Marriott Says, “Set Yourself Apart. Be Elite.”

Word of Marriott, Starwood and Ritz-Carlton’s re-imagined loyalty program, Bonvoy™, began to travel earlier this year (pun intended). And, from the beginning, spokespeople shared the initiative was created to amplify the brands’ focus on the most loyal guests, super-serving them and making really robust offerings, not just for the hotel stay, but for all the points that they could gain. It was created to be a true experience platform beyond just hotels.

Soon after, Marriott’s global commercial campaign launched during the 2019 Academy Awards and consumer response was lack-luster, at best. People started asking a lot of questions. What was the ambiguous spot about? What is Bonvoy? Is Marriott targeting millennials with slang for bon voyage? Already, Marriott was facing an uphill battle. But they forged forward, multi-million dollar global media campaign in tow, promoting the program. I, like most, was skeptical — there weren’t many details around Bonvoy just yet — however, being in the business of customer loyalty, it was intriguing to see a hospitality brand take on a challenge of this magnitude. 

No one ever said building an army of brand loyalists was easy work. If they did, they lied to you.

Let’s look at a few details. There are now six levels members can reach as part of the Bonvoy loyalty program, ranging from Member Status (stays 0–9 night/year) to Ambassador Elite (stay 100 nights/year) and the perks, depending on your level, are pretty awesome. Ambassador Elites have it made with lounge access, 4PM late checkout(!), a welcome gift, ambassador service, dedicated reservation lines, etc. 

The cool factor, in my opinion, really lies in Marriott’s Bonvoy Moments. Members have a chance to bid on a revolving door of once-in-a-lifetime experiences like tickets to the Music City Food + Wine Festival, dinner at Michelin starred restaurant, like The French Laundry, and luxury suites to see the The Jonas Brothers at MSG or Billy Joel at Fenway Stadium (Go Sox!). (Just listing my favorites here.) 

Earning the points to score one of these might take some time. Luckily, they don’t expire and Marriott has created countless ways to acquire them including the new Marriott Bonvoy Bold credit card. The card has several features for members looking to strategize traveling and land cool experiences via points – keeping our hope of dining at Thomas Keller’s restaurant alive.  

Even with all of these perks, Marriott is still facing backlash on the program, but I admire what they are working towards – the new normal in customer loyalty. This is about building a personal connection with customers, incentivizing them based on preference and historical purchase behaviors and making them feel known and appreciated. By adding thoughtful stats, points and tiers to the equation, Marriott is proving that they are focused on doing this the right way to long-lasting relationships with their members. 

When all is said and done, I’m on board with Bonvoy — headed straight towards my next vacation.