Al Maha Resort Restricting Inventory for Marriott Award Stays

Mar 15, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

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.

Main Pool Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai Review
If you’re wanting to book a stay at Al Maha using Marriott points, you may encounter some difficulties. (Photo by Hsein Kazma/The Points Guy)

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.

A King Bedouin Suite at Al Maha should be bookable using points, but that isn’t always happening. (Photo by Hsein Kazma/The Points Guy)

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.

Bottom Line

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

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.