Marriott extends suspension of brand standards and elite benefits guarantee through September 15, 2020

Jul 8, 2020

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated to reflect Marriott’s extension of its elite benefits guarantee and brand standards suspension through September 15, 2020

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has upended nearly every element of the travel experience and made it harder for hotels to deliver the experience that guests expect. Properties have been forced to deal with supply chain issues, staffing shortages, and various local and federal health regulations.

As anyone who’s stayed in a hotel recently will tell you, things are far from normal and travelers are noticing the difference.

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In order to ease the burden on struggling properties, Marriott announced on its first-quarter earnings call in March that it would be suspending brand standards.  Normally hotels (especially upscale, luxury properties) have strict standards set out by Marriott corporate that they have to adhere to or they could be fined or potentially even removed from the brand. These brand standards cover everything from the toiletries in your room to the benefits offered to elite members and much more.

Further Reading: Your ultimate guide to Marriott hotel brands

St. Regis Abu Dhabi Saadiyat Island. Photo by Ethan Steinberg / The Points Guy
Rigid brand standards allow hotels like the St. Regis Abu Dhabi Saadiyat Island to differentiate themselves from other luxury properties. Photo by Ethan Steinberg / The Points Guy

Loyalty Lobby is reporting that in addition to suspending brand standards, Marriott has also suspended its elite benefits guarantee. While both suspensions were initially set to run through July 5, 2020, Loyalty Lobby has also reported that these suspensions have been extended through September 15, 2020.

The elite benefits guarantee entitles Marriott elite members to a specific amount of compensation (in the form of cash or points) if certain benefits like free breakfast or lounge access aren’t offered. Here’s what John Wolf, Marriott’s VP of Loyalty, had to say about the situation:

“The evolving situation caused by COVID-19 is creating a very challenging business environment, therefore the request for compensation for our Elite Guarantees (Ultimate Reservation Guarantee, Lounge access, Guaranteed Room type and Elite Welcome gift) are currently being waived… “

Together these moves will allow property owners to cut costs and hopefully prevent more hotels from going out of business as the pandemic and associated travel restrictions stretch on. However, this is also a stark reminder that if you’re staying at a luxury hotel in the near future, you might not be getting the full experience. One of the easiest areas for hotels to cut costs, thanks to these changes, is by closing down executive lounges, bars or restaurants when the hotel is at low occupancy.

Hopefully, Marriott’s hundreds of luxury hotels will take it upon themselves to offer their guests some form of alternative, such as room service breakfast if the lounge is closed, but without the elite benefits guarantee they’re under no obligation to do so.

Bottom line

It goes without saying that hotels need to cut costs and adapt in order to survive a prolonged drop in business, and I don’t begrudge them that. However, as a long time Marriott Titanium elite member, I’m not thrilled that the elite benefits guarantee was suspended without any notice to members. Many luxury hotels are charging the same rates they were before the pandemic started, but without corporate brand standards to follow or an elite benefits guarantee, you may end up getting significantly less than you pay for.

Featured image by Ethan Steinberg / The Points Guy

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