So, news broke today that Marriott and Starwood have merged (or rather, Starwood was acquired by Marriott). The day of the merger announcement is always the most difficult from a change perspective, because it’s 100% uncertainty.
We know that if completed, the merger will have implications for SPG Members.
I’m a member of both programs, and there are things I like about each. For Marriott, I like that Ritz-Carlton is a participant, and I like that there are more mid-tier options, particularly in smaller cities with no Starwood properties.
For SPG, which is my favorite program, I like their brands, the value of Starpoints, and their elite tier benefits.
Now merging programs, if that is in fact the aim, would be a bit messy. The programs value points differently, and they have different earn and burn ratios. Without going into the gory details, here’s what I think would be the best path forward after the merger is completed:
Keep both programs wholly intact.
Honestly, what’s the point of picking “one or the other”? Participating properties will still benefit from economies of scale by gaining the millions of members belonging to the program they don’t currently belong to suddenly being able to earn at their property.
How nice would that be? I’d have access to a global hotel brand, and I could choose between programs that would work best for me. Here’s how it works.
When signing up, guests choose Marriott or SPG (or both). The points earning ratios remain the same. If I book a stay at the Sheraton Seattle, I can choose to earn with either Marriott or SPG, and the program rules will apply for the program I select. If I choose SPG, I’ll earn at SPG rates, and get benefits according to my SPG status. If I choose Marriott, I’ll earn at Marriott Rewards rates, and get benefits according to my Marriott status.
This allows guests to keep enjoying to program they’ve selected, but with a much larger portfolio of hotels at which to earn.
But wait, you say, this might be overly complicated for the hoteliers, to which I say, “This is an industry that has found a way to operate separately branded hotels in the exact same building. They’re not shy about complicated.”
But what about redemptions? Easy peasy. Both properties assign categories to their properties for redemptions. Marriott Rewards simply assigns redemption categories to Starwood properties, and Starwood simply assigns redemption categories to Marriott properties.
Unfortunately, even with this “middle road” everybody’s points will likely lose some value, simply because with more earning options, there are going to be more unused points out there, which means greater liability for hotels to provide room nights for redemption.
But the gorgeous thing is that everybody gets to keep the loyalty brand that they like, even if the benefits tweak a little bit (but we’re used to that happening with unmerged programs anyway).
Questions? Hit me with a comment.