In the past 3 years I have averaged around 28 nights per year in hotel rooms spread across mostly independent hotels, with some Hilton, SPG and Accor properties thrown in the mix. Up until now, I’ve never fully committed to any hotel loyalty programme and instead have booked with hotel websites directly or via Hotels.com. Staying around 30 nights per year with one chain would generally allow me to reach ‘mid tier’ status with most major hotel loyalty chains… but, is it worth it?
As for my situation, I live in Australia and travel occasionally for work but don’t have much choice over hotel selection, so have only very occasionally been able to stay in Hilton/Marriott properties for work. Therefore, the majority of my travel and hotel stays are self funded. I travel with my partner and we generally like to travel 3-4 times domestically per year and 2-3 times internationally a year.
I’ve previously been a Hilton Diamond member (thanks to my Velocity Platinum status), an Accor Le Club Silver member and a SPG/Marriot Silver member. I’m currently Gold with Hilton (thanks to Velocity) and Silver with Marriott Bonvoy. I have enjoyed some nice upgrades with Hilton but requiring 40 nights per year to retain Gold is just a bit too much for me.
The key reasons I haven’t committed to a single hotel loyalty chain thus far are:
- Freedom – even the biggest chains don’t have hotels in every place you might like to travel to
- Price – sometimes you may have to pay a premium to stay in your preferred hotel chain due to selections and availability
- Alternative options – sometimes you can get much more bang for buck in an Airbnb or independent hotel compared to the options available with your preferred chain
Having said all this, I still find myself getting drawn to the Marriott Bonvoy program and reading as much as I can about it. Judging by the number of Marriott/SPG fans, it seems the program can offer some people some good benefits. So, without further ado, I have finally decided to make 2019 the year that I try to achieve Marriott Bonvoy Gold status for the first time. Why? Well, a few things have changed since the Marriott/SPG merger and the last time that I looked seriously at the SPG program (in 2017):
- Incredible selection of high end properties – if you’re thinking of stunningly beautiful and Instagram-worthy ocean front resorts… Marriott Bonvoy has plenty to choose from. From the Maldives to Mexico, there’s a huge list of ‘aspirational’ hotels in their program that can be booked using cash or points.
- Large selection of mid and low tier resorts – my biggest problem with the old SPG program was that they didn’t offer enough budget hotels around the world. Our general hotel preference is to stay 75% of the time at mid and low tier hotels and then splurge for luxurious resorts towards the final 25% of each trip. Now that the combined Marriott Bonvoy program includes many lower end Marriott properties such as Courtyard and Moxy, it’s much easier to find hotels within our budget.
- Flexibility with points – booking a stay with points can not only offer great value but also usually offers great cancellation terms – excellent when you need that additional flexibility.
- Excellent booking site and smartphone apps – this is one area where Marriott really excels. Both the website and smartphone apps offer beautifully designed and simple to use interfaces for booking or modifying stays. The Accor and IHG apps are absolutely terrible and in my view really detract from the hotel experience. The Hilton app is not too bad and does allow you to pick your own room during online check-in which is fantastic – something I hope that Marriott offers soon.
So essentially, my plan for 2019 is to try and reach Marriott Bonvoy Gold status and report back with as much information as I can on the quality of my stays, the money I’ve spent and whether I’ve found the status to offer enough benefits to justify it, or whether I’ll revert back to Hotels.com and ‘best fare of the day’.
Featured image is the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort.