I asked over in another forum but here's another go: what creates value for you as a frequent traveler in any loyalty program: hotel, car rentals, airlines.
We all saw Up in the Air (or have heard about it.) Was there a reason for sticking with an airline--of course, in the case of George Clooney's character--even if it was merely the stroking he got from earning all those miles.
I used to think that strangers at parties really wanted to know what I made in salary when they started the 20 questions about where I worked. It was a game I and others played in a competitive large corporate environments. Our hotel loyalty status is harder to discern and often goes unspoken in social occasions.
So, my questions are: what value is there in any hotel loyalty program that makes the most difference for you as a member? Are there reasons why you maintain that loyalty even in the face of declining benefits due to program changes? Is there a point when the program no longer seems worth the effort?
Please post and we'll see what we get.
Pure and simple, "it's the points stupid!" I would rather accumalate points in a single, respectable program than to spread it around. It makes the possibilty of a really BIG reward trip possuible every few years. Of course, the status of the Elite level helps, but at all as much as it means with an airline. With them, you see the value quite often with upgrades more often than not. I suspect you were looking for some deeper reason, but for me, it's the points accumalated in a single program. I just happened to settle in Marriott. Could have been ANY of the majors.
I would have to say that value for me in a corporate 'loyalty' program is very difficult to define. The treatment some companies display to their customer base seems more and more to be defined by their bottom line whether you are a loyal traveler or a sometimes user. To wit, and Pandora's box may be opening with this one....
Years ago, it was nice to have loyalty with an airline that had good service, nice people and offerings (upgrades, lounge offerings, etc.) that made one feel valued as a member. Today, I have absolutely 'zero' loyalty to airlines due to their business model...that embodies 'zero' caring about their customer base. I do have elite status with one airline, but that status bears no reflection to how I am treated....and I use my AMEX Platinum card to access their lounges.
With Marriott, my loyalty was 'bought' by me when I purchased mutiple timeshare weeks over time. This is where I totally agree with Shoeman that 'its the points stupid' creates a loyalty for what we can do with them. That being said, and to Marriott's credit, I do feel that Marriott engaged me further by providing a welcoming feel that has thus far translated into a better sense of loyalty to the Marriott brand because of the treatment I receive as a Platinum member.
Yet, I do now wonder about the loyalties that we all will feel going forward with the changes unfolding at Marriott in the timeshare offerings (Destinations program, ever increasing fee base, increasing difficulty in exchange, etc.). My concern is those changes do seem to underscore potential for a current of change at Marriott. What that impact will be to our overall loyalty is unknown. Hopefully, it won't go the way of the airlines.
I say that because I feel (since I went thru the new "destinations offering" timeshare presentation), that Marriott is taking a path to decrease the amount of outstanding points available for redemption. My takeaway from that presentation was information I received that more points are needed to make an exchange from my home base; more points are needed to exercise a trip destination; if not used...points expire after two years....and so on.
What will that mean for the future of the 'points' in the hotel program? Will Marriott get to a time when they say everyone must enter their new 'destinations' plan and points as we know them are a thing of the past? Let's hope not.
Only time will tell, but I will remain a loyal member until they tell me not to be.
For me, the first thing is basic but is essential to loyalty -- I need a comfortable, spacious room that has everything I need to make my trip productive.
Second is the staff at each hotel -- do they care about you as a guest and are they willing to help you with special requests. Some hotels, like the Ghent Marriott and the Grand Flora make it a point to know your name. It's a small thing, but matters.
The points, of course -- and the status that comes with being an elite member.
Finally, something we've all been discussing ad nauseam -- a website that helps others make the most of their trips and makes it easy to share both stories and information. And that website should be user-friendly!
Great answers all. I agree that points trump most everything when you get right down to it, but the value for me is that I have a historic tie to the brand and they appreciate that history and the loyalty that it presumes.
