Marriott Bonvoy to Launch February 13

Well, it’s official: the new Marriott loyalty program will be named Marriott Bonvoy.

The world’s largest hotel loyalty program – an amalgamation of the legacy Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest programs – originally launched in August 2018, and its rebranding will take place on February 13, 2019.

On that date, the new program name, logo, and marketing material will be rolled out across all customer touch-points: online, in-app, and throughout the 6,500+ Marriott hotel properties worldwide.

You can find the landing page for the new loyalty program at the Meet Marriott Bonvoy mini-site.


Marriott Bonvoy: Have a Good… Voy?

I’ll admit, when I first heard the name “Marriott Bonvoy” when it leaked a couple of months ago, I found it to be pretty ridiculous. Since then, the name has grown on me a little bit, but I still think it’s… awkward, at best. 

It’s obvious that the name is derived from the French phrase “Bon voyage”, as in “Have a good trip”. To take it straight from the horse’s mouth: 

Marriott Bonvoy means good travel — this idea guides everything that we do. That’s why we’re creating a world of travel opportunities, centered on you.

— Marriott Bonvoy

That much makes sense to me, but I can’t really the same about the act of slicing up the phrase and making up a new word out of it.

First of all, I’m just not sure how we’re all meant to pronounce it. Is it going to be just like “Bon voyage” with the nasal “n” and the last syllable truncated? Maybe it’ll be an English rendering of the word, as in “convoy”, that completely strips away any resemblance to the original inspiration? Or perhaps something between the two?

I suppose we’ll find out for sure soon enough, since you can be sure that Marriott representatives will be given a hilarious training manual or two on this.

Then there’s the rebranded logo. To me, the choice of typeface feels modern and welcoming, albeit a little juvenile, and I’d say that overall effect is amplified by the raised “O” on top of a horizontal bar, presumably representing a sunrise. One certainly wonders why there wasn’t an effort to make the logo more eye-catching when they seemingly already went the full creative distance with “Bonvoy”.

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Don’t get me wrong, I certainly understand Marriott’s line of thinking with coming up with a new name like this. “Marriott Rewards” was always a dependable stalwart in the hotel loyalty space, but in today’s world of short attention spans and millennial-focused marketing, its rather generic name might well have been seen as unremarkable.

Some of the most influential and top-of-mind brands these days have essentially made-up names that might’ve seemed somewhat ridiculous from the outset – Twitter, Airbnb, and Spotify are just a few examples. Only time will tell whether Bonvoy emulates that success.

One thing’s for sure – if “Marriott Bonvoy” was the best work of the consulting firm to whom Marriott presumably paid millions of dollars for this rebranding job, then I’m in the wrong industry! Perhaps I’ll look into launching a loyalty consulting business after my Prince of Travel days 😉


Rebranded Elite Status Tiers

Besides the name of the program itself, the elite status levels are also undergoing a minor rebrand. Starting in February, what’s currently known as Platinum Premier Elite (for guests who stay 75 nights within a calendar year) will be known as Titanium Elite, and Platinum Premier Elite with Ambassador (for guests who stay 100 nights within a calendar year with a qualifying spend of US$20,000+) will be known as Ambassador Elite.

I don’t have too much to say about these changes, since I assume their actual impact on the loyalty experience will be rather minimal, except that they also don’t really make much sense to me.

I actually quite liked the name “Platinum Premier Elite” – there was an air of pretentiousness about it that almost verged on the ironic, and I had lots of fun joking to people that I was Platinum Premier Elite with a huge emphasis on the “Premier” and a tip of my imaginary fedora.

I’ll miss that about Titanium Elite. I remember thinking that “Titanium” sounded super cool back when I was in 8th grade, but nowadays it feels a little… again, juvenile. As with many other rebranding efforts we’ve seen recently, I can definitely sense an air of misplaced faith in the wants and needs of “millennials” throughout all this Bonvoy stuff.

Ambassador Elite also seems to raise more questions than it answers. I get that “Platinum Premier Elite with Ambassador” was quite a mouthful, but “Ambassador Elite” makes it sound like the guest is an ambassador of some sort (similar to IHG’s Ambassador program), whereas we all know that the Marriott Ambassador is in fact a dedicated representative that provides seamless personalized service to Marriott’s most valuable customers. 

Does no one at Marriott think through these thing before writing the cheque to their consultants?


Category 8 + Peak/Off-Peak Pricing

Okay, enough contemplation about names and stuff. What most of us are more deeply concerned about is the actual meat of the loyalty program itself, and whether or not there will be any changes that affect how we can use the program to maximum effect.

On that front, there’s precious little information to report. We’ve known for quite a while now that we’d see the new Category 8 for top-tier hotels, as well as peak and off-peak pricing on redemption rates, take effect in early 2019. However, the date for those changes was recently set for March 2019, so I wouldn’t expect that to coincide with the launch of Marriott Bonvoy.

 
 

Nevertheless, those changes are coming relatively soon, so now’s the time to nail down your future hotel bookings in anticipation. If you do intend to try out some of the most luxurious hotels in the Marriott portfolio, then there’s no better time than now to book them for 60,000 points per night before they rise to an average level of 85,000 points per night (and perhaps even up to 100,000 points per night on peak dates!).

If you’re able to use the Fifth Night Free benefit on these bookings, you can secure even more incredible value by getting five nights at these luxury hotels for just 240,000 Marriott Bonvoy points (ugh, I can’t believe that’s the new lingo I’ll have to use).

Somewhere like the St. Regis Bali, where I recently had the pleasure of staying? 240,000 points for five nights will be an absolute steal.

St. Regis Bali

St. Regis Bali

As for the peak/off-peak pricing, we don’t know exactly which dates will be set by which hotels as peak, off-peak, or standard, but it’s my understanding that hotels are required to spread out their peak/off-peak designations evenly across the calendar, and they can’t just set the entire year as “peak” and call it a day. 

Therefore, there will be certain pockets of time when a points redemption at a certain hotel might represent good value, and other periods when the value won’t quite be as good.

If you’re looking to make hotel bookings for 2019, then, it’ll definitely be worth securing your reservations before the peak/off-peak feature takes effect in March. That way, when the time comes, you can either get a refund of the difference if the peak/off-peak calendar is favourable to you (i.e., if you’ve made a booking at the standard level that turned into an off-peak one), or save yourself the extra points you would’ve had to pay at the peak levels. 

And remember, you can use Points Advance to make new reservations without having the points in your account, so it’s in your best interest to pre-book as many hotel reservations for 2019 as you might reasonably expect to use throughout the year. 

 
 


Conclusion

As many of us expected, the merger of the Marriott and Starwood loyalty programs has been a long and drawn-out process, and I’m happy to see that it’s finally entering its concluding stages and that a new, unified loyalty program is about to be launched and marketed in earnest.

I retain my doubts as to the effectiveness of the Bonvoy moniker, but I suspect that it’ll quickly become a household name and we’ll all get used to it a few months from now. Besides, as long as we’re able to maximize the program and get lots of free hotel nights from it, does the name really matter anyway? 😉