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BrightlyBob's Blab

36 posts

2 Cities, 2 SNAs and 2 Mini-TIPPLES (over 7 nights in 4 hotels)

 

Well Mrs BrightlyBob and I ended up on something of an odyssey staying 7 nights in 4 hotels, 2 in London, 2 in Budapest. It wasn’t quite meant that way but as one door closed another opened necessitating changes that led me to this:

 

Thursday 23 May - Intercontinental London Park Lane. What a beautiful property this is, here I used an expiring IHG credit card free-night certificate, originally for a mini-TIPPLE with jerryl, I got the wrong date and accidentally booked in for 23 instead of 25 May. Alas, I realised my error too late and had I then cancelled I would have lost the certificate so I decided to keep hold of the night though was very unsure whether I’d use it. As it happened a trial came up in Southampton and although London isn’t the most convenient place to start from, it’s better than Manchester!

 

Beautifully kept property we were upgraded to a Park Lane Suite for our night.

 

 

This is a lovely spacious hotel with great public areas. It’s not in the same league as London’s grandest Hotels such as Claridges, The Savoy or the Gresham, but it holds its own against The JW, County Hall and, as I found out, the Sheraton Grand. Alas IHGs highest elite level, Spire, qualifies for neither free lounge access nor breakfast at the Intercontinental brand and although it costs 70,000 IHG points they are really the equivalent of 50,000 Bonvoys so it does at least cost comparatively less. As it turned out my 6am start on Friday wouldn’t have permitted breakfast anyway, but I did miss the Thursday evening lounge access.

 

Friday & Saturday 24 and 25 May - London Sheraton Grand. Here I used 2 SNAs for a upgrade to their Park View Suite and they cleared 5 days beforehand.

 

It’s a bit Tracey Emin now but trust us, it was a lovely bedroom when we walked in!

 

 

 

I was meant to be meeting jerryl for a mini-TIPPLE on the Saturday but his plans changed however mine didn’t as me and Mrs BrightlyBob were flying from Stansted to Budapest so we kept the weekend. And what a lovely weekend it was! There’s nothing quite as relaxing as an impromptu weekend in a Luxury London hotel in a beautiful suite with no sightseeing or agenda. As a Bonvoy Titanium I received free lounge access and an enquiry via Chat confirmed that as we’d chosen restaurant breakfast as our amenity we could have it in our room paying just the tray charge. Now there’s a relaxing start to each day - or it would be if it hadn’t arrived 45 mins late and totally cold! Honestly, it had clearly been plated on-time and then left standing despite a couple of calls from me over the 45 mins asking when I was likely to eat. A somewhat irritated word with management produced a fresh cooked to order breakfast and an offer of a bottle of Moët by way of apology. Alas neither I nor Mrs BrightlyBob are champagne drinkers (Mrs BB is teetotal and I already had a Welcome bottle of red from the hotel to consume - yes bejacob, the hotel in-Room Welcome gift is still not dead!) and although the mother-in-law would have loved it we were travelling hand-baggage-only on RyanAir to Budapest so there was no way it could even join us on our travels and end up back in Blighty in a week, so I requested points instead and they very generously posted 5,000 points to my account that same day. As it turned out that wasn’t to be the only bottle of champers offered to me that day!

 

Now usually I operate via the mottoes “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” and “a classic sign of insanity is doing the same thing twice and expecting a different result” but breakfast in bed is such a rare treat that I tried it again on the Sunday morning, this time booking for a little earlier on the basis if it didn’t turn up we’d just make our way to the restaurant. This time it turned up on time and hot. A lovely treat indeed.

 

I’ve already mentioned the 2 key benefits Bonvoy brings to the table over IHG, and with breakfast working out well (eventually) I guess we should address the other key benefit of Bonvoy over IHG, the lounge access. 

 

 

Unlike most Marriott branded lounges, the Sheraton Grands is huge with a variety of seating in a lovely art-Deco style room, something that is maintained via the background soundtrack, no piped “muzak” here! Cream Tea was a real treat with both fruit and plain scones, lemon curd, clotted cream and a constantly changing selection of lovely cakes. This was the same food as they were serving in the Palm Court for £30pp!

 

The lounge Evening food was meatballs and pasta both nights with a couple of cheeses, a wide variety of breads and salads. There’s a full open bar including bottled Peroni, red and white wine and top-shelf liquor. Mostly manned you’re welcome to help yourself if it’s not. One oddity, as closing time approaches at every lounge I’ve used, someone usually tours the lounge offering a final food and liquor opportunity, but not here. By 7.40pm it was packed-up and gone! Alas that last-minute reminder is a part of lounge service I rely on so ended up going to the counter at 7.40pm both nights to find it dry!

