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The integration of Marriott, SPG and Ritz-Carlton has had its fair share of issues, and we’ve addressed these extensively. Even though I (personally) am sticking with Marriott for now, I’m sure many others are looking for alternatives. Hotel companies need to remember that customer loyalty is certainly not set in stone, and additional negative changes or significant devaluations could easily sway that decision for many travelers.
Well, it appears that one such issue is now coming up. While it doesn’t impact me directly, it’s certainly something you should be aware of. Al Maha Resort outside of Dubai is restricting award inventory in a way that appears to violate the program’s No Blackout Dates policy.
As a reminder, Marriott’s policy regarding blackout dates for award stays contains some flexibility for legacy Marriott properties, certain brands and a handful of specific hotels. Here’s the exact verbiage from the program’s terms and conditions:
“The Company has a “No Blackout Dates” policy, which means that, subject to the limitations and exclusions below, Participating Properties have standard rooms available every day for Award Redemptions. These limitations and exclusions are:
i. Participating Properties from the following Brands may limit the number of standard rooms available for redemption on a limited number of days: The Ritz-Carlton®, EDITION®, JW Marriott®, Marriott Hotels®, Delta Hotels®, Autograph Collection® Hotels, Renaissance® Hotels, Gaylord Hotels®, Courtyard®, SpringHill Suites®, Protea Hotels®, Fairfield by Marriott®, AC Hotels®, Moxy® Hotels, Residence Inn®, TownePlace Suites®
ii. The following Participating Brands allow only for Points/Miles earnings and do not offer Points redemption: Marriott Executive Apartments® and ExecuStay®.
iii. The following Participating Properties or Brands either do not participate in or do not fully participate in the No Blackout Dates benefit at this time:
- Boscolo Exedra Nice, Autograph Collection
- Carlo IV, The Dedica Anthology, Autograph Collection
- JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn® Resort & Spa, Scottsdale, AZ
- Marriott Vacation Club and Marriott Grand Residence Club – all properties
- Participating Vistana properties
- Rome Marriott Grand Hotel Flora, Rome, Italy
- Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, Hawaii
- Wailea Beach Resort – Marriott – Maui, Hawaii”
Despite providing wiggle room for legacy Marriott brands, the policy is unambiguous for legacy SPG properties. Simply put, they are not allowed to restrict award inventory. This even includes all-suite properties like Al Maha, which is part of the Luxury Collection.
Unfortunately, it appears that the property is doing just that. Al Maha classifies two different room types as “standard accommodations” for the purposes of award stays: a King Bedouin Villa and a Twin Bedouin Villa. When you search for reservations using your points, you’ll be presented with one, the other or both. A reasonable traveler would assume that a night with only one room type available means the other type is completely booked.
Sadly, that’s not the case.
As a test, I went through the entire month of April 2019, looking for a one-night award stay. I then looked for paid stays on those exact same dates and made an alarming discovery: On 18 of the 30 nights in April, the property has at least one standard room type available for cash but not for awards.
Here are the details (at time of writing):
- Twin Bedouin Villa: On April 5, 20, 21 and 24, Al Maha is selling these rooms for cash but not making them available using points.
- King Bedouin Villa: On April 1, 3-7, 12, 14, 19, and 24-30, Al Maha is selling these rooms for cash but not making them available using points.
Due to these restrictions, you cannot book an award stay in a single room type for longer than four nights in the month of April.
Translation? You can’t currently leverage Marriott’s fifth night free perk at all next month.
For example, let’s look at the stretch from April 8 through April 18. On every one of those nights, you could pay for a King Bedouin Villa. However, the night of April 12 and 14 are blocked for awards. As a result, the best you could do is book a four-night stay, arriving either April 8 or April 15:
The same phenomenon is seen for a Twin Bedouin Villa from April 20 through April 25. On all six of those nights, you could book a twin villa using cash. However, since the nights of April 20, 21 and 24 aren’t available using points, you can’t string together a longer stay.
We’ve reached out to Marriott to inquire about this discrepancy, but at the time of publication, we haven’t received a statement. We’ll be sure to update this post when we hear back.
This is a concerning development that we’ll be sure to continue following. There’s no debating that Al Maha offers a fantastic value for your Marriott points, as (despite a brief scare earlier this year) it provides an all-inclusive experience for award guests, including meals and two daily desert activities. However, this alone doesn’t opt the property out of following Marriott Bonvoy’s terms and conditions. Based on how the program’s No Blackout Dates policy is currently written, Al Maha is in violation.
I certainly hope this is (and remains) an isolated incident with legacy SPG properties, but if you’ve encountered other examples, please share in the comments below.
Featured photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy
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