Marriott improves elite breakfast offerings… and is still not as good as the competition

Marriott Rewards has always been a program that puzzles me. Not the program itself, but rather that they seem to have a really loyal following, despite the fact that they have the highest elite qualification tiers with the fewest published benefits. I don’t know, maybe they just do a good job of managing expectations. After all, can you really be disappointed if you don’t expect a whole lot?

Anyway, one area where Marriott has always been lacking is with their breakfast benefit. They don’t offer their Gold or Platinum members complimentary breakfast at resorts or on weekends in the US. It seems they’ve come to their senses and at least updated part of that policy. Starting June 22, 2013, Marriott will begin offering complimentary continental breakfast on weekends at participating JW Marriott, Autograph Collection, Renaissance, and Marriott properties in the US and Canada. Furthermore, any time the lounge is closed, Gold and Platinum Elite members will have a choice of continental breakfast for two in the hotels’ restaurant or 750 points.

The fact that this benefit applies only at “participating” properties is concerning. Furthermore, Marriott still doesn’t offer complimentary breakfast at resort locations around the world, which I simply can’t understand.

So even with the enhancement, Hilton, Hyatt, and Starwood all have more generous breakfast policies than Marriott for their members staying 50+ nights per year.

I dunno, the whole change kind of reminds me of when Air Tahiti Nui announced they’d upgrade their business class product to “the popular Sogerma angled lie flat cocoon seat.” I guess we’re supposed to be excited about an angled flat business class seat in 2013, and also free breakfast at select properties?

Loyal Marriott members, why do ya do it?

Comments

  1. Could not agree with you more here. I actually have about 600 lifetime nights at Marriott, but most of those I earned about 4-5 years ago when I felt that the program was much better. I then shifted to Hilton, primarily due to the breakfast and upgrades at resort properties, and ultimately have switched to Starwood due to all of Hilton’s ridiculous deflation the past few years.

    The Marriott resort lack of benefits has always been a gripe of mine, and this has done nothing to resolve it. Marriott even e-mailed me earlier this year to ask me about my decline in stays. I gave them this feedback, and it seems that they listened a little.

    As it stands, even with this change, Starwood will still be my go to program. Marriott will only get nights when an SPG property is not available.

  2. Hi Ben, I’m lifetime Platinum with Marriott, Hyatt Diamond, SPG Platinum and Hilton Gold. All earned BIB (Butt-In-Bed). I would hve to say that Marriott retains a good portion of my travel budget due to the personalized service I have received throughout the years. There are hotels that I stay at on a regular basis that remember me by name. When I miss the evening spread in the Concierge lounge they order up a pizza and we sit and chat. Other locations that I do not visit regularly have sent up cookies with icing spelling out “Go Cubs” or “Go Bears” or offer me free breakfast from the restaurant.

    From what I’ve see on FT & MP posts this is the exception rather than the rule. I am not, nor have I been Platinum Premier Elite, just plain old Platinum. I think it boils down to something you’ve mentioned in the past….If you treat people like you would like to be treated, not demanding, not “do you know how much blah, blah, blah” People just appreciate being treated nicely and Marriott seems to empower it’s employees to reciprocate.

    Sorry….much longer rant than I expected to do.

  3. I hate the Marriott rewards program even though I am a platinum, just because of Ritz Carlton. They should add free breakfast. I get more benefits with Hilton Gold. Marriott needs to take a note off of Hilton. However, since I stay more at Ritz than Marriott it’s not like the program even matters to me. You get nothing at Ritz.

  4. They are also offering Plats an addition choice of welcome gift via 500 points of $10 meal credit. That was in email today but no time line announced.

    I stick with them because I don’t have a choice… Company has negotiated rates with them worldwide. Overall consistent program and they do have properties almost everywhere.

  5. Earning/Redemption at Marriott is pretty decent and (unlike Hyatt, all of our favorite for a reason) they have properties everywhere.

  6. And STILL nothing for courtyard. Yawn. Hilton hooks me up with a hot breakfast so I am doing more stays with them.

  7. Marriott has hotels where we travel. SPG and especially Hyatt do not. That really is the answer.

    Compared to Hilton, Marriott is far more consistent, has more lounges and treats you better

    Travel bloggers will never understand the business travelers. I’m sure if the offered a stays option it might be more appealing but most business travelers aren’t thinking in that way. We fly M-Thu/Fri and do not hotel hop.

    A consistently good experience, lounge availability, and hotels we can actually use is the key.

