When Marriott introduced peak, off peak and standard pricing with points, there was hope.
The hotel behemoth spoke of a balance existing between dates where you’d need fewer points than before, dates where it all remained the same, and those new dates where the places you want to stay are going to cost more points. Those days may be long gone, and it’s an odd time for Bonvoy and its many hotels to play games with points redemption opportunities.
Off Peak, Off Limits?
Balance was a key distinction when Marriott Bonvoy sold the dream of the new program, making sure previous opportunities weren’t lost, and new better opportunities were put into place to balance out the devaluations.
When the “new” program kicked off, the vast majority of hotels offered dates of which roughly 25% were off peak, 50% standard and 25% peak. Loyalty Lobby recently uncovered a variety of hotels where that “balance” is now down to 2% of overall stays for the year being off peak, with tons below 5%. In most cases, the balance was shifted mostly to peak, rather than even standard.
That’s as little as one week per year where off peak pricing is available!
Worse, hotels aren’t even offering off peak dates during actual off peak travel times. Even the lowest seasons are being classed as peak for making a points redemption, with leisure destinations such as Southeast Asia, Maldives and hotels in European getaways among the most aggressive offenders.
Hotels Get Paid When You Use Points
Hotels don’t get paid in points, they get an amount of cash based on a variety of factors around your points booking. Marriott sets which dates are peak, standard or off peak using points, not hotels.
Dates where the hotel is near empty, the hotel might get a third of what the going rate is in cash, for taking your points booking, but on a peak nearly full occupancy basis, they might get the exact equivalent of the cash rate. There’s much more on this here, if you want to get technical.
Basically, hotels actually like taking your points more when they’re near full than when they’re not, because they get paid much more.
Marriott Bonvoy: In Or Out?
Hotels in the Marriott Bonvoy program, which are mostly independently owned outside of Marriott, benefit greatly from the exposure and opportunities that come with being part of the Bonvoy collection of hotels.The hotels get extra eyeballs at every turn, are much more visible in every search and are able to capitalize on Bonvoy loyalists who might otherwise go elsewhere.
With too few off peak, or even standard dates Marriott Bonvoy is caving on its promise to members. Marriott Bonvoy was very careful never to set a specific balance for peak, off peak and standard dates, and it appears they’re now running wild with the ambiguity. Naturally, guests are finding themselves increasingly frustrated with the values their points bring.
Protecting the value of the Bonvoy loyalty program is worth billions, so at some point either greater clarity or new opportunities will become necessary. Until then, Bonvoy members will continue to find their points worth less, and that tends to send loyalty enthusiasts packing…