After last week's heated discussion surrounding, Marriott's VP of Loyalty Talks About Insiders, I'm back to (hopefully) not create more controversy
This time, Gary Leff of Boarding Area's View From the Wing sat down to discuss loyalty with Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson and VP Loyalty Thom Kozik. He wasn't present at the aforementioned event talking about the future of Marriott Rewards, but somehow was able to sit down with these two at another time. Perhaps it's part of their process to speak with a big loyalty player:
Of course, the conversation doesn't provide any details as to the future of the program, but does give us some insight into what the two are thinking. Not surprising is the fact that Kozik will focus on technology. Sorenson claims that loyalty will be even more important going forward than it has ever been for Marriott. What's shocking (but not surprising) is the fact that Leff got the impression that Sorenson & Kozik was taken aback by the negative reaction loyal SPG members had when the acquisition was announced.
I think that he is correct that going forward loyalty will be more important than ever. It obviously benefits the company to be the default choice for their customers and that is what the loyalty program gives them (in theory at least).
I think if the loyalty program isn't good enough to keep customers from venturing outside then they run the risk of that default status eroding away. For instance, I went to Oslo and there was no Marriott option, so I ended up trying AirBnB and had a great experience. Marriott is still my default choice, but now there is always a seed of thought in the back of my mind that I might find a better location/price/whatever on AirBnB.
Regarding the negative reaction to SPG members... I was pretty surprised by that too as I had never really looked into the SPG program much as it rarely seemed to be an option for me. But, when I did it seemed that the SPG program does definitely have some nice features. I'm hopeful that with the merger I will benefit from the increased footprint and also some of those nice features will be folded into MR. It also seemed that some of the SPG fans were sort of elitist and looked down a bit on Marriott.
@7, I agree! However, the trend in the world of travel, especially with the airlines, has been to devalue (and in Delta's case, pretty much nix) loyalty programs overall. I doubt this is what Marriott will do, but it makes me really skeptical.
I too, have had an experience recently in which I didn't stay with Marriott, but with Hyatt instead. I know their footprint isn't so great, but the two stays I had with them left me thoroughly impressed. The benefits and whatnot might be the same, but all things considered, Hyatt has me turning to them more now.
I can see why SPG Elites reacted negatively. From what I understand Elite benefits are very consistent and they (usually) don't have to fight for upgrades the way MR and HHonors members do. But I personally have never seen value in the program because it's really difficult to earn points compared to Marriott and even Hyatt.