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NY Times article about Marriott-Starwood merger's effect on frequent travelers

NY Times article about Marriott-Starwood merger's effect on frequent travelers

 
Old Dec 12, 17, 9:44 am
  #16  
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Starwood Luxury Collection has quite a few interesting properties. Le Meridien has some interesting properties. W has interesting properties, although now some of them feel dated with the over-reliance on 90's-style nightclubbiness. All of these have been around for a while, including during years when Marriott was *really* cookie-cutter and not all that interesting.

My 2017 take: Marriott has closed the gap somewhat with Autograph Collection and an emphasis on elements of local character within the Renaissance portfolio. But Starwood was (IMHO) the first "big business hotel chain" that infused a good number of unique/character hotels into its mix.

Hilton is still comparatively uncool. They're behind Autograph Collection with their Curio lineup. W=A is good, but there are few of them and they tend to go for the rather traditional luxury feel as opposed to a modern/unique one.
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Old Dec 12, 17, 10:08 am
  #17  
 
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If the article has a point it seems to be that Pittsburgh needs more hotels, but otherwise I am lost as to what the writer was trying to accomplish here. First he indicates that only SPG is cool, then goes on to call the Sheraton in Pittsburgh tired so he stayed at the cool place which was not an SPG. It seems he is blaming Marriott for SPG not putting a cool hotel in Pittsburgh??

I really could not decide why he wrote this. The only two parts that made any sense were the concern over the merger of the programs (where he provided no real information) and the fact that Sheraton is inconsistent. (Although it's owned by the "cool" and therefore presumably better brand?)
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Last edited by Orange County Commuter; Dec 12, 17 at 10:17 am
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Old Dec 12, 17, 1:05 pm
  #18  
 
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Originally Posted by Orange County Commuter View Post
If the article has a point it seems to be that Pittsburgh needs more hotels, but otherwise I am lost as to what the writer was trying to accomplish here. First he indicates that only SPG is cool, then goes on to call the Sheraton in Pittsburgh tired so he stayed at the cool place which was not an SPG. It seems he is blaming Marriott for SPG not putting a cool hotel in Pittsburgh??

I really could not decide why he wrote this. The only two parts that made any sense were the concern over the merger of the programs (where he provided no real information) and the fact that Sheraton is inconsistent. (Although it's owned by the "cool" and therefore presumably better brand?)
I suspect the writer was discussing the problem of keeping both groups happy. Sort of like Alaska buying Virgin America.

As for coolness, that's nice. Some girlfriends have really liked W's and LC properties -- they would always rather go there for a weekend than a legacy Marriott property. Generally, I agree they have a nice vibe although W's seem cater to the cooler crowd (that is 12 people sharing a room bringing in a cooler!) and W GM's seem to have decided that group is more important than Plats. Considering its easier to get status in SPG, I'd be curious on the percentages of SPG Gold/Plats at a W or LC compared to Marriott Gold/Plats at a JW. I'd guess that the JW Marriott would have a higher percentage of elites than the W or LC.

But as for Westins/Sheratons/LM/Marriott/Ren, they're all generally the same to me from my perspective as someone who does 100-150 nights a year in hotels. I will say that I frequently get handwritten notes from GM's at Marriott/Ren/JW -- sometimes with food -- but have never received one from a legacy SPG property.
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Old Dec 13, 17, 7:32 am
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Originally Posted by C17PSGR View Post
I suspect the writer was discussing the problem of keeping both groups happy. Sort of like Alaska buying Virgin America.

.
And here's the problem, if it was well written you would know what the writer was trying to accomplish, not "suspect"
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Old Dec 13, 17, 11:37 am
  #20  
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Originally Posted by travelinmanS View Post
What is cool about SPG hotels? They generally seem exactly the same as Marriott hotels to me. But the author is right to be concerned, of course the revised MR program is going to be worse than either of the current programs today.
No offense, but perhaps becuase you are a MR fan and clearly stay at Marriott often you are sort of missing the cool factor that the article author mentions? @:-)@:-) I urge you to check out W Barcelona - designed like a sail by archiect Ricardo Bofill, the LC 'Haciendas' in Mexico - unique, historical buildings cnverted into high-end Luxury Collection hotels, all 5 share the same management, the Great Northern Hotel at Kings Cross station in London - a completely renovated train station hotel with cool bar and restaurant, the Moana Surfrider in Waikiki - you can't get any more closer to the beach and again wonderful history, Vedema in Santorini - a 17th centruy winery with many of the cellars still used for hotel functions, The Westin Europa and Regina in Venice Italy is best reached via boat on it's Grand Canal location, even the Four Points French Quarter is on Burbon Street in the French Quarter and keeps original balconies and courtyard. I can go on and acknowledge that each of *wood and MR have good and bad properties, but Starwood's brands and collection tips more towards unique, high-end or trendy.