 

Now you may remember I’ve referred to mini-TIPPLES. 2 were planned one with jerryl in London where I’d join him at the County Hall Lounge, the other with jw99 where I’d be joining him in the Budapest Marriott lounge. Well the one with Jerry, he had to rearrange his plans so it went by the wayside but as I sat in the Sheraton lounge on Saturday evening I was approached by a lovely lady who out of the blue asked “excuse me, but are you BrightlyBob?” And with those words commenced a mini-TIPPLE with 2 Insider-lurkers, Diane and her husband, Jim. Although neither have yet joined Insiders they’ve been lurking for a couple of years and on this trip to London took the advice of yours truly staying at the Renaissance Heathrow for a cheap arrival night, the Renaissance St Pancras for a few nights to try out that side of town and of course the fabulous Chambers lounge and finally the Sheraton Grand for the full Mayfair experience. I reckon they made great choices and certainly seemed to have enjoyed their transatlantic London visit!

 

Impromptu mini-TIPPLE, now it’s time to join in you two. You’ve much travel knowledge to share with us!

 

You may have noticed I’m without MrsBrightlyBob here and that’s because although MrsBrighlyBob enjoys the lounge provisions she enjoys her kids too so while I was supping my last beer she was calling the kids before we took a bath and made our way out into Mayfair for the night. We often do that when we’ve got lounge access, it gives her an opportunity to relax in the room and call the kids and I get a last beer or two and post on Insiders! Anyhow, later that evening the very kind Diane called me in my room to say Jim was at our door with a bottle of champers which was really kind, but for the same reason I didn’t accept the hotels Moët, so I asked Diane&Jim (which is the handle I’m giving them till they join and choose their own, partly in tribute to the wonderful brianandlin handle that did get discussed, yup brilin that Bud&Crisps thread is a legend!) if they would enjoy it themselves as we just couldn’t have got it drank, being just a teetotaller and a beer (and single malt scotch) drinker. It was a really kind gesture you both and I hope you enjoyed it yourselves!

 

So Saturday turned into Sunday and our journey from the Sheraton onto the Victoria line at Green Park changing to the Central Line at Oxford Circus and alighting at Liverpool Street for the Stansted Express to the airport, a total journey time from hotel to airport security of 90 mins. The usual cramped but on-time style of a £50 RyanAir flight and we’d arrived in Budapest.

 

Sunday, Monday & Tuesday 26 and 27 & 28 May is spent in Budapest for our bargain 3-night redemption stay at the Intercontinental where as usual they upgraded us to a river view room. 

 

 

 

The Budapest Intercontinental has always been a bit of a bargain at 35,000 IHG Points which is the equivalent of just 25,000 Bonvoy. Of course there’s no lounge access and no breakfast but food and beer is very cheap here and we like to get out and about in Budapest. Plus, of course I’d get my lounge fix by trailing into the Marriott lounge in jw99’s wake for my second mini-TIPPLE.

 

Me with jw99 and his wonderful wife on the Marriott lounge terrace, Buda Castle in the background

 

It turned out that JW99 was there with his charming wife on a lengthy Central European tour having already visited Vienna and Prague staying at the Marriotts there and they were meeting me on their final night before departing Budapest moving on to Split, picking up a hire car to the Dubrovnik Hilton and planning a daytrip drive over the border into Montenegro and the the old walled town of Kotor

 

Leave your car at the town gates, Kotor is a motor-free town!

 

 As usual the Budapest lounge was busy but plenty of food, full bar and help-yourself beer and wine. I don’t think jw99 much appreciated the sugared milk and rum I brought out to them but I certainly appreciated their company as our TIPPLE took us around such subjects as the new scheme, lounges, point-hoarding, airline Miles, Trump, Brexit, Budapest (obviously) past TIPPLEs and brianandlin (have I mentioned that Bud and Crisps thread?). I had a great time and it was a wonderful meet-up sat on the Terrace overlooking Budapests historic Chain Bridge and Buda Castle. Thank very much you two for agreeing to share a little of your vacation time with me, and I hope you’re enjoying Split right now!

 

Wednesday 29 MayAnd thus as I wake up this morning it’s time to move on again, this time to the Budapest Courtyard chosen because our Thursday morning plane is 6am which means leaving the hotel at 4am and I couldn’t countenance spending 35,000 IHG points on such a “short night” when I was able to get the Courtyard on a €86 BRG and having just checked in online we’ve been upgraded to one if their suites too!

 

 

 

If there’s any doubt the City Centre Courtyard is a business hotel, this version of a suite settles it! Spacious, with a full boardroom it’s air-conditioned and with a comfy bed, it does the trick. Happy endings one and all!

Yes, in the absence of the full-caffeine TIPPLE, this may well be the biggest of the year, and it’s underway

On a tourist-packed Westminster Bridge with Marriotts County Hall and the London Eye in the background.

