Canadians love rewards programs.Hotel rewards programs, in particular, offer travellers much more than a free night or a room upgrade — they offer unique experiences. So the announcement that three of the travel industry’s biggest loyalty programs will merge into a single program, come August, is a huge deal.
The move, which will impact as many as 3.7 million Canadians enrolled in Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards, has been eagerly anticipated since Marriott acquired Starwood in 2016.

For business travellers like Richard Wood, finding a good hotel rewards program is essential. “When you travel as extensively as I do, it’s important to find a hotel loyalty program that you can really benefit from,” he notes. 

With a portfolio encompassing 29 brands and 6,500 properties in 127 countries, the new combined loyalty program will, in purely practical terms, simplify Marriott’s operations. Members, however, will benefit from receiving an even wider array of rewards.

“While the exact name of the new program has yet to be announced, it will be a single program with global earn and redemption capabilities,” says Paul Cahill, Area Vice President of Operations for Canada. “Come August, we’re moving to a single currency, which means members with Starpoints today will convert at a three to one ratio.” All other reward members points will remain the same, but each member will have one account.

A simplified points system

For every dollar spent, members will earn 10 points at all hotel brands with the exception of Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites, and Element — where they will receive five points per every dollar spent.  A total of 7,500 points will deliver a free night at a Category 1 hotel, while a luxury property or Category 8 hotel can be redeemed for 85,000 points. There will be no blackout dates for point redemption, meaning guests can claim a free night any day of the year including holidays when available.

The company has also overhauled its Moments marketplace, which sells everything from zip-line excursions to sumo wrestling tutorials.  For the first time, loyal guests can both earn and redeem points by shopping for these experiences — 110,000 of them in all, across 1,000 global destinations.

Moments that last a lifetime

An SPG member since 2000, Wood has stacked enough “once-in-a-lifetime” moments for nine lives.

In March, he watched the Toronto Maple Leafs play the Dallas Stars from an exclusive suite with other SPG members and guests. Before the game he was invited to the Sheraton Toronto Centre for an exclusive meet and greet with former Leafs players Darcy Tucker and Shayne Corson, and a surprise appearance of the Stanley Cup. Wood redeemed a few more “moments”, giving him two platinum seat tickets for another game and two jerseys.

Marriott will introduce a new single reservation system across all its brands. “The system will make the booking process easier, as you’ll be able to find accommodations within any brand,” says Cahill. And that’s good news, since the company is expanding its footprint in Canada. It has recently added the AC Hotel in downtown Montreal and JW Marriott Parq in Vancouver to its list of properties.

“The ability to redeem my points at some of the world’s best hotels has definitely enriched my global travel experience,” says Wood, but it’s those Marriott moments he just can’t stop talking about.