  8. Couple of things…

    The email said that at properties that will not offer the continental breakfast benefit on weekends, members will be entitled to 1,000 MR points. It ain’t much, but it is better than a kick in the head…and 1,000 points better than what they offer now.

    As per qualification – I can tell you that status may be the hardest to OBTAIN with Marriott, but it is probably the easiest to RETAIN, as well. I am Platinum (almost 500 lifetime nights), and have retained that Platinum status despite only having hit 75 nights maybe 2 of the last 10 years.

    Marriott would probably get more of my business back if they extended their breakfast benefit to Courtyards. It still blows my mind that they have been able to avoid offering breakfast to elites at Courtyards for this long. I only stay at them when I know I will not be having breakfast (such as tonight, when I will be departing for my 6:15 am flight!).

  9. Thanks folks, I guess I should rephrase. What surprises me isn’t why people stay at Marriotts (that makes sense, given how many properties they have), but how passionately many Marriott Rewards members seem to feel about the brand. They do extremely well at the Freddies, and that’s really the root of what I don’t understand.

  10. Agree with @Jon. I guess lots of people stuck with Marriott because of the company’s travel policy. For some reason, Marriott gained loyalty from companies, and think that are fine even if their elite benefits are inferior comparing to the competitors.

    @Joediver, you must have traveled really frequently to maintain so many elite status at the same time. I think most hotels would treat you really nice if they figure out that you are a top revenue contributor to their business. I would do should I be the hotel manager 🙂

  11. I’m always surprised as well. I get all my hotel nights from frequent business travel but would always preference SPG then Hilton over Mariott. I do tend to always travel to major cities and my company has a very generous travel policy (allow me to book at rack rate using the SPG platinum override even if non-SPG properties are available) though. I have friends who travel a lot to lesser known places and have to do Mariott because they’re the only choice.

    I will say even my friends with Mariott status wish they had SPG status so I too don’t know where the popularity you mention would come from. Only thing I can say is these rankings can sometimes be a game. If Mariott has a particularly strategic plan for getting people to vote for them that might influence things.

  12. Lucky,
    I think it boils down to the needs of a business traveler (the primary user of Marriott rewards) vs the the other brands. Business travelers are fiercely loyal. Changing is not an easy thing to do.

    I’m Marriott loyal but mainly because of availability and Corporate requirements. When I don’t visit an office of ours, I’m open to options hence why I have a backup program.

    As of late, my backup has been SPG. I looked at Hyatt but they don’t have the hotels available to make them worthwhile. So it comes down to Hilton vs SPG. Since Hilton devalued their program, I’m been using SPG. The treatment I’ve gotten from them compared to Marriott is inconsistent. Sometimes great, sometimes not. It’s always great at Marriott.

    The only real advantages to SPG as of late have been:
    1. More flexible points
    2. Suite Upgrades. Though not the end of the world if I don’t get them

  13. Worth noting that Marriott does NOT have any specific plan for winning these awards. They aren’t asking me to vote for them at all.

    What I think you are finding is there are more Marriott Elites out there and they vote. I don’t think it’s anything more than that.

  14. Marriott is a very good brand that resonates with many travelers. Back in the day, i loved them, they were very consistent and seemed to genuinely care about their guests, as i am sure they still do.

    I am loyal to Starwood because i like transferring Starpoints to Airlines for F travel and they are very strong and inexpensive in Thailand where my wife is from. I certainly don’t stay with them for a “free” crappy continental breakfast, so those who like Marriott probably don’t stay with them for that reason, or lack thereof, either.

  15. I wish they would introduce an upgrade benefit similar to Starwood or Hyatt. If anything it allows you to prioritize when you want the upgrade, which isn’t always. And apart from implementation I don’t see how this actually costs them much, apart from some lost up-sells?

  16. It all boils down to needs. I stay out ~110 nights per year for work, a good chunk of which takes me to BFE where SPG and Hyatt don’t have properties. So I split my stays up between Marriott, Hilton, and Priority Club. The deciding factor for me is if the rate meets our corporate guidelines.

    As far as benefits go, I find Marriott a lot more consistent in delivering what’s promised. Hilton is a little more hit and miss, as far as breakfast (especially) and upgrades for this Gold. Of course, a lot of that is property specific. Diamond status really isn’t that attractive to me, sans the extra bonus points. And with the Citi Reserve card, I’m not worried about requalifying.

