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rollout of the new STARS and Luminous program just announced...

rollout of the new STARS and Luminous program just announced...

Old Jun 10, 19, 11:14 am
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rollout of the new STARS and Luminous program just announced...

I've known this has been coming for awhile, and while the details are still to be announced (I'll be attending a webinar on June 17th), here's what's just been announced.

A new STARS program will be rolled out in July, 2019. STARS currently covers Ritz-Carlton, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Bulgari, and Edition — and added to the program will be St. Regis and Luxury Collection (former Starwood luxury brands). One *huge* improvement will be the designation of a "Guardian Angel" at St. Regis and Luxury Collection with easy access through the STARS website. Whether this will include an expanded amenity program (similar to Starwood Luxury Privileges) remains to be seen, but this would be a huge plus for those RC properties not part of Virtuoso.

Also announced is a new "Luminous Program" which will presumably offer amenities at *participating* W Hotels, JW Marriott, Autograph Collection, Renaissance, and Le Meridien. (Note that some of these hotels already participate in Travel Leaders Select).

I'll post more as soon as I learn more details.
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Old Jun 17, 19, 4:50 pm
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I've just attended a webinar detailing the new STARS and Luminous programs that will be going live on July 1st. While a definite step forward, they do not fulfill the the "best of class" preferred partner program that I had been led to expect. Here are some top takeaways:

(1) The program takes effect on July 1, 2019 with a new password-protected agent website to launch at the same time.

(2) As before, BONVOY points will be awarded for all bookings made at the STARS, Luminous, or Virtuoso rate codes.

(3) The current STARS brands (RC, RC Reserve, Bulgari, and Edition) will now include St. Regis and Luxury Collection.

(4) All STARS bookings will now include a $100 hotel credit, matching the Virtuoso amenities ... but now bookings at any RC or Luxury Collection hotels booked under the STARS rate code will now also receive the $100 credit. This would include RC Westchester and RC Tysons Corner, probably the two non-Virtuoso RC hotels I book the most.

(5) Back-to-back bookings to double the $100 credit are explicitly disallowed.

(6) The STARS Guardian Angel has always been a huge benefit — I've been able to click a button on the website to send a message to a designated Guardian Angel at each STARS hotel in the world, with a guaranteed 4-hour response time. Upon the July 1st launch of the new website, travel advisors will have the same easy, direct messaging for St. Regis and Luxury Collection hotels.

(7) Not specified in the webinar — but I've asked the question: STARS bookings have priority over FHR bookings for upgrades.



STARS amenities effective July 1, 2019



(8) Luminous brands: W Hotels, JW Marriott, Autograph, Westin, Marriott, Le Meridien, Renaissance, Tribute Portfolio. Individual hotels can choose whether to opt-in or not.

(9) Two levels of opting in ... the base level offers daily complimentary breakfast for two. The enhanced level offers a $100 hotel credit in addition — its use to be determined by each hotel. Essentially, it's a function of what restaurant and spa facilities the hotel itself owns. Back-to-back bookings to exploit this credit are disallowed.

(10) Though not as robust as the Guardian Angel program, each Luminous hotel will have an ambassador ... with a promised 12-hour response time.


Luminous amenities effective July 1, 2019
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Last edited by DavidO; Jun 17, 19 at 4:58 pm
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Old Jun 17, 19, 9:32 pm
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Thank you for sharing, David.

Based on the above, it strikes me as though these benefits are, of course, nice, but not overwhelming - obviously there are tiers as well.

I find it obnoxious they have to explicitly disallow back-to-back bookings as a method of doubling up on the benefits – not on the program’s part, but because people would actually do that.

Regardless, is your opinion that it still makes the most sense to book via STARS, vs other avenues, ceteris paribus?
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Old Jun 18, 19, 8:22 am
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Originally Posted by aa213bb View Post
Regardless, is your opinion that it still makes the most sense to book via STARS, vs other avenues, ceteris paribus?
I think that only time and experience can answer that question.

For non-Virtuoso Ritz, St. Regis, and Luxury Collection hotels, STARS will definitely be the way to go.

For those W Hotels and Westin (Madrid) hotels that are Virtuoso members, I think Virtuoso would still be the way to go.

RC Dorado Beach ... book through Virtuoso, as the Virtuoso resort credit is $150 vs. $100 with STARS.

But here's the rub... "Upgrade if available at time of check-in" and "early check-in/late check-out if available" are not explicitly listed in the STARS amenities... but are still listed in Virtuoso amenities with the "subject to availability" language.

I discussed this matter with the VP of Luxury Sales, specifically asking what this really means and how we should book. Her perspective:
Upgrades and early check-in/late check-out ... are very challenging to continually deliver upon.... I just want to be realistic. Everybody offers these amenities but they don’t actually happen as often as anybody would want. I aim to be more realistic and fulfil the requests when it is important and when a hotel is really able to do it and make it meaningful instead of expected.... This comes from years of hearing that people were disappointed, and I hate hearing that. We just want to do as much as we can in a transparent way.
Two bottom lines for her:

1. Regarding upgrades, early check-ins, and late check-outs: Request through the Guardian Angel channel; you'll get a better response since the hotel will be actively monitoring it.

