Monday, November 16, 2015

Two major hotel chains, Marriott International
and Starwood Hotels, are about to become one massive company.
We're predicting
some major changes—and even improvements—when all is said and done.
It's official: Marriott International has bought Starwood
Hotels for $12.2 billion to form the world's largest hotel company.
For weeks,
speculation had been brewing about who would buy Starwood—with most fingers
pointing toward Hyatt.
But Marriott, with its broad portfolio of brands
(including Ritz-Carlton, Autograph Collection, and the Edition hotels) has
turned up the lucky suitor. Starwood will reportedly have to spin off its
timeshare business before the acquisition can take place.
But the rest of the
company will transfer into Marriott's hands by mid-2016: if all goes according
to plan.
Here's what it all might mean for travelers.
Not all of Starwood's Brands Will Make It Currently, Starwood has nine
brands in its portfolio, including Westin, St.
Regis, Aloft, and W (a tenth is
rumored to be launching sometime in the coming months).
Once the merger takes
place, there will be redundancies, since Marriott has 19 brands under its own
umbrella.
Can Starwood's new Tribute Hotels, Luxury Hotels, and Autograph
Collection all exist as separate brands under Marriott's ownership? Almost
certainly not.
Will Sheraton, Marriott's longtime competitor, finally get
its last hurrah? That's entirely possible.
It's almost a guarantee that
some consolidation will happen along the way.
The Beloved SPG Loyalty Program Will Get Devalued—for Some People
Currently, Starwood points are worth roughly $22.68 per 1,000 points,
according to data from travel insights company Wanderbat—one of the highest
redemption rates around.
Couple that with a massive hotel portfolio, and the
ability to transfer points to more than two dozen airlines, and it's clear why
SPG was a top contender in the loyalty game.
Marriott's point valuation pales by comparison, at $8.92 per 1,000
points, according to Wanderbat.
Still, the high concentration of affordable
brands in the Marriott portfolio means that members need only spend an average
of roughly $2,000 to get a free night, compared to nearly $7,000 for
Starwood.
The bottom line? Your Starwood points will almost surely decrease in
value, but these are two of the most popular loyalty programs around—and
neither has blackout dates on bookings for standard rooms.
In all likelihood,
there will be more tiers for redemption down the line, given the
stratification of brands in the merged portfolio, and members will have to
keep an eye on whether all premium properties will participate in the
program.
Changes probably won't come for at least another year, so cash in
while you can.
Independent Hotels Will Suffer Think about all the indie-feeling
properties now included in the Marriott portfolio: everything from Luxury
Collection to Autograph Collection and Design Hotels, which had been recently
acquired by Starwood, will now be represented under a single, powerful loyalty
program.
True independents will need to band together to fight off a giant of
these proportions.
Marriott Will Become a Much Cooler, Progressive Brand: If They're Smart
Starwood is a champion of innovation in the hotel industry.
They've
introduced all sorts of mobile features from concierge services to room keys,
as well as ground-breaking hotel products like butlers and in-room streaming
services. And yet, Marriott has been able to take some of those ideas and
implement them on a brand-wide scale quicker than Starwood could.
Together,
they can push the envelope further and faster—assuming red tape doesn't
get in their way.
Marriott Hotels has just announced it will buy Starwood
Hotels and Resorts Worldwide for $12.2 billion, creating the world's largest
hotel company.
While loyal guests and travelers wait for the acquisition to
complete in mid-2016, we're anticipating some of the changes (and yes, a few
improvements) that will take place after the merger.
Read on for our
predictions.

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