I don't know the author personally, but I believe his point was that Starwood has very unique properties, they were among the first to rcognize a good segment of people who travel appreciate good design (W, Aloft, Le Meridien, LC), healthy food (Westin SuperFoods program), partnerships with museums (Le Merdien and LC), name brand spa and spa products in the room (W/Bliss), DJ's in the lobby (W and Aloft), Italian trained barista program (Le Meridien/Illy). Even in boring Sheraton's there was a loyalty program that was innovating and doing intersting stuff all the time. Had they not gobbled up Starwood I doubt MR people would be enjoying 4pm check-out. Does Marriott employ a music director as Starwood did/does?

I found the article spot-on and good to see SPG fans such as myself getting our concerns brought up in the NY Times, I hope it gets Arnie's attention that he can't dumb-down many SPG properties with the boring sameness of his Marriott properties.
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Old Dec 13, 17, 4:23 pm
  #21  
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Originally Posted by travelinmanS View Post
What is cool about SPG hotels? They generally seem exactly the same as Marriott hotels to me. But the author is right to be concerned, of course the revised MR program is going to be worse than either of the current programs today.
I've stayed at several different Four Points and Sheraton hotels. "Cool factor" was not a word I uttered once while doing so.
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Old Dec 13, 17, 6:42 pm
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In most other aspects of life, usually a saying applies, "the grass is always greener on the other side." For some reason with loyalty programs it seems to be "the devil you know is better than the devil you don't." Food for thought!
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Old Dec 13, 17, 8:37 pm
  #23  
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I think the "cool" factor of hotels is over rated. Usually you are paying a hefty premium for that, and at the end of the day, most travelers just want a comfortable place to sleep.

The one thing the author of the article is correct about is benefits matter.

I usually do about 40 nights a year in hotels. That really isn't enough to get me great status, and since my these chains love to go with "stays" rather than "nights", I have to rely on credit cards to give me the status. So AMEX plat giving me SPG gold which gives me Marriott Gold makes is so I go with Marriott for 90% of my hotel bookings. The lounge access and free breakfast is the major factor in why I want that. Also, being that I am in Asia, the hotels are awesome compared to NA for having lounges and good quality breakfast.

If the changes take away Marriott gold if you have SPG Gold, or Marriott gold stops giving breakfast or lounge access, I'll have to re-evaluate which chain gets my loyalty.
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Old Dec 14, 17, 6:52 am
  #24  
 
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Originally Posted by itsaboutthejourney View Post

I found the article spot-on and good to see SPG fans such as myself getting our concerns brought up in the NY Times, I hope it gets Arnie's attention that he can't dumb-down many SPG properties with the boring sameness of his Marriott properties.
I don't think it clearly articulates customers' concerns at all. What do you think those are?

SPG has some unique properties, but so does Marriott. If you want cool, check into the Fontecruz Lisboa. You wouldn't even recognize it as a Marriott (no "boring sameness"). Or several other Autograph brand properties. I think you're looking at the situation from a one-sided perspective. Both Marriott and SPG had a collection of very nice properties, a bunch of junk (Courtyards, Fairfields, Four Points, Sheratons), and a bunch in-between (Ren, Westin, etc.)

If your concern as a SPG customer is losing the "coolness", I don't see Marriott changing their strategy much across the incredible number of brands they now have, and if they do it's a concern for both legacy SPG and Marriott customers, doesn't just affect one side.
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Old Dec 14, 17, 8:38 am
  #25  
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Originally Posted by JBord View Post
SPG has some unique properties, but so does Marriott. If you want cool, check into the Fontecruz Lisboa.
Very true. And while Starwood may have more "unique" properties than Marriott, Marriott does have a few that might be of interest.