 

Today I met up with bejacob and his enchanting better half Karen at County Hall for a few Camden Town beers and a chat about all things Bonvoy in the Gillrays bar overlooking the Houses of Parliament. 

 

 

After a few drinks and a lot of chat I made my way to meet pey at the Heathrow Renaissance 

 

and supped my way with him through a few Sols in the Exec lounge before being joined by his better half, the fragrant Elaine. I was meant to be travelling with my wife but she’s had a minor accident and didn’t feel up to it but I know she’s watching this thread - mwah, darling!

 

On Saturday morning I’ll be checking out of the Renaissance to make my way to the Aloft Excel and then venture out in the afternoon to meet up in Covent Garden with brilin, normanp, and if his flights work out, hallchr to have a gander at ThePointsGuy’s UK popup shop and hopefully get some free swag, and maybe win some miles too! From there we’re planning on meeting with Pey and Bejacob at Gillrays in County Hall around 6pm. Should be a great day!

And that place is the UK - Now my American friends, please do not be put off, this isn’t an in depth analysis of the hotel business in the UK, but a breakdown of the inflationary effect of Marriott’s category changes in this country. 

 

Although the UK is top-heavy in full service and hence high-category hotels I think it’s a good place to analyse the effect of the latest category changes, in no small part because it’s a smaller market but with a good category distribution. With less than 100 properties it’s maths are manageable without talking in the thousands of hotels and billions of points. It’s also much easier to gather the data. And that’s what I’ve done.

 

The last time I looked at this in June 2018 I found that the combining of both Marriott and SPG programs led to a net reduction of 6,000 points to redeem for 1 night at every UK Marriott/Starwood property. Has the latest announcement of category changes effected that?

 

Well, the launch of Bonvoy next week will be followed swiftly by a category adjustment and right now we have the following category numbers in the UK:

 

Category | Number of Hotels | Points per night | Total Points 

 

1.                         0.                           0.                        0

2.                         3.                      12,500.               38,000

3.                       13.                      17,500.             227,000

4.                       32.                      25,000.             800,000

5.                       24.                      35,000.             840,000

6.                         8.                      50,000.             400,000

7.                       12.                      60,000.             720,000

8*                         1.                      85,000.               85,000

 

Total Points to stay one night at every UK Bonvoy @ 28/02/19 - 3,110,000

 

*Note although Cat 8 didn’t start in 2018, I calculated in June 2018 on the basis of its existence and hence the London Wellesley at Category 8 since it’s reduction was merely temporary.

 

Point adjustments on 5 March 2019

 

1 increase from Cat 3 to 4   =   7,500

4 increase from Cat 5 to 6   = 60,000

1 increase from Cat 7 to 8   = 25,000

LESS

1 decrease from Cat 7 to 6  = 10,000

 

Total net increase is.               83,000 points

 

As a result the new category list in the UK looks like this:

 

Category | Number of Hotels | Points per night | Total Points 

 

1.                         0.                           0.                        0

2.                         3.                      12,500.               38,000

3.                       12.                      17,500.             210,000

4.                       33.                      25,000.             825,000

5.                       20.                      35,000.             700,000

6.                       13.                      50,000.             650,000

7.                       10.                      60,000.             600,000

8.                         2.                      85,000.             170,000

 

 

Total Points to stay one night at every UK Bonvoy @ 10/03/19 - 3,203,000

 

Overall this represents an increase of 2.7%. To be honest I didn’t expect a big increase this time around, I think despite its bullish public position that the merger went well overall and problems effected only a small number of members, in private Marriott realises it’s in the doghouse with us here and doesn’t need to start waving the red flag of depreciation to top-off its - and hence our - IT woes.

 

As a matter of interest all the UK changes have effected the London hotels. The London Edition which was in 2018 slated to remain at Category 7 is the Cat 8 climber, joining the Wellesley there. If I recall correctly the Edition was originally launched in 2013 at 35,000 points. In days now it’ll be 85,000, that’s one heck of a rise! The London Gatwick Courtyard is the one that went from Cat 3 to 4 and the London Marriotts in Kensington and Regents Park increased from Cat 5 to 6, as did the Residence Inn London Bridge and Autograph Xenia. The sole reduction from Cat 7 to 6 was the Autograph Bankside...

 

 

UPDATED 11th June 2019

 

I first posted this thread on 7th January 2019, the day after checking out of the Marriott Worsley Park...