I never used a single point until about six years ago, and even now hate to see them disappear from my account. But like any transitory thing, they could evaporate if Marriott decided to terminate the program, which they can as spelled out in the terms and conditions. So I have used about 1.5 million points since then, and have a good cushion left between earning and previous balances.
Loyalty programs are a nice add-on to a good service and good product. Seems to me they mirror what used to be called personal service (in years past).
For me, at this moment, that's Marriott.
I agree with everything that's been said before. I just wound up settling on Marriott and have stuck with them so that all my points accumulate in the same program.
Of course, it's not quite as simple as that. There are some minimum criteria to meet. One important consideration for me is that there is a Marriott of one type or another just about anywhere I go (although on my trip last week there wasn't a Marriott within 100 miles so I had to stay in another place). I rarely go to upscale, exciting or exotic places: my itineraries this year would bore you to tears. Some of my trips will last 7 - 14 days, and Residence Inns and Town Place Suites are nice for those longer stays. Marriott has an easy-to-use website (well, except for the Insiders website), and does most of the smaller things right, so they meet my minimum criteria there. Having said all of this, the Hilton chain would probably be equal in all of these aspects, but I just wound up with Marriott.
Like someone else in this thread, I used to be fiercely loyal to one particular airline. I didn't get any perks from that (had to fight for upgrades), and it really came down to my loyalty being so that I could accumulate all my points in the same basket. With my current job, it would be almost impossible to remain loyal to one airline, so my flights are spread among many different ones. So now I'm not an elite on any airline, but this really hasn't bothered me as much as I thought it would.
I am sort of in that middle area -- I'm not the super power platinum member (although I have gotten close a few times, including this year) that deserves the special perks, but I have been a solid, consistent gold member for a while now (5 years?). So I'm a good customer, but I'm not so special that I get the George Clooney treatment. I'm just a number to Marriott, and Marriott is just another hotel to me. In this case, the elite membership boils down to an unemotional business relationship -- I'll pay you for the room, and you give me the points.
Interesting question. I guess for me it comes down to three main areas:
1) Expected level of quality and Service: When you’re on the road enough to be having this type of conversation, there are certain things you just have to have. With Marriot you can generally expect consistency and overall an acceptable level of accommodations, and amenities.
2) Flexibility and Choice: There's quite simply a certain critical mass the chain offers. There are not many places you can go without having a Marriott offering close.
3) Rewards: Logging 100 days a year in a hotel can be a grind. I want a perk for doing it, and if it's the Hotel that I can extract value from then so be it. When I do take the 2 week vacation abroad with the family, I want it to be free and for me AND the family to feel some added value from the reward program.
So when does the value cease to be of sufficient value to make me choose Marriot? Well there are other chains that certainly provide 1 and 2 above, so it boils down to number 3. When the benefit is perceived to be less attractive with Marriott, I'd likely switch. You can typically transfer status from Chain to Chain which is key for me to actually switch....I'm not starting out at the bottom again. There are times that I think other programs offer better, more flexible perks, but not to the point I've considered switching seriously, but as soon as I can't book that vacation I want with the family on points...I'd have to really think about it.
Marriott seems to get that it's a competitive business with platinum and loyalty programs, but I still think they are slow to react to the best perks that competition offers...Give me total flexibility in my perks, and I'll stay loyal....that's the value I'd like to extract.
People want to feel special. It strokes the ego knowing that you are being offered something that the average person does not get. Maybe it's access to the executive floor and lounge.Maybe its free internet or parking.Maybe its just knowing that all these points are going to add up for a free vacation someday and all that travelling would have been worth it.What Marriott gives to its members is very small in respects to the money that travellar gives to Marriott.The two hundred points you get instead of a gift is worth about sixty cents.Last month I asked for an upgrade to my room and I got the very same room that I had gotten before.There is no upgrades at most Marriott properties anymore.There is very little difference to the way Marriott treats its members and the average customer.