    Priority Club…is a joke when it comes to benefits. So I tried out Ambassador last year, and stayed at PC properties for 70 nights, 45 of which were at ICs. Still no dice on RA. The level of benefits I got as an Ambassador really weren’t that great relative to the price paid for the status. This year I ran back to Marriott (who allowed me challenge back to Plat). After 46 paid nights this year, I remember why I liked it so much: consistency and fairly reasonable redemption even after the devaluation. It’s nice that breakfast is offered on weekends now, but it really doesn’t make a difference to me unless I’m on a personal trip.

  17. @nick
    I think the main reason they aren’t going to offer that benefit is due to the large number of properties and the enforcement of it.

    If you don’t have that many properties like Hyatt, you can offer it.

  18. I’m staying at JW Marriott in NYC this weekend. This hotel is NOT a “participating” hotel, and therefore would not offer a free breakfast to any elite members. I bitched at my Ritz Carlton Visa. I now have a credit for room service all weekend. Sometimes, you have to fight.

  19. As others have said, Marriott addresses the needs of the American business traveler more so than any other chain. They have hotels everywhere that offer a very, very consistent experience. When I lived in the US, Marriott used to be my go-to-brand and I earned lifetime Gold as a result of it. Now that I live in Asia and travel to only large cities, Starwood gets my business since Marriott is rather weak in Asia.

  20. I stay at Marriott properties for 80% of my hotel stays, and I agree with the business traveler comments. They have many more properties where I end up staying, and they tend to be lower cost per night compared to the others. I concur it is MUCH easier to retain Gold status with Marriott, even if you don’t meet the butt in bed requirements annually. I also agree they tend to be consistent. I love Ritz Carlton hotels and they are always welcoming wherever I have stayed both overseas and in the US. For business travelers, the little perks like free breakfast is a nice to have but not a deal breaker. Also, since I am overseas for at least half my business travel, the free breakfast at some Courtyard properties is the same as a full service Marriott hotel such as in the HKG Courtyard Marriott which serves a full breakfast in the restaurant and a very good Business Lounge continental breakfast. Oh, they also tend to upgrade me frequently when available. For instance I was upgraded to the Presidential suite in the Beijing Renaissance the other night, most likely because they ran out of normal suites. In the HKG Courtyard I got a Jr. Suite with Harbour view.

  21. I one of the pro Marriott crowd. At my current company, I’ve got a little latitude in choosing my travel preferences. Hyatt is my backup. I’ve stated before that I choose Marriott properties because I know exactly what to expect anywhere on the planet, and the service is always great.

    The lounge service is fantastic – I’ve not had a request that couldn’t be handled by the lounge staff – shipping a bunch of crap the wife bought in Hong Kong back home, a little bag of that spicy tamarind candy from the Renaissance Bangkok, finding me a replacement laptop HD at 9pm at the Marriott LAX. Service Service Service!

    My old company required the use of SPG hotels and the places were all over the map – a great hotel in Atlanta and the next week in Allentown the place had the original and stained 1975 green shag carpets.

  22. Free Platinum Status challenge. Free night for every two stays (ongoing running promotion). Went from newb to baller for my honeymoon at scrub island, suites 33% of the time for business travel, and now plenty of free nights for vacation. Yeah I can sacrifice sausage and bacon on my breakfasts (vs. Hilton) for these perks! Go Marriott!

  23. Lucky, you missed the big downgrade in the message. Welcome amenities are being replaced with the 750pts or $10 f&b credit. Marriott confirmed it will replace the current selections that often include half bottles of wine and cheese or ice cream surprises. Big bummer and once again drops them below Hilton.

  24. marriott lacks free breakfast for platinum members. however, i still choose marriott to maintain my platinum each year because:
    1. in my business trips, i would choose marriott that offer free buffet breakfast (fairfield, springhill) or have lounge for plat (renaissance). my business travel seldom occur on weekend. so, weekend benefits are not important to me at all.
    2. in term of frequent promotion, marriott is always generous than hilton. marriott frequently gives 2 stays for 1 free cat 1-4 certificate. it sometimes offers airline mileage bonus promoion (e.g., 2,600 SWA miles per stay).
    3. hilton abused me and hilton devalued its reward stays deeply — i decided to give up my hilton diamond this year. but i got to maintain marriott plat because A. starwood has 1,000 hotels worldwide and marriott has 3,600 worldwide; B. i spent 120-140 nights a year and which hotel program is better for me to choose if not marriott?

  25. I’m late to the party but I just wanted to add that free breakfast is only good if you’re there to take advantage of it. I travel a lot for work and I have to be up very early, way before free starts.

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