Today, Marