Marriott International Inc. offers the best hotel loyalty program, according to a recent analysis from Bernstein.
Analyst David Beckel recently took a look at several top loyalty programs—Marriott Rewards, Hilton Honors, World of Hyatt, and a joint Hotels.com/Chase Sapphire offering—and found that
boasts the best perks as well as the most attractive redemption options.
Rewards programs are a crucial part of the strategy for hotel chains, which face competition from Expedia Group Inc.
Booking Holdings Inc.
and other online travel agencies that let brand-agnostic customers shop for discounted rooms. Hotels are betting that loyalty programs can help them retain customers and convince more guests to book directly through the chain’s own platform.
Marriott offers the best option “across the board” for travelers, Bernstein’s Beckel wrote. It presents a wider array of perks for various levels of status, and in some cases, doesn’t make travelers work as hard to earn them. Marriott Rewards members can get room upgrades after 25 nights, while
members must first rack up 30 nights and Hilton
members must amass 40 nights.
The Marriott Rewards program also offers more total properties to choose from, as well as more upscale ones, than the Hyatt and Hilton programs. The higher-end locations are important, Beckel said, given that many people want to redeem rewards at nice hotels even if they amassed many of their points by staying at cheaper properties.
That said, he argued that hotel loyalty programs aren’t that great to begin with, since perks like late checkout aren’t of much use to business travelers and “premium” internet isn’t noticeably different from regular internet. Members of airline loyalty programs, meanwhile, get more valuable perks such as boarding priority, shorter lines, and “access to a less terrible part of the plane.”
In that sense, hotels are at a disadvantage because people actually expect a comfortable experience when they stay at one. “The expectation of the air travel experience is so low [that] you can reward guests by peeling back layers of tangible inconvenience,” Beckel wrote. “It is harder to make a good experience better, than it is to make a bad one less bad.”
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Emily Bary is a MarketWatch reporter based in New York.
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