Last updated: 11:00 AM ET, Mon November 23 2015

WATCH: Marriott CEO Discusses Future of Marriott Rewards, SPG Loyalty Programs

Hotel & Resort | Patrick Clarke | November 23, 2015

WATCH: Marriott CEO Discusses Future of Marriott Rewards, SPG Loyalty Programs

Photo via YouTube

The future of the Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) loyalty programs is arguably the biggest question mark to emerge from Marriott International's recent acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

After all, the two programs are among the most popular and celebrated in the industry, with 54 million members enrolled in Marriott Rewards and another 21 million members enrolled in SPG.

When the $12.2 billion deal was announced Nov. 16, Marriott said the two programs "should be even stronger when the companies merge."

But with members currently waiting in anticipation and speculation mounting, Marriott president and CEO Arne Sorenson recently addressed the programs' future in a brief video.

"We recognize that Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest are two of the finest loyalty programs in the industry, each with devoted followers," said Sorenson. "While we will be spending a great deal of time in the coming months developing our strategy for SPG and Marriott Rewards, our members should take comfort in the fact that we know without a doubt these loyalty programs are the most powerful tool we have for developing strong relationships with our guests."

Sorenson went on to call the SPG program "one of the most attractive aspects of our acquisition of Starwood."

The good news for members is that, according to Sorenson, the company will seek to avoid any plan that devalues points or member benefits. 

"As the merger of the two companies progresses we will share more information as well as create an opportunity for travel thought leaders and members to provide input," added Sorenson. "The insights we gather will be instrumental in helping us deliver the most rewarding experience for you."

Sorenson concluded by stating that the company plans to "create a hospitality loyalty program that values the best of both programs and then some."

In the meantime, members can expect the two programs to remain unchanged. 

In an announcement to SPG members last week, the program's Senior Vice President Chris Holdren said that "for now, we remain separate, and there is no change to your SPG program status, your Starpoints or your existing reservations."

It's also worth noting that existing contracts with credit card providers could potentially be a significant obstacle in crafting a single loyalty program. Loyalty program expert Brian Kelly told Hotel News Now last week that a combined program may have to wait until it's time to renegotiate those contracts, since SPG currently co-brands with American Express and Marriott Rewards co-brands with Chase.

While that could take several years, Sorenson said the company will continue to keep members updated on any potential changes in the coming months. 


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