotel loyalty programs are finding a surge in their membership, but can't prove it one way or the other.
Would I join a program at Holiday Inn (Yes I have, since the IHC to which Intercontinental belongs, is in the mix)? Would I expect Marriott level service? Not really except at the Intercontinentals.
So, numbers can be deceptive--my point was that Marriott led the pack over the long haul and may continue to do so in the battered travel economy we now face. I for one have yet to experience the downside of the Marriott changes--but may someday.
I definitely agree that a "surge" in loyalty program membership is a trend to watch. As 'proof', Ryan Carigg's article, 'Driving Loyalty With Hotel Rewards Sites' * illustrates how leveraging the web, or not can engage membership to drive growth. The data for this bar chart was assembled less than a month after the 2009 changes were announced at Marriott Insiders and Flyertalk. Among the competitors, there are some startling surprises:
The No Blackout Dates sound great to encourage loyalty, but as a fairly new owner who has been traveling and using Marriott more I was very disappointed that I couldn't get into the Grand Flora in Rome anytime in our 2 month window for next fall. I have talked to Travel Advisors, Customer Care and the Rewards department and no one can find even a single night open.
We have scheduled upcoming stays at Marriott hotels, even though it will be less convenient for business meetings at other hotels. I haven't decided if this is where my loyalty will stay. Rather than accumulating points at Marriott, and only being able to use them at a Courtyard in Rome, it would be much more economical and convenient to stay at other hotels and pay cash in Rome.
That being said, I do love Marriott and hope the next few months of travel will prove Marriott worthy of being loyal.
Welcome to Marriott Insiders and thank you for taking the time to post.
Please read the following thread for a successful redemption outcome at the Grand Flora... thanks to TJCNewYork's advice!
I tried from November until last week to book a redemption stay there in October 2009.
Thanks for your advice. I have been trying that method- "If you can't help me, who can?" Customer Care sent it on to Rewards who said it isn't available on our dates. I replied asking what they suggest I do next and haven't heard back yet. When I started the process I ask for any dates in Sept. or Oct. and they couldn't come up with 1 night open.
I won't give up easily. It sounds like my next step is to write corporate. If anyone else has any ideas, I'm open!
We had the same problem booking the CE in Paris. Literally had to check two times a day, (Had another place already booked, that we could cancel), and it was the week before that we were able to secure a room using points.
It is supply/demand and persistence. Just get yourself "Back-up" room and keep trying! I think you will get lucky!
In the end I guess we loyalists need to wake up and realize there is a huge difference between No Blackout Dates and capacity control.
Marriott heavily promoted the words "No Blackout Dates" as to mean that if a room is available for sale, it's available for redemption and as we all now know, this is simply not the case. Hotels can still limit the number of rooms they place up for grabs to Reward members and that has not changed one bit since January 15th.
"Sticker shock" woke everyone up. Marriott.com is one of the best examples of "leveling out the playing field". Marriott.com is a sophisticated search engine that relies upon data.
As SteppingStones has observed, there is an art to negotiating a deal. Establishing relationship and engaging in conversation differentiates yourself from Marriott.com users. The individual hotels desire that relationship with their guests - especially paying ones. So picking up the phone and asking about concierge, gourmet dining, spa, golf, entertainment, kennel and meeting services conveys to the hotel that you (an Elite) are looking for services that you are willing to pay for in addition to reserving a room using points. ~That~ conversation takes you off the level playing field.
As the many faces of Marriott below ~continue~ to illustrate, the new rules of engagement are high-touch, highly personalized services and extraordinary guest experiences especially at the NY Marquis, the Grand Flora and any category 6, 7 or 8 hotel.
As a Plat Elite, I cannot disagree with you more. The benefits of being a Plat with MR have all but disappeared. Biggest complaint is Conceirge Lounge. Used to be a perk but they have cut back so much on amenities, I would rather NOT go into the lounge. Example, last month stayed at Marriott Marw Times Square, the lounge did not even have bottled water. Morning snack was eggs - period.
I would think in these economic times, Marriott would be doing more to retain their loyal clientel.
TJCNewYork, all of your points are well taken. I was merely responding and trying to educate others that were under the impression that No Blackout Dates meant a granteed room when using points.
I agree with what you said and many times I have been engaged by various hotel employees over the years. A couple of years ago I was staying at a full service property 3 weeks out of the month for two straight years. When I received a survey and gave the restaurant only average responses, the executive chef actually called me and invited me to have dinner with him (on the hotels dime) in order to discuss with me how he could make the menu better.
There have been a few times when I walked into the restaurant at the same time as the GM and was invited to dine with him or her to exchange ideas (not on their dime). So what I am saying is I know the people that run the properties are out there seeking constant feedback.
