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One of the great things about readers of this and other miles and points sites I am familiar with is that many who share this hobby of traveling for less are both very skilled in various facets of life, and very giving with their information and expertise. I know several readers that I have communicated with over the last five years deal with investments and the financial world for their day jobs, and thus from time to time they learn about some travel and loyalty program related developments from that perspective.
This time a traveling dad who reads this site reached to share some info he had learned in his investment day job regarding the Marriott and Starwood merger from some Marriott execs. I know many of us love the Starwood Preferred Guest program and are very concerned about the future of the SPG program and the value of our SPG points if/when the company is owned by Marriott, so I wanted to share this info even though at this point very few things, if any, are set in stone.
- They are exploring initially running the rewards programs in parallel with a two-way exchange program in place where SPG points could be transferred to Marriott Rewards points or Marriott Rewards points to SPG points (no details on the ratios), and then eventually combining the two.
- The phrase “Marriott Preferred Guest” was used a couple times for the name of the eventual program.
- The timeline is still a work in progress, but the certainties in the timeframe are that the deal will be voted on by both companies this Friday (and that seems to have strong support on both sides so I don’t anticipate it being called off at that point). After that Marriott is targeting July 1 for a completed close (could be a couple weeks earlier or later in actuality, but not much different), which is when Starwood and Marriott would officially be just one company.
- After that there are more question marks on timeframe, but the template is to have both loyalty programs completely separate initially, then having several quarters with the conversion/transfer option, and then a completely merged program.
Everything I have heard directly or indirectly about this merger has underscored that Marriott knows there is big value from the Starwood Preferred Guest program itself and its members. I truly believe they don’t want to mess that up, but instead will want to do what they can to retain those customers and their loyalty. That doesn’t mean it will work, of course, but I think they do understand that some of the things that SPG does very differently from Marriott Rewards have value. Or moreover, the “younger, high spending” members of the Starwood Preferred Guest program have value.
As I imagine you can guess, I am not a fan of further consolidation in the travel world, but it is seemingly inevitable, so I am glad that it continues to be stated that at least there are no immediate changes to SPG coming. I am also hopeful that given the value of the SPG program and its loyal members, that the program won’t simply be thoughtlessly gutted and swallowed by Marriott Rewards. I’m not so delusional as to think that a couple years from now the SPG program will look and operate the way it does today, but perhaps the future “Marriott Preferred Guest” program will retain some of the big value we love from SPG and SPG points while marrying it with the massive Marriott global footprint in a way that keeps everyone happy (enough).
For now I am crossing my fingers, paying attention to updates they come out, and using my Starwood Points as the situation presents itself.