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How Do Hotel Welcome Amenities Work?

One of the nice little touches about staying at a hotel is the complimentary welcome amenity that you sometimes receive upon arrival.

Whether it’s a bottle of wine or a surprise gift for your little ones, a thoughtful welcome amenity can leave a lasting impact in terms of the overall guest experience.

Under what circumstances do hotels offer welcome amenities, and how can you maximize your chances of getting one? In this article, we’ll discuss how hotel welcome amenities work and what you can expect when arriving at your accommodations.

What Are Hotel Welcome Amenities?

Stepping into a new hotel room can be quite exciting, especially upon seeing your new living quarters for the first time. Sometimes, there’s even a small welcome amenity waiting for you to elevate the experience further.

Hotel welcome amenities typically take the form of food and drink, although they can sometimes be more luxurious or creative items, such as rose petals on the bed to surprise you for an anniversary celebration or balloons to mark a child’s birthday. 

Food offerings are typically something light, like a box of chocolates or a cheese plate, but at times can be a more fulsome offering like a charcuterie board. Drinks can range from water to juices to alcoholic items, ranging from bottom-shelf wines to premium champagnes.

Wine and cheese amenity, JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul

Being an elite member of the hotel’s loyalty program significantly increases your odds of getting a welcome amenity. Still, elite members aren’t always guaranteed welcome gifts, and you can often get welcome amenities as a non-elite member as well.

Welcome amenities are typically delivered on your first day or evening at the hotel, although some properties will ask for your preference of when the amenity should be delivered during the check-in process.

Guaranteed Welcome Amenities for Marriott Elite Members

If you’re staying at a Marriott hotel, you can sometimes expect to get a welcome amenity as part of your elite benefits, depending on the brand. 

Marriott Bonvoy has very complex terms and conditions around which of the 30+ brands are obligated to provide welcome amenities as part of the overall elite benefit package.

Snacks and drinks at Medellin Marriott Hotel

(Note the distinction here: elite members typically receive their choice of welcome benefits upon arrival, which may include a welcome amenity – or other benefits like breakfast or Marriott Bonvoy points instead.)

Different Marriott brands offer different choices for the welcome benefit. Sometimes it’s better to select the amenity, while other times, it’s better to choose something else. 

  • At St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, W Hotels, Sheraton, Le Méridien, Westin, and Tribute Portfolio hotels, the choice of elite benefits is between 1,000 points per stay, an amenity per stay, or breakfast in the restaurant per stay for the member and one guest. Generally speaking, breakfast for two people will always be the best choice compared to a welcome amenity, as it’s worth more and will feed you more than a simple snack plate plus some drinks.
  • At Four Points by Sheraton and Aloft hotels, the choice is the same as above, except you can choose 500 points instead of 1,000. Still, breakfast is better.
  • At AC Hotels, Moxy Hotels, as well as Courtyard hotels outside of the United States, Canada, Europe with no lounge, the choice of elite benefits is 500 points, food and beverage amenity, or US$10 food and beverage credit per night of the stay. Here, I’d typically choose the US$10 credit per night, as that’s likely more valuable, especially on a longer stay.
  • At JW Marriott, Marriott Hotels, Delta Hotels, Autograph Collection, and Renaissance Hotels outside of the United States, Canada, Europe, the choice is 1,000 points per stay or a food and beverage amenity per stay. We’d value 1,000 points at $9, so it comes down to personal preference and how much you’d value a snack and drink on your first night.
    • However, if it’s a resort property outside of the United States, Canada, Europe, the choice is 1,000 points per stay, a food and beverage amenity, or breakfast in a restaurant per night of stay for the member and one guest – in which case the breakfast would be the best choice.
  • At SpringHill Suites, Fairfield, Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites, and Element hotels, the choice is between 500 points or a food and beverage amenity. Again, I’d sometimes choose the amenity and sometimes the points (which we’d value at $4.50), depending on how hungry or thirsty I was and whether or not I’d consume the amenity. 

(For non-resort properties under these brands, you get breakfast in the lounge, so it’s not part of the welcome benefit choices. If the lounge is closed or there is no lounge, then you get to have breakfast in the restaurant as an alternative.)

As you can tell, the above rules around welcome benefit choices are insanely complicated. What it boils down to is the fact that you can expect to get a guaranteed welcome amenity at a subset of Marriott brands described in the last two bullet points, should you wish to receive one.

If you don’t feel like receiving a welcome amenity, you can always pick the Bonvoy points instead. And if you’re staying at one of the other hotel brands, then you still might get a welcome amenity (see below) – it just isn’t guaranteed.

Now, when it comes to choosing your specific food and beverage amenity at each hotel, the check-in associate usually presents you with a card that lets you pick which combination of snacks and drinks you’d like.

They’ll then confirm with you when you’d like the amenity delivered to your room (say, immediately or at a specified later time).

Note that if you are not offered a choice of welcome benefit upon check-in, you may claim the Marriott Bonvoy elite benefit guarantee in the form of cash compensation, typically US$50–100. Therefore, always pay attention during check-in, as you can often get paid out if you don’t receive the welcome amenity choice that you’re entitled to!

Brand-Specific Welcome Amenities

Beyond Marriott’s guaranteed welcome amenities, some hotel brands around the world tend to offer specific welcome amenities to all of their guests in order to differentiate their brand. However, these can still vary from property to property under each brand.

For example, DoubleTree by Hilton is known for their signature chocolate chip cookie, which all guests receive upon check-in. During the pandemic, to stay top-of-mind, DoubleTree even released the secret recipe for their chocolate chip cookies so that guests could make them at home.

Meanwhile, when I stay at hotels under the Hilton portfolio, I’m almost always offered some bottled water at check-in, which is somewhat amusing in how low-effort of a welcome amenity it is. They could simply leave the bottled water in our room (which all too many hotels don’t do!)

Bottled water and chocolate chip cookies, Chateau on the Park Christchurch, a DoubleTree Hotel

Hotel-Specific Welcome Amenities

Most of the leeway to offer welcome amenities is given to the individual hotel itself, whether that’s for elite status members, hotel guests celebrating a special occasion, or simply a nice surprise.

I’ve had the best welcome amenity experiences with Hyatt hotels as a top-tier Globalist member, receiving a full charcuterie plate and sparkling wine at Alila Ventana Big Sur to take one recent example, as well as complimentary wine bottles across even some of my more pedestrian Hyatt hotel stays.

Complimentary bottle of wine at Hyatt Regency Cartagena

Marriott has also surprised us with snack plates and fruit plates a few times. In particular, Marriott hotels in Asia and the Middle East tend to be more on the ball with this stuff, sometimes giving me, say, an entire fruit plate that I have no way of consuming on a one-night stay.

Ultimately, you don’t have to be an elite member to get a welcome amenity at any hotel, as it’s all part of the soft product that every property wants to impress guests with.

Birthday cake and wine at The Shanghai EDITION

If you reach out to the hotel in advance to let them know of a special occasion you’re celebrating, the odds are good that you’ll get some kind of small welcome treat and a note.

Hotels also love doing things to surprise kids, so definitely let your hotel know if your child is celebrating a birthday or is very excited about the hotel or destination for whatever reason.

Conclusion

A complimentary welcome amenity can add a welcome touch of warmth to a hotel stay. Most brands use it as a way to go the extra mile for guests, so it’s not necessarily something to expect every time, though it’s always an appreciated gesture when it does happen.

The exception is Marriott hotels, some of whose brands explicitly include a welcome amenity as one of the welcome benefit choices for elite members, with guests entitled to cash compensation if it isn’t delivered.

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