Marriott and Starwood: What We Know So Far...

          A shift in the hotel business universe is upon us because Marriott International has just become the largest hotel chain in the world! How? Well, they completed and approved a 13-billion-dollar acquisition of Starwood Resort and Hotels back in September 2016, but the full effect of the purchase is starting to be felt by loyal guests of both companies. Now, acquisition can seem like a harsh, but accurate word to use on a situation like this, so let’s stick to calling it a merger because it feels as if that’s how Marriott is handling its expansion.

            Now, after news about the merger – see, it sounds so much better – reached the headlines, one of the first obstacles that came to mind was how to keep clients using loyalty programs of both Starwood and Marriott onboard with the merger. Both companies boasted award-winning loyalty programs and, according to Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson, their main concern was to establish a beneficial, point-conversion rate until all three programs are combined. Yes, there are three loyalty programs that the Marriott will have to combine, but that is said to not happen until 2018. The three programs are Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest). As of now, loyalty program members for either of the three can transfer points between each account; for every 3 Marriott Rewards or Ritz-Carlton Rewards, it is the equivalent to 1 Starpoint. This is great news because, now as loyalty members, selection for hotels has nearly doubled in size with a simple click of a mouse!

            Having a larger selection to pick and choose where to stay while on vacation or a business trip is so much more pleasant than having to settle for what is given. Brands like Four Points by Sheraton, Sheraton, the St. Regis, and The Westin from Starwood are now interchangeable between Marriott-owned brands like Courtyard by Marriott, Le Meridien, and The Ritz-Carlton. Although this is a major win for Marriott International, the meeting and event planning industry may think otherwise. At first glance, the merger is skating on a razor-thin edge of looking like the building of a hotel conglomeration, and that may scare off some people, but hey, that’s what a well-negotiated hotel contract is for; to protect the client. Thankfully, there is no real evidence that it’s going to happen since this merger is still in its infancy, so here’s hoping that everyone is met with great ease and new and exciting ventures.

            With all that being said, the merger is still new. News about Marriott’s next steps are still trickling in even after 2 years of its proposal. While the kinks and loose ends are being tied together, the promise of success is already leading talks to more hotel brands merging together. If that does happen – and that’s a big IF – will they be equipped to compete with the new and improved Marriott International?