2. Marriott Luxury Brands prefers that bookings come through a partner (STARS advisor) "rather than a credit card channel" (i.e., Amex FHR). "The whole point of our new program is to support our best partners. If guaranteeing a 4P checkout will help you get the business, we can get it done for you."

Bottom lines for me:

1, I was led to believe that the new STARS was intended to be the best of class preferred partner program. It's clearly not. That distinction belongs to Dorchester Diamond Club (guaranteed upgrade up to Jr. Suite and hotel credit can be applied toward the room rate). Close behind are Oetker Pearl Collection (guaranteed upgrade + $200 credit for 2+ night stay) and Shangri-La Luxury Circle (guaranteed upgrade for some categories and hotel credit = 10% of nightly average room rate). Even Hyatt Privé has often comes through for me with upgrades at booking ... and I've had very good luck with upgrades through Four Seasons Preferred Partner.

Realistically, I imagine this is the inevitable result of a luxury hotel management company negotiating a preferred partner program that includes over 250 participating hotels. I imagine there was pushback from some of the hotels (many of which are privately owned and just managed by Marriott).

2. At the end of the day, personal relationships will always trump amenity programs. When your travel advisor personally knows a hotelier (being face-to-face many times at Virtuoso Week, trade shows, dinners, or cocktail gatherings) and has worked with that hotelier many times over the years on behalf of many clients ... reaching out personally gets the best results in terms of upgrades and other special requests. Phone calls are always the best ... but extending the Guardian Angel program across all 250+ participating Marriott Luxury Brands properties is the best part of the new program.
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Old Jun 18, 19, 9:16 am
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Thanks for sharing David! Do you know whether existing Luxury Privileges bookings at an StR or Luxury Collection property will be rolled over to the new STARS program?
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Old Jun 18, 19, 9:17 am
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Existing bookings should certainly be honored.
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Old Jun 18, 19, 9:27 am
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How does this coordinate with top tier elite (Ambassador with LTT) benefits? I understand that STARS bookings earn points and presumably elite night credits as well as spend credit toward ASmbassador requalification. I would guess that my normal upgrade priority and 4 pm *guaranteed* checkout privileges would apply. Is this correct? Can I apply SNAs to such reservations?
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Old Jun 18, 19, 9:30 am
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You'd definitely get elite night credits, etc., and benefits accorded you per your status would be on top of STARS or Virtuoso amenities.
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Old Jun 18, 19, 10:42 am
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I won’t quote it, to save page space, but thank you so much @DavidO for the wonderfully laid out and thoughtful response.

Very honest and informative, and an exemplar of what makes this particular forum so fantastic.
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Old Jun 19, 19, 5:47 am
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Originally Posted by DavidO View Post
You'd definitely get elite night credits, etc., and benefits accorded you per your status would be on top of STARS or Virtuoso amenities.
I think this is another reason that STARS does not explicitly include upgrade or late checkout benefits, because they could run into problems with status members expecting further upgrades on top of their already generous status upgrades.

I agree with the decision to make STARS a recognition program that offers benefits on a customized, case by case basis in coordination with the property. At any hotel group, providing fixed, guaranteed ‘benefits’ has the unintended consequence of creating entitlement and leading to disappointment when hotels cannot deliver due to occupancy, or for whatever reason.

Oetker and Doechester Collection are very small groups of high end hotels that have much higher rates than some properties covered by STARS. Therefore, within these small portfolios of high end hotels, they can guarantee confirmed upgrades and the other benefits, and have no problem delivering on that.

STARS covers a very wide range of properties, including many inexpensive ones. Many people also have status with Marriott, and Marriott wants those who do not have status to stay more to attain it. As such it would not makes sense to offer a blanket upgrade benefit that would have the effect of inflating the expectations of people already being upgraded through status, and also potentially cannibalize the incentive to achieve status if people found they were upgraded through STARS regardless of status.

It is much more valuable, at least in theory, that a STARS booking will ensure that ‘Guardian Angles’ will do whatever it takes to provide guest recognition to enhance the stay experience. It is safe to assume that this will include upgrades, late checkouts, early check-ins, and potentially more as appropriate. Marriott is just smart enough to do this at their discretion, in order to deliver when it matters most, and to avoid the ‘entitlement’ syndrome that is all to often an unintended consequence of status or other amenity programs.

Last edited by MikeFromTokyo; Jun 19, 19 at 8:40 am
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Old Jun 19, 19, 7:17 pm
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Thanks for the info DavidO!
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Old Jul 2, 19, 12:26 pm
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Quick update from the VP of Luxury Sales at Marriott Luxury Brands —

after our Inner Circle Roundtable meeting last week we added back the upgrade upon availability as well as the early check in and late check out upon availability, by popular demand. Our attendees let us know that was really important to them so we added it back.
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Old Jul 9, 19, 1:41 pm
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... a couple more updates from Brownell's rep with Marriott Luxury Brands.
.
(1) Hotels used to provide the STARS breakfast amenity when booking a Members Only rate through a STARS agency. That has changed... To get STARS amenities, you need to book the STARS rate code. The Members Only rate is a 2% discount, and the value of the breakfast + $100 welcome credit will far exceed the value of the discount.
.
(2) STARS bookings definitely receive Bonvoy points.
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