For historical properties, try the Marriott County Hall in London, it used to be the seat of London's government. The rooms used be offices, so there is a lot of variations between the rooms. In fact, if you ask, there are "tours" to areas that you won't normally be able to see or access and you can get a nice little London historical lecture as well. Also, check out the Cairo Marriott. It was the Gezirah Palace built for the Khedive Isma'il Pasha in 1869 and it also is a very unique hotel. Another option if you are in Cairo is the JW Marriott close to the airport. It has a full, true waterpark on the property with wave pools, slides, and other water rides. There are a number of different "suites" types there that they will upgrade elites to. It isn't your normal "cookie-cutter" JW Marriott. Or check out the Shanghai JW Marriott. It has the world's highest library on the top of the building. And if you go up there, one of the book-cases is actually a secret door that can be opened where you can find some of the best Shanghai views in the whole city. Not to mention the lounge there is run just like an RC lounge, but elites still get access. Or check out The Shelbourne Dublin, A Renaissance Hotel. It actually started as 3 Townhomes that were purchased and converted into a hotel back in the early 1800s.

If you want a non-FS example, the San Diego Gaslamp CY was a bank back in the early 1900s. It has a very unique design and they offer tours. It seems back then they used to have a gun range on the top 3 floors to teach bank tellers how to shoot guns (in case they were robbed.) The main elevators only go to the range check-in floor and then there is a different set of elevators to up from there. On that floor there is only one room (a suite room) which they gave me. If you want different that is the definition of "different" (maybe a little weird as well) and all the rooms on the floors above that are totally unique as they weren't offices. So if you like every room being different that is a place to try out.

There are others too, but these are the ones that I've either been to myself or had plans to visit. So I have direct experience with. So yes, I'm sure Starwood had more of them and the ones they have are better than Marriott's, But you might be surprised at what you can find within the Marriott portfolio if you really look.
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Old Dec 14, 17, 9:10 am
  #26  
 
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Starwood did a good job introducing "cool" new brands, including W Hotels, Aloft, and Element. Acquiring and expanding Le Méridien was a good move too.

My experience with Aloft has been that it is essentially Courtyard with smaller rooms, louder lobbies, a cooler brand name, and edgier decor (with lots of brown paint). But it all works.

Then again, the two Courtyards I stayed at in the past few months were both older properties that had been thoroughly renovated with contemporary decor and new bathrooms featuring walk-in showers (replacing the tub showers). It all worked too -- not quite as "hip" as Aloft, but a big improvement over Courtyards of the past.

With both brands, Marriott is now in position to have franchises of Aloft and Courtyard across the street from each other. That's what the New York Times article missed when the writer wrote, "For one thing, many of those brands are indistinguishable from one another."

Having similar brands is a good thing when you're in the business of selling franchises. A high-end location can support multiple luxury hotels. A central business district can support multiple full-service hotels. A suburban office park can support multiple limited-service hotels. Marriott has multiple brands in each category.
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Old Dec 14, 17, 10:42 am
  #27  
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The problem with chasing "cool" is that a property can feel dated very quickly. There are some (not all) W's that I walk into and immediately think "90's nightclub". Electronica in the lobby at 3:00 in the afternoon. I wonder what we're all going to think of Aloft in 10-15 years. Will we still think it's cool or will we wonder why late 00's hotel developers thought locker-room shampoo dispensers were a good look in a hotel that bills itself as "upscale"? I have a feeling that a 15-year-old Aloft in a random suburb is going to feel a bit downmarket. The brand goes *so* hard after the 20-something crowd, and we have no idea what today's 3rd graders will think is cool in 10-15 years.

Renaissance and Le Meridien do a better job IMHO of striking a modern/cool balance with some degree of timelessness. Greater emphasis on art, design, food, and wine than the more mainline brands. 25-year-old me liked them. 65-year-old me will probably like them.
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Old Dec 14, 17, 11:20 am
  #28  
 
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Originally Posted by pinniped View Post
The Renaissance *looks* cool.
Back in 2011 or 2012, the Renaissance (Pittsburgh) threw a Christmas party for its guests. Encompassed the whole lobby and restaurant. They set up bars all over the place. DJ performing on the grand staircase. It was AMAZING.
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Old Dec 14, 17, 3:03 pm
  #29  
 
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I'm a legacy Marriott loyalist but I also know several of the former SPG upper management.

SPG certainly has a few properties that are cooler than Marriott properties.

I like W's and stay at them because they tend to have better pools, but the average income of a W guest is almost certainly well below the average income of a guest in a regular Marriott and probably less than a Courtyard. And ... they are so cool that I usually can't get a seat at the pool or anywhere near the bar because a bunch of people who aren't staying there have priority over guests.

L-M's -- I used to like them but now they seem like AC's -- cheap versions of business hotels, where someone thinks poor lighting and cheap furniture makes things look "cool."
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Old Dec 14, 17, 5:41 pm
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If only Renaissance could get CeeLo Green to hang out in their rooms, wearing some snazzy red PJs, then Marriott could be as cool...



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