 

2018 ended with me chasing up pointshorting problems on 3 of my final 4 stays and a repeated problem that has beset my entire Marriott membership has reached near epidemic proportions, this last 3 months far more stays are significantly pointshorted, or just plain missing, than post correctly. And I have to chase up Marriotts errors - if indeed they are errors, because let’s face it, pointshorting, if uncorrected has to be a MAJOR saving for hotels. So this year I’ve decided to keep a blog, here, of all instances of pointshorting and the efforts I make to remedy them.

 

This could be MRI’s quietest ever Blog, though I suspect not!

 

So 2018 ended with the Marriott Leeds pointshorting me 10,000 points on a pre-Christmas stay, which wasn’t completely rectified till mid January 2019. Can the new year begin on an optimistic note? Bearing in mind Marriotts IT managed to cancel all last years untaken Choice awards despite the fact that everyone had till 14 Jan of the following year to make their choices, I suspect not...

 

I checked out of the Marriott Worsley Park on 6 January asking for paper receipts for both of my 2 rooms and on 8 January Marriott grasped the first opportunity of 2019 to riff me of 5,640 points. Thus the new year began as the old one ended. This consistency is NOT a good thing, Marriott.

 

2019 Results

 

Jan 04 to Jan 06 Marriott Worsley Park $435 net - 1,127 base points credited - Pointshorted by 5,640 points

Jan 10 to Jan 11 Marriott BexleyHeath - points, night credit and BRG bonus posted correctly

Jan 11 to Jan 12 Renaissance LHR - points, night credit and BRG bonus posted correctly

Jan 31 to Feb 01 Marriott York - spend points correct but 4,000 promo bonus points failed to post

Feb 17 to Feb 18 Marriott Cardiff - points, night credit and BRG bonus posted correctly

Mar 23 to Mar 24 Marriott Canary Wharf - spend points correct but 3,000 promo bonus points failed to post

Mar 24 to Mar 25 Autograph London Dixon - spend points correct but 4,000 promo bounds points failed to post

Mar 30 to Mar 31 Marriott Preston - $330 net - 2,608 base points & no 4,000 bonus  - Pointshorted by 6,925 points

 

First Quarter Marriott Bonvoy pointshorted me 23,565 points

 

Apr 26 to 27. Renaissance LHR - points and night credit posted correctly

Apr 27 to 28. Aloft London Excel - points and night credit posted correctly

Apr 28 to 29. Moxy London Excel - Missing Stay. Nothing credited nor BRG - Point shorted by 7,800 points

Apr 29 to 30. Marriott Leeds - points, night credit and BRG bonus posted correctly

May 03 to 04. Marriott Canary Wharf - points, night credit and BRG bonus posted correctly

May 04 to 05. Marriott Canary Wharf - points, night credit and promo bonus posted correctly

May 24 to 26. Sheraton London Park Lane - points and night credit posted correctly

May 29 to 30. Courtyard Budapest - points and night credit posted correctly

Welcome to the new year everyone. And I’ve decided to start the new year with a lengthier-than-normal post for you to digest with your 2019 breakfast coffee. And what else should be the subject other than Brexit - um, no. Trump? Erm, double no!! Let’s try the new, as yet un-named scheme. That sounds appropriate, even if similarly controversial to the other two!

So what do we think of the new, as yet un-named, scheme folks?

I’m (less than randomly) calling it Bonvoy and the points awarded BonPoints (BP). And this is my take.

Like all the other hotel loyalty programs, it’s based upon a stool with 4 legs. Firstly the Elite levels that determine the nights required for each ascending tier, secondly the in-stay benefits each tier confers, thirdly the pointearning rate and the final leg, the point cost of redemptions. And to make it easier to digest, I’ve broken the post into separate comments. After all, it’s a big subject!

Ok, this isn’t Marriott related, but it is points related - IHG points to be exact.

 

Remember us IHGers repeatedly pointing out how much more generous IHG is with its free point offers. Whilst Marriott was offering 250 points for twittering in 2016, 1,000 points for answering in 2017 and 50 points for competing in 2018, IHG blows it all out of the water with an offer of 5,000 points for a single tweet! 

 

You’ll need to visit IHGs HomeWithIHG page, click through to Twitter, follow IHGRewardsClub on Twitter and post a picture of yourself at home or at any IHG hotel, then hashtag your tweet #HomeWithIHG #ad #Rewardsoffer and @IHGRewardsClub and tweet it out. Then return back to the HomeWithIHG page to claim your 5,000 points. Well worth the effort, I reckon!

