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Millions of Marriott Members Abandoning Ship for the Competition?

Millions of Marriott Members Abandoning Ship for the Competition?
Jeff Edwards

A new report by Bloomberg indicates that a series of unforced errors by Marriott International may have benefited competitor Hilton Worldwide in a big way. According to industry insiders, Marriott’s recent woes have helped Hilton to gain nearly 14 million new Honors members last year alone, as disgruntled former Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott Rewards members seek a viable alternative.

Marriott International’s acquisition of Starwood Hotels and Resorts hasn’t exactly gone smoothly. Despite the hotel conglomerate’s best efforts, merging the Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty programs resulted in elite guests from both programs feeling dissatisfied.  Making matters worse, the newly combined rewards program had barely launched before the company was forced to reveal that sensitive personal information—including travel histories, passport details and in some cases, credit card numbers—of more than 500 million guests may have been exposed by a criminal hacking syndicate.

Even “Bonvoy,” the new name chosen for the combined SPG/Marriott loyalty program has been universally panned by reward members.

Now, Bloomberg reports that Marriott’s recent run of poor decision-making and bad luck has become something of a windfall for arch rival Hilton Worldwide. According to Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta, the Hilton Honors loyalty program gained nearly 14 million new members last year – a substantial boost he attributes to disruptions at competing loyalty programs, which led customers to seek less volatile alternatives.

“I suspect that we are benefiting by getting members of other programs that are shifting their loyalty,” Nassetta told stakeholders during an earnings call this Wednesday.  “I can’t give you hard data on who’s come exactly from where, and, to a degree, as long as they are great customers that we can get engaged with us, we don’t care.”

Marriott Bonvoy members, including both former Marriott Rewards and SPG members, on the Flyertalk forums seem to back up the assertion that disaffected elite travelers are ready to abandon Marriott in the face of lingering IT issues, rewards chart inconsistencies and growing customer service failures. The problems for Marriot is, perhaps, even bigger than the recent boost to Hilton’s ranks would seem to indicate. A number of Flyertalk members who have previously held elite status in both the Bonvoy and the Honors loyalty programs (therefor not counted among Hilton’s 14 million new members), are indicating in posts that Marriott’s seemingly endless missteps over the last year have made Hilton their new first choice for overnight stays.

Is the newly combined Marriott Bonvoy program simply suffering inevitable and understandable growing pains or is it past time for elite guests to jump ship. The debate is evolving here.


[Image: Max Pixel]

View Comments (13)


  1. Sabai

    February 14, 2019 at 5:44 pm

    “… Despite the hotel conglomerate’s best efforts…”

    That’s laughable; McMarriott’s mashup was done on the cheap.

  2. edgewood49

    February 15, 2019 at 8:26 am

    Jeff, we have seen this picture before with WOH as well as each a major airline or hotel chain “moves someones cheese” WOH was a bad move and so is this one but I guarantee the others will also make some moves ” Herd mentality” While I have a couple of minor glitches called Marriott this morning and they have sent a “ticket” down to IT. Ok they’re entitled to glitches. But say I don’t like you anymore so I’m leaving over this ? Too much entitlement in today’s travel world.

  3. downinit

    February 15, 2019 at 10:38 am

    So everyone is abandoning Marriott in favor of Hilton, where status is open to the lowest bidder and points are equal in value to soiled toilet paper? Seems more like a short-term temper tantrum than a long-term concern. The real problem is that the industry as a whole spent the last decade trying win over loyal customers by offering up a number of perks in response to stiff competition from other chains and AirBnB. Now that they have consolidated into to the point where a couple companies control the vast majority of hotels, they are deciding that screwing over customers is more profitable than courting them. Unfortunately, they are all acting in unison, so fleeing to another program has no benefit.

  4. bergamini


    February 16, 2019 at 7:42 am

    I’m “Lifetime Titanium” with the new Bonvoy program but cancelled my Chase Ritz-Carlton card and took a status match with Hilton to Diamond. My first two properties after the match put me in lovely suites. The last 3 years and ~ 250 nights at Marriott the best I usually got was a room with 2 free bottles of water that was called “Club Level” but wasn’t even on the “Club Level”.

    Marriott extracts a commitment from it’s customers for lifetime status by asking for a 6 figure spend and 750 nights with the promise of the best available room in the house at check-in and a host of other amenities. Those amenities are sparse and the upgrades never materialize. Multiple properties have told me they hold the better rooms for sale to increase REVPAR. It got tiring after a while for them to keep their end of the bargain.

    Don’t even get me started on their system. I don’t get promotional emails for points bonus promotions or hotel sales and they can’t figure out why. I often don’t get my folios emailed to me, again, can’t figure out why. You can’t change reservations on their site reliably, best to just cancel and rebook. Points fluctuate for no good reason. It’s crazy. I can’t believe how bad their systems are.