But by the same token, while the properties seek and value our opinions, I don't always think they take care of loyal customers as well as they could. I have written here many times my displeasure of checking into a hotel using points and being assigned very ordinary rooms. Recently I stayed at the Marriott Park Lane and was given a small room which faced an alley that overlooked the building next door, not the Hyde Park or Oxford Street views as others have raved about. Also at a recent stay at the Paris CE Marriott I was given a small, nondescript room. I suspect that when I check into the Rome Grand Flora that I will also be issued an average room as well. Maybe I'm just not assertive enough to fight with the front desk.
My point in all this is that it's a two way street. It's OK to seek my advice on how to better run your business, but take care of me when I'm filling a room and not paying for it.
Being stuck at a H.I. tonight in Alton, Il because there are no Marriott properties really supports how superior Marriott is!
It cost more to stay here $133 per night in this small town than I just paid in Ft. Wayne, In for a two room suite at the SW RI.
My loyalty is to Marriott.
Onepass (see Postscript 4/8 below)
One Insider put it extremely well. Corporate has given directives 'not to over achieve' compelling a swift reaction 'not to over spend' when we travel for business or leisure. As a result, RevPAR has declined significantly. I've written to Customer.Care@Marriott.com repeatedly along with others voicing outrage about the failure to deliver upon expectations and promises. I personally refuse to pay for products and services that do not respond to my needs and fail to add value.
We are all waiting for corporate directives that reverse the decline in Concierge Lounge conditions. Marriott isn't the most agile company for several reasons, so there is room for improvement there. I remain steadfast, though, that the rules of engagement have changed. I'm not simply going to expect perks and benefits because they were given in the past, I feel very comfortable asking up-front, weighing options and deciding which decision will deliver the most value.
I'm also optimistic and confident that Marriott will be innovative in restoring services to regain the loyalty they've worked so diligently for.
Postscript 4/8: The following announcement* regarding Concierge Lounges was posted by a member of the Marriott Concierge Team on Flyertalk yesterday evening:
Just over two weeks ago I announced that Marriott would be reevaluating its Concierge Lounge offerings. All the concerns raised in this thread were discussed; however, the focus of the current change is on food offerings. Based on multiple feedback sources, we learned that hotels needed additional flexibility in the types of popular, healthy, and comfort food selections they offer. Going forward, our General Managers and hospitality teams on property will have options that will help them to customize lounge offerings that meet their guests preferences.
I recognize that many of you would have liked more details regarding this new policy, or perhaps to have seen additional changes. I am optimistic that as you visit our lounges over the next weeks and months you will be pleased with the changes you observe. I assure you that we continue to look for ways to improve and we value your comments, concerns, and questions.
Marriott Concierge Team
As many of you know, the Marriott corporation has a published set of guidelines for Concierge service, the location of which for money matters is normally housed within the Manager of the Front Desk. This standard lays out what will be done and how much will be alloted for meals and evening snacks.
The directive, apparently in place for a number of years, was being ignored. Hotel managers were overspending, staying open longer, etc. With the drop in revenue the folks in Bethesda said, "head on back to that standard that you should have been observing all along."
During a December 2008 visit to a JW Marriott hotel, the A/GM (a friend) told me that he'd been told to stop 7 day a week Concierge Lounge services, but at that point, not to replace the food service as it was with les. Have not been back to check to see if the new directives have downgraded the food, so no news at that property. Other Marriotts where I have stayed have either (a) gotten better (caviar at one location), (b) stayed the same, or (c) in rare cases, gotten more like Residence Inns at breakfast.
We need to document the changes as we see them so that the folks at corporate can hear from us. Every time we write, email or call, the note is taken. Keep the feedback going--it actually works.
"I have written here many times my displeasure of checking into a hotel using points and being assigned very ordinary rooms." Candidly, I've learned to voice displeasure at the moment that a breakdown in service occurs and escalate immediately - whether paid or points.
"Recently I stayed at the Marriott Park Lane and was given a small room which faced an alley that overlooked the building next door, not the Hyde Park or Oxford Street views as others have raved about." Consider voicing the praises and testimonials prior to arrival and certainly no later than the moment of check-in to cue the front desk what your expectations are.
"Maybe I'm just not assertive enough to fight with the front desk." After a long flight, hunting for luggage, and being in bumper to bumper traffic in a cab; no one is in the best disposition. At the moment you step up, just let the person on the other side of the counter know, "take care of me." It conveys immediately that you are looking forward to the comfort, hospitality and service that Marriott is renown for delivering.
Throughout your stay, take notes. After the trip, write to Customer.Care@Marriott.com and sing the praises or request a refund.