 

Heres my tweet:

 

At home with IHG at Holiday Inn Poole #HomeWithIHG #ad #Rewardsoffer @IHGRewardsClub 


 

But you need to be fast. The offer was launched a few hours ago and although claiming to be live till 31st December has already been published by Britain’s biggest blog www.headforpoints and will easily garner 5,000 entries from followers of that blog alone (eh fistuk, eh, eh?). And IHG is only offering this to the first 10,000 tweeters. OneMileAtaTime has also gotten hold of it, as has our very own prolific twitterer starguy and with all his followers y’know it won’t be long till it’s all tweeted out, so if you’ve got an IHG account and fancy supplementing it 5,000 points in a single tweet, what are you doing still reading this? Get it done now! It took me much longer to post this here than it took me to tweet out and claim my 5,000 IHG points!

brightlybob

Timperley Teeny-TIPPLE

Posted by brightlybob Nov 17, 2018

Timperley is my home, a small urban village south of Manchester near Altrincham and Manchester Airport (MAN). 

 

brilin is the new identity of SPG enthusiast and all-round troublemaker formerly known as brianandlin. He was forced to change his insider handle when having chosen his SPG number as his account going forward following the merger he then found he couldn’t access his brianandlin identity which was of course based on the Marriott account he’d signed up for shortly after the takeover, but was now cancelled following his choice to stick with his SPG account moving forward. Hence a new handle was necessary.

 

Now Brian lives in Stockport which is just a short train ride from Timperley on the creaking 19th century Stockport to Chester line that somehow managed to avoid Beechings 1950s “hack and slash” line closures. Equipped with 1960s rolling stock it’s not a glamorous journey but is remarkably direct turning what can often be an hours traffic into a 15 minute trainride. A few DMs and we’d arranged a mini crawl around Timperley sampling our two village pubs, the Stonemasons Arms and the Quarry Bank. We enjoyed a couple of pints at each sticking to each pubs classic bitters, Timothy Taylor’s at the Stonemasons and Hyde’s at the Quarry. 

 

No, it’s not blurred, it’s set to highest handsomeness filter, well mid-highest actually, highest deleted us both!

 

Our discussions inevitably centred on our Marriott and SPG experiences, mine from the point of view of a U.K. business stayer with the inadequacy of SPGs “London and Edinburgh only” coverage and Brian’s from the position of a retiree leisure traveller taking cheap SqueezyJet and RyanScare flights around Europe and finding that SPG offered the best coverage and real one-to-one treatment that he feels, and I agree, Marriott just doesn’t provide. Brian’s conversations touched on Starwood hotels to be found at Dubrovnik, Warsaw, Sofia, Leipzig, Krakow, Sopot, Fuerteventura, Split, Malta, Lisbon and Barcelona. For my part I tried to wax lyrical about the Marriotts in Leeds, Peterborough, Northampton and Preston but it was clear I wasn’t cutting it in this conversation. Our most discussed shared experience was the Huntingdon Marriott, personally I found it to be an unremarkable property, typical of Marriotts edge-of-town inventory, Brian was more animated, it being the foundation stone of his rabble rousing reputation of which he is so justifiably proud, here Is this some kind of joke? 

 

Alas the evening went too quickly and before I knew it I was walking him back to his train home with a promise that I’d make my way over to Stockport where he’ll be arranging a tour of the local Robinsons Brewery next year. Sounds good to me Brian!

My good friend and fellow TIPPLER pey is making a visit to Blighty and as a man of taste he’s chosen the St Pancras Renaissance for his stay enjoying its spectacularly generous lounge facilities. He invited me to join him as his guest for a Teeny TIPPLE and who was I to refuse?

 

Now alas I’m not flash with points and so I had to find a cheap place to lay my head afterwards so searched and found London’s cheapest Marriott, the Moxy Heathrow, just an hours tube ride on the Picaddily line that runs directly under the St Pancras Renaissance. And finding a £50 LNF and choosing points gave me 5,000 points or the LNF, 600 points for the rate, 450 Plat Premier points and 500 arrival points, plus as my second brand 1,000 megabonus points. Finally adding on the 300 AMEX points gives a grand haul of 7,850 points of the £50 ($65) night! Score!

 

And of course the opportunity of a lovely train ride to London, too. Alas my usual route of walk to Navigation station, pick up the 10 minute train to Stockport and then the 2-hour train to London wasn’t available due to some hooray-berk smashing into a railway bridge. Normally this is no problem as I’d just use the train to Manchester Piccadilly from Navigation station, alas there are engineering world and the entire line is closed. So this is going to be a grand journey indeed. So here goes

 

11.00 leave home, walk to Baguley Station 

 

11.30 arrive Baguley Station

 

 

11:35 Catch tram to St Peters Sq

 

12:05 Arrive St Peters, start walk to Piccadilly train station

 

12:20 Arrive Piccadilly station

 

12:25 Board train to London

 

 

 

 

12:35 Train sets off for London

 

 

14.45 Train arrives Euston slightly late

 

14:55 Arrive at Ren St Pancras 

 

15:00 Meet pey at The Booking Office

 

16:30 TeenyTIPPLE in full swing

 

 

 

21:30 Said goodbye to Mrs pey, good night had!

