If you’re looking for a place to stay while traveling, you’re almost guaranteed to come across a Marriott. After a merger with Starwood Hotels and Resorts, it became the largest hotel chain on the planet, with more than 7,600 properties across 134 countries as of 2020. As such, frequent travelers have come to depend on the chain as a reliable lodging option when they’re on the road. But following a surprise policy change, Marriott says it will no longer be offering one thing for guests in its hotels going forward. Read on to see what the iconic hospitality brand is getting rid of, effective immediately.
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If you’re a Marriott devotee, planning your next trip might not go as you had planned: The company has said that it would be getting rid of its hotel and air travel packages for its guests, Gary Leff of travel news outlet View From the Wing first reported. They have also not announced a replacement for the option, which allowed its Bonvoy rewards members to redeem points for a hotel stay and frequent flyer miles that could be used to purchase airfare.
“The popularity of Travel Packages has been steadily decreasing,” John Wolf, Vice President of Loyalty for Marriott, told travel news outlet The Points Guy in an official confirmation of the change on Jan. 19. “With the introduction of flexible point redemption rates sometime in March and the elimination of hotel categories, we can no longer offer Travel Packages.”
Besides making travel packages unavailable for the future, the sudden policy change also means that people who may have purchased the option with their points are now in a time crunch to use them. According to Wolf, customers who bought the discontinued bundle need to contact Marriott by Feb. 28, 2022, to redeem the hotel portion of the package. Anyone who does not redeem their stay before then will be refunded points based on peak pricing determined by the hotel, The Points Guy reports. However, the frequent flyer mile portion of the package is now completely non-refundable and must be used as such.
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By the company’s admission, the travel packages offered by Marriott may not have been its most popular offering. Nevertheless, experts point out that dropping the packages could signal that it may soon be harder to get as much value out of the rewards program as was once possible.
“The use case for these certificates has been limited the past several years, so the actual loss here is minimal,” Leff wrote in the original blog post covering the change. “But these travel packages played such an important role for so long that eliminating them entirely still feels like part of the denouement for guests obtaining outsized value from the program.”
This isn’t the only time recently that Marriott has rubbed its guests the wrong way with one of its policies. In October, several Marriott customers took to Twitter to complain about resort fees being added to the cost of their stay. “Please update your resort hotel info pages to include applicable resort fee. Finding out during booking process is not customer centric,” one user tweeted on Oct. 18. Another noted, “In May, booked via app Marriott New York Downtown in Sept. No resort fee. Logged onto app last night to see they have since added a $125 per stay ‘destination fee’. For Wifi I already get as Platinum [member]. Wow!”
According to The Wall Street Journal, these resort fees, which are sometimes also referred to as “destination amenity fees,” range anywhere from an additional $9 to $95. These fees are required to book a room online and seemingly cover a number of amenities, including high-speed internet access and complimentary water bottles at check-in. C. Patrick Scholes, a lodging analyst with Truist Securities Inc, told the news outlet that these fees were initially added at beachside properties and other resorts to cover additional costs, such as free beach towels, but are now being added to hotels in cities and other locations.
In the summer of 2019, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine filed a lawsuit against Marriott International, Inc. over these resort fees. According to the lawsuit, Marriott is in violation of consumer-protection laws by only disclosing these fees during the booking process and not upfront when customers are looking at hotel prices. “Bait-and-switch advertising and deceptive pricing practices are illegal,” Racine said in a 2019 statement.
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