When everyone is “special”, is anyone actually special?

Marriott Bonvoy launched in 2018 with much promise in the wake of the merger between Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott, with an exciting new program that retained much of the delight for frequent guests.

But as pundits feared, over time, Marriott’s leadership has made conscious choices to water down the “elite” experience to keep the hotel owners, rather than hotel guests, happy.

The latest diversion from expectation is one that’s nothing short of laughable. It takes 50 nights to achieve Marriott Platinum status in a year and even more for Titanium or Ambassador, but no matter how many nights you stay, there’s now no guarantee that all that loyalty will even get you coffee, tea or juice for breakfast.

Marriott Properties Balking On Breakfast

It comes as surprise to some that Marriott, the big company based in Maryland doesn’t actually own most of the hotels around the world bearing its name, or the names of any of its brands like Ritz Carlton, or JW Marriott.

In reality, most hotels are owned independently by real estate groups, and Marriott is just a hotel management company that provides “standards”, pillows and ultimately, huge marketing reach.

It’s a tap *most* hotel owners want on, since millions of potential hotel customers are instantly plugged in to the property, versus going it alone as an independent hotel. You stand out right away. But lately, hotel owners have been on a crusade to cut costs, and giving out “free” breakfast to frequent guests is the latest tirade.

They want the reach of these loyalty programs, but they don’t want to pay for it.

View From The Wing notes an incredible story of a Marriott Luxury Collection Hotel in Vail, Colorado screwing elite guests out of coffee, tea or juice. If they’d like to convert their long term loyalty into coffee, tea, or juice, they can pay an $18 supplement, rather than the $42 others pay. Wow, geez, thanks. Unfortunately, they’re not alone.

If Platinum, Titanium or Ambassador guests don’t want to pay, there’s no coffee, tea or juice with their breakfast included. L-O-L.

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Hotels Are Playing A Dumb Game

Honestly, what the f**k is the cost basis to a hotel for a pot of coffee? I buy expensive beans, own my own grinder, use a V60 filter and I’m still at a cost basis well under $1 per cup, without any scale to bring discounts.

There are plenty of issues in the world to stake your business on, but this is among the most illogical I’ve ever heard. I will actively avoid DiamondRock owned hotels based on their continued desire to f**k customers in any way possible.

See also: Marriott’s CEO basically agreeing with these clowns.

Unfortunately, this egregious move is far from isolated. I wrote recently that hotels are playing a very dumb game right now, and that it’s only fueling the rise of Airbnb and other sharing economy platforms.

I’ve spent more than $20,000 on lodging in 2022 thus far, and more than $15,000 of that has gone to sharing economy lodging operations. That’s a larger share than any previous year, and with each sub-par hotel experience, that needle will continue to shift.

Hotels are trying to skimp on cleaning, service and breakfast while Airbnb’s, VRBO’s and other sharing platforms go from basic lodging to clever concierge services. They are two curves moving inversely, rapidly shifting the hotel landscape.

Only a few “true” luxury brands like Four Seasons and Peninsula are leaning into what makes a hotel stay special, with things like guaranteed 6PM checkout and truly massive breakfast credits.

If Marriott Bonvoy continues to allow greedy hotel owners to diminish the value of its Bonvoy Loyalty Program, there may be no place left in the marketplace for Marriott, or these hotels which hold hilarious contempt for the guests who fill their rooms.

A sad day in hotel loyalty, for sure.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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9 Comments

  1. I often disagree with you on the airline economics side on things but hats off I think you’re bang on on the hotel loyalty analysis.

    Most are sadly not worth the hassle now unless you’re travelling 4+ nights a week, every week, on a corporate account to regularly earn a usable number of free nights. Even £50k annual spend barely gets you anything worthwhile these days and to be honest the best hotels are usually independent I find as they genuinely have to work on repeat business so you might as well go for them.

    1. PH balance is important in the brew. I believe, ideally circa 6.5 or 7. Where I live, there’s considerable limescale, even with water softeners, which also messes with good kettles designed for pour over etc. All carbon neutral water : )

  2. No coffee?‽???!!!!!! LOL! That won’t go over very well. They’re headed for disaster and will be forced to change this policy.

  3. Lifetime Titanium here.
    As of the last few years (even pre-pandemic), there have been few loyalty benefits that I actually use, so I’ve been staying at more independent hotels. With Marriott, I’ll stay at Courtyards for cheap, and then grab breakfast offsite. The allure of the full service hotel has waned for me considerably…especially with all of the nickel-dime charges, etc.
    The most profound behavior change that I’ve noticed is that I used to blindly go to Marriott.com for my hotel bookings, and now I’m using southwest hotels in ordert to get points (which are actually valuable to me). While SWA has devalued points by a bit, it’s nowhere near the bloodletting at Marriott. Free agency has been awesome, and with this new strategy, I’ve enjoyed my trips that much more.

  4. Just stayed at several different Marriott properties in Hawaii as a Titanium (and lifetime Platinum) and it was a joke. No longer feel valued by Marriott and am starting to consider moving all our business to Hyatt, independents, and AirBnB. The lack of breakfasts (or ridiculously paltry grab and go), never getting anything that felt like an upgrade in our stays, and the change in redemption levels this year has really changed my perspective.

  5. Guess what Marriott I will not be going for Plat Elite status again next year. I will be focusing on Staying with Hilton and as a Dimond member intend to get better service and benefits anyway. If you want to run your program into the ground do so on your own dime not mine!

    PS: you might want to find a new CEO. Your current CEO would be better suited over at Hertz.

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