 

A question entered my mind recently. Earn and burn - or not?

 
I’ve been a member of Marriott Rewards since 2006 and started redeeming my points in 2008, burning broadly as I earned. I’ve kept a record of all my redemptions over the years and these featured in my The long and rewarding road to Lifetime Platinum blog post. But when answering the thread How many points do you keep in the bank? I asked myself, since I always advise to burn as you earn, is that actually good advice? And if so, by how much?
 
Now this should be simply a matter of totalling up the points redeemed by category nights but it’s not that simple, not all redemption methods make sense now, or are even possible, in particular I’m never likely to redeem a travel package, the old redemption cheques have long since gone, and some hotels I redeemed at are no longer part of the Marriott group. So ignoring those and counting only the direct redemptions I’ve made over the past decade, how did things turn out? And what did a decade of category creep do to my choices?
 
Well, my records show I redeemed a total of 99 nights within those qualifying parameters from 2008 to date costing a total of 2,110,000 points to redeem, taking into account those instances when I stayed 5 or more nights thus receiving a free night. Those different hotel-nights ended up in the following new categories:
 
New Category-—-Nights————Points now required

Cat 1 ————-— 1 night————————7,500
Cat 2 ————-- 3 nights———————-37,500
Cat 3 ————-- 18 nights———-———315,000
Cat 4 —————49 nights —————-1,100,000
Cat 5 —————- 6 nights————-——175,000
Cat 6 —————10 nights———-———450,000
Cat 7 ————— 12 nights——————720,000

 

TOTAL TO REDEEM NOW —————-2,805,000

So, that’s it. To redeem these self same properties for the self same number of nights that did cost me 2,110,000 points would now cost a total of 2,805,000 points, that’s an increase of 695,000 points, a category creep amounting to 33% over a decade. Sounds awful, right? Well, I thought so too, till I examined the inflation record, which has from 2008 to date stood at 30%! Admittedly that is the figure over the decade assuming you had all that cash in 2008, I’ve earned and burned and the points earned earned in 2008 had been redeemed by 2010, by 2013 I was burning points I’d earned in 2011 etc, etc. Whichever way you look at it, however, saving points for the long term future is a road to stealth devaluation by category creep and program changes.
Its important to realise, this isn’t a treatise to spend points earned yesterday today, saving points for that big redemption is a big part of what this game is about, but hoarding generally over a decade or more is the long term road to devaluation. Yes, let them build up over a year or two for that big redemption, yes keep a war chest available for that bargain redemption when cash prices are sky-high, but they’re a poor long term savings plan, I redeemed those 695,000 “lost” points for 2 travel packages giving me 240,000 airline miles and 2 weeks of hotel stays. I would have lost those to Marriotts inflation had I hoarded them!

Yes, once-upon-a-time Hilton had an earn and redeem proposition that made its program a leader in value. Then in 2007 it fell into the hands of Corporate Raiders Blackstone who simply intended to increase earnings from hotels by charging franchisees more and slash costs by dismissing staff and cutting the wages of those that remained, then sell it on and pocket the profit. Instead the financial crisis happened and nobody was doing deals. Blackstone was left as long-term owners, and so looked at other ways to maximise profits till they could unload. Eventually their search of the Hilton Manor led them to the Hilton Honors loyalty program and with a wolfish grin they sharpened their knives...

 

Ok, so it’s a Coyote, but I like Wile.E. Coyote, and it’s my blog, right!

 

I’ll not go into the gory details on the rest of the sorry story. Needless to say Blackstone gutted the earn and burn proposition but expanded in-stay benefits that of course are paid for by the franchisees, not Hilton. Eventually Blackstone floated Hilton and earlier this year sold their final stake into the market, ending an 11-year holding.

 

Hilton has recently announced its improved top-tier Diamond benefits package that includes free breakfast across all brands and no Resort fees on redemption. More improvements paid for by franchisees, but it seemed an indication that Marriotts biggest and closest competitor was making a play to increase its membership whilst Marriott was going through its merger pains. But what Hilton hasn’t announced is the end of its 5,000 points starting price. 

 

Now to be honest Hilton's 5,000 point starting price didn’t cover many properties, indeed according to Loyalty Lobby here  Hilton Honors Master Property List March 2018 | LoyaltyLobby they numbered just 47 of its 5,221 hotels. There were 154 properties at 10,000 points, and 6 - yes you read that right, just 6 - 15,000 pointers. Alas, even those measly numbers were too high for Hilton’s cost-cutters.