  5. jamar

    February 17, 2019 at 3:27 am

    @downinit- status being easy to get also means it’s easy for them to pick up where they left off, as opposed to another program that may or may not status match, and point value is a subjective matter. And as for all of them acting in unison… AirBNB is still very much “stiff competition”. Regulation may be limiting them to an extent, but on the whole they’re still going strong, and if the hotel programs don’t keep up, they’ll have to fight with each other over an ever-shrinking slice of the pie.

  6. FlyingNone

    February 17, 2019 at 2:40 pm

    “…Hilton has gained 14 million new members last year”…..
    They have also substantially increased the number of points needed for free nights – just about everywhere. SFO airport is ridiculously priced (basically at every chain as well). I’m not giving up 50,000 points for one night at the doubletree or otherwise paying over $400 for one night. Good grief, I’ll look for the Ritz Carlton if I want to pay jacked up prices.

  7. flamingocrazyfl

    February 18, 2019 at 3:28 pm

    I must be very, very lucky. Over 115 nights last year and I have 26 thus far this year with Marriott and I have yet to experience any problems, issues or anything that would get me to want to leave. I’m a Lifetime Platinum Premier (now Titanium) and a current PP/Titanium member. I am also a Hilton Diamond but will stay with Marriott nearly anytime over Hilton. My Hilton stays are when a Hilton makes the most sense (across the street from where I need to be in the AM, airport terminal hotel with an early flight the next day, full-service Hilton vs. a Fairfield or Springhill and no FS Marriott option nearby) but thats about it. I’m sure some folks have experienced a lot of problems, just not sure how widespread it really is, again, unless I’ve been very lucky. Having gone through DL/NW, CO/UA and US/AA, I’d place Marriott/SPG above UA/CO but below US/AA and DL/NW, neither of which I had any trouble with.

  8. AirMiles2001

    February 18, 2019 at 6:01 pm

    They drove me, a Lifetime Titanium to look back to other brands by excluding me from their most recent promotion. That after no real apology for the mess they’ve created in the last months with the IT merger.

  9. scubaccr

    February 26, 2019 at 5:08 am

    It will be the SPG Plats who qualified with a paltry 25 stays = only 25nights under SPG lebacy rules, that will no longer qualify as Bonvoy elites with upgrades+lounge when needing 50nights under Marriott/Bonvoy program. Moving to Hilton allows Gold at 20stays and Diamond at 30stays (ie 30x single nights)

    Those travellers with serious number of nights/year in hotels will already have status with multiple (2 or 3) programs

  10. DFWsakp

    February 26, 2019 at 11:08 am

    All those complaining are pissed off that they did not get the Top tier status nor will they ever get it (Lifetime Titanium)
    I have stayed at the competitors
    Hilton HHonors – Their Points are like Zimbabwe dollars. You can hardly get anything decent for the same. Plus their Aspire card gives you Diamond status so you go to any of their lounges and it is packed like a fish market.
    Priority Club – No Breakfast offered to any of the tiers. No lounge access. Not sure why anyone would want to stay with them unless you are travelling to a town of 1000 people and that’s the only decent option.
    Thus, people can complain as much as they want, they are still going to come back to Marriott. They, just want to be heard and perhaps have Marriott open the Lifetime Titanium for all future road warriors

  11. MrGood

    March 2, 2019 at 6:54 am

    Smaller & newer companies have better customer service, and I guess the loyal patrons are getting fed up with it. Have you even tried to get compensation or a free night from Marriott due to a bad stay, let alone getting interest by offering hotel feedback? Terrible company, and Ritz & SPG joining them doesn’t help their respective images.

  12. musicman27pa

    March 5, 2019 at 11:45 am

    Hilton, IHG and Marriott — it is like stepping in gum, vomit and dog doo… Really all the programs are getting worst for years. The economy is doing OK and their utilization rates are up so the corporate mindset is why reward frequent business loyalty travelers. The short sightedness will be when business travelers and staying with more independents and do to the lack of loyalty when the next recession rolls around they will be short all those business travelers as the bitter memories will prevail regarding constant deflation of points, loss of perks such as exec lobbies, breakfasts and the non existent upgrades. All 3 of these clowns have gotten progressively worst each year over the past 10+ years.

  13. nR2xvoCFKBsPMZMJ

    March 24, 2019 at 12:22 am

    I just can’t do Hilton. Their crappy website is so bad. I can’t even log in without having to jump through hoops to prove to Google that I’m not a bot. They don’t value me and my business so they’re not going to get it.

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