This morning I had the opportunity to attend a breakfast hosted by Starwood at the Chatwal Hotel, a Luxury Collection property. At the breakfast, Starwood announced the launch of SPG Pro, but I also had the opportunity to speak with a few of the Starwood SPG program execs.
After learning about the new program, I asked Chris Holdren, Starwood Preferred Guest Sr. Vice President, if there was anything he could share about the loyalty program. There are some exciting enhancements, not all of which can be shared, coming soon. One of the enhancements I can share impacts Platinum Member preferences. Today, all members can add preferences to their profile to request things like a room near an elevator, more pillows, etc… Starting this October, Platinum members will also be able to specify upgrade preferences. If you prefer a room with the best view, or a room with more space, or even the first available room at check-in you’ll soon be able to add those preferences to your SPG profile.
I mentioned to Chris that I hoped they would revamp or do away with the Suite Night Award benefit. Suite Night awards are given to Platinum members who stay 50 nights or more. After 50 nights, the member is awarded 10 Suite Night Awards which can be redeemed for upgrades to suites and select premium rooms. These awards can be confirmed starting 5 days prior to arrival and are subject to availability. I personally have 16 suite night awards – that means I have 6 left over from 2013 and have been awarded 10 for 2014 (since I’ve already reached 50 nights.)
I’ve only successfully used them twice since they were introduced in 2012. I’ve heard some people have had more success, but the majority of people I know are in the same boat. I get way more upgrades when I don’t request them.
Chris wouldn’t comment on any changes that may or may not occur with the Suite Night Awards, but for me the ability to specify upgrade preferences is a big win (that is, if hotels pay attention to them.) When I travel on business I prefer a quite room with desk/work space over a huge suite. If I’m with my family I might prefer a suite or room with maximum space. Special event, perhaps I’d like a room with a view – in 2012 The Westin in San Fran booked me in a room that had a perfect view of the July 4th fireworks. That to me, is a real benefit!
I think this will better align Starwood’s benefits with Kimpton’s very personalized Inner Circle member benefits. One of the pros of the Kimpton program is that I can already specify my preferences on my profile. Today, as member of the Starwood Ambassador program (guest with more than 100 nights) I can provide my preferences to my ambassador, but whether the hotel notices them or pays attention to them is very hit or miss. For me, making this more formal is a great enhancement.
Look for this, and other changes around October 15, 2014. What do you think, is this an enhancement you like?