 

Hilton announced a couple of years ago that it would no longer be publishing property redemption movements and here it’s been as good (or bad) as its word. Effectively it seems virtually all the 5k, 10k and 15k properties have been moved to 20,000 points with just the merest smattering kept back at 10,000. I found just one in Europe, at Newport. Remember, in reality only 207 of Hilton's 5221-property inventory were under 20,000 points. Now I suspect we’ll be lucky if there’s double figures. Effectively, Hilton’s redemptions now start at 20,000 points. Of the 10-base points per $ brigade Marriotts redemptions start at 7,500, IHG at 10,000 and Hilton now at 20,000. Bearing in mind that IHG introduced two new top categories at 65,000 and 70,000 points this year, just a couple of years after introducing categories 55,000 and 60,000 and the pattern is clear, the big boys don’t particularly care about their redemption values, cutting at both the top and the bottom and devaluing when a key rival is struggling to merge its gargantuan program suggests whichever scheme we belong to we need to keep a careful eye on both cash and redemption rates, and a firm hand on our wallet and pockets - The Man is after us all!

brightlybob

Take me to your leader!

Posted by brightlybob Sep 15, 2018

Anybody checked the community leaderboard lately?

 

Well maybe you should because we have a new top-of-the-tree leader. 

 

All hail our glorious Empress pluto77, now bow you plebs, bow!

 

 

Now for those leaderboard watchers out there you may well ask how this occurred. After all pluto77 hasn’t figured anywhere near the top of the leaderboard since the new system began, although clearly a valued and regular contributor - go ahead, click on the link here pluto77 - quite prolific, eh? But nowhere near the top. Well, I felt it was monstrously unfair that those not undertaking activity in an “approved” way weren’t necessarily getting all the worthless participation points they deserved so I had a word with a few friends and we decided to crown our own leader in an excersise of democracy - if you take the richest simply choosing a new leader as an excersise in democracy! We selected unlucky 13 to become our lucky leader, and that was pluto77! Things didn’t work out quite like that, to be honest. By the time the putsch had been co-ordinated, Pluto had slipped down to number 14, but the die had been cast. And since I’m making up the rules, Pluto got all the valueless points in a further act of wanton insouciance, so sorry kharada46, you should actually be King, it actually should have been you based on our 13th criteria, but really we just made it up as we went along!

 

Congratulations to our worthy selection, your new leader based on the choice of just a few of us, imposed on all of you! And why? Well, why not? We reckon Pluto is a great contributor and that top 10 was a testosterone-only zone, a Queen brings regal serenity and a calming touch to her subjects, as a Brit I know that!

As I’m experiencing right now at Regents Park Marriott lounge. Free self pour, 17:30-21:30 every evening.

 

 

LIVE UPDATE - 13 September

 

Second night and how about another photo from the lounge?

 

 

Do you reckon I caught its best side?

 

 

LIVE UPDATE 14 September

 

Third (and last) night so time for an updating photo

 

 

Tonight the beer and white wine pump are joined by their good friends Soda and Red Wine. The full ensemble!

brightlybob

Marriott or Sheraton

Posted by brightlybob Aug 28, 2018

A posting today by erc, got me thinking, Marriott is pushing forward with its “comply or die” program to force the many shoddy Sheraton’s out there up to brand standards which seems to me once done will place it in real direct competition with the flagship Marriott brand itself.

 

 

 

It’s a big project. You see after Marriotts biggest brand, Courtyard with over 1,200 properties, and Fairfield with 1,000, and Residence Inn at over 800, it’s second fourth biggest brand is the flagship, Marriott itself with 571 hotels and third fifth, well that’s Sheraton with 444 466, over 100 of which have committed to immediate renovations and another 150 to renovations within the next 18 months. Could Sheraton finally muscle in on Marriotts turf here? After all Marriotts big advantage over Sheraton was adherence to brand standards and maintenance. Although Sheraton has always been placed as a competitor to Marriott its struggled with consistency. Well that will be no more.

 

 

And the irony, Marriott takes over Starwood and solves its most troubled brand thereby putting its own flagship brand under the cosh!

 

So, if Marriott delivers the goods on the Sheraton renovations are there Marriotts you’d swap out?

 

EDITED to correct errors in brand numbers I farmed from a Skift report. Yup, as erc rightly states, never believe a blogger who “heard it from an inside source” - trust Insiders who know how to get the authentic source, thanks for the correction verysuiteboy, your semantic-pragmatic tendencies paid off today!

Yeah. It’s good to be back folks!

 

 

It’s time for my summer holiday, but this time it’s not 3 hotels in 3 cities plus a sleeper train in China. Nor is it 12 hotels in 4 weeks around East Canada and USA. Nor is it 3 hotels in 10 days in Florida, and definitely not 13 hotels in 17 days (inc original TIPPLE-The-First) combined civil war and research trip. It’s not even 3 hotels in 4 nights for DoubleTIPPLE.

 

Nope, this is simply one hotel for 2 weeks. Namely the Sharaton Dolphin at Walt Disney World.

 

 

Just me and MrsBrightlyBob. And it’s our wedding anniversary too! Our first ever fortnight holiday together, just the two of us - well plus a mystery guest on Friday!

 

So, what’s my plan? Lots of Pandora, lots of Epcot, Magic Kingdom and a bit of Toy Story Land with a hefty side of pool time and plenty of good eats

 

Oh, and enjoying my utterly terrific $150 BRG to Premium Studio Suite upgrade! Loads of space, and two wardrobes, which I’m really needing for my Hawaiian Shirt Collection. Yup, it’s going to be a bright vacation! Seriously fab upgrade, SPG is taking its Platinum recognition ethos up to the finishing line here! Aaah, the spglife

Well, MRI has become a depressing lot as of late. And that’s not surprising, the final changes to the new scheme have been announced in the form of the redemption table and it’s been crushing on the Travel Packages, gateway-city properties and Beach hotels and resorts. And that has unleashed a loud chorus of teeth gnashing and complaining by those who have lost on the changes. That’s always the way, people are much more likely to hand out the brickbats than the bouquets. All the same, I’m putting my head above the parapet. This merger has added one after another of small improvements - each one a little Winner-Winner-Chicken-Dinner! And you know what it all adds up to a lot, lots of chicken dinners add up to a really big improvement from where I’m sat as a decade long Marriotteer and recently qualified Lifetime Platinum this merger has been hugely beneficial and I’m delighted it happened! 

 

Get me another - I’m celebrating!

 

So, this merger has been hugely beneficial - for me! All good improvements and no downsides at all, not one! Now that might sound selfish, but all the complainers expressing how rotten it is and how they’ve been hosed could equally be said to be selfish. They’re not of course, they’re just complaining how bad it’s been for them. And this is me from the viewpoint of a British Lifetime Marriott Platinum member - all great chicken, no bull!

 

Positives since merger:

 

01. 4pm guaranteed late checkout - WWCD!

02. Suite upgrades return to the Platinum benefits - WWCD!

03. Free breakfasts added at Protea and, very significantly, Resort properties - WWCD!

04. Addition of 1,500+ new hotels to earn and get elite benefits, inc many aspirational properties - WWCD!

05. $10pppn F&B voucher at AC, Moxys and most significantly, Courtyards - WWCD!

06. Welcome Points at Select Service properties double from 250 to 500 points - WWCD!

07. Welcome Points at Full Service properties double from 500 to 1,000 points - WWCD!

08. Here in the UK, SPG AMEX doubles general earnings compared to the Marriott MasterCard - WWCD!

09. Here in the UK, SPG AMEX triples Marriott earnings compared to the Marriott MasterCard - WWCD!!

10. Addition of choice benefits at 50 nights introduces 5 SNAs - WWCD!

11. Grandfathered to Lifetime Titanium, point-earning increases by 17% - WWCD!

12. New redemption table cuts points at thousands of properties I’d use around the world - WWCD!

13. Earn points on F&B Spending across all brands - WWCD!

14. Addition of 75-night choice benefit brings a free night certificate - WWCD!

 

That’s 2 weeks of Chicken Dinners from one merger! That’s a lot of chicken! Added together its a big win for me, a very big win! For me personally as a Marriotteer against what we had prior to the merger Marriott Rewards has become considerably more rewarding both on in-stay benefits and, as a “road less travelled” kinda guy, redemptions too! Here’s what it means in Pounds and Points on a low travel 40-night year. Some years are much higher.

 

IN-STAY BENEFITS

Personally I reckon I’m up £100pa on the new breakfast and CY F&B benefit (I don’t stay at select service properties very often) and another £100 on resort breakfasts (this year I’m £250pa up, most years it’s nothing though), plus the suite upgrades, SNAs, and 4pm checkouts.

POINT-EARNING

Under the pre-merger program my minimum annual 40 paid nights brought in 100,000 points inc Plat bonus, 10,000 checkin amenity, and 20,000 on the credit card. Now my 40 nights at the same annual cost see’s me receive 115,000 points inc Titanium bonus, 20,000 points on the checkin amenity and 55,000 extra points on the AMEX (after deducting 10k points for the annual fee). So my annual pointearning has increased from 130,000 to 190,000, a 50% increase!

POINT-BURNING

My road less travelled redeeming methodogy will not necessarily see me gain any greater value than my 1UScent valuation. But it will be far easier to redeem with so many properties I’d redeem at reducing in points. And of course all those lovely Starwood choices too. Mmmmmm...

 

So, wow. Yes. Way better than expected, a downside-free zone. It’s a thumbs-up from me, Marriott.

 

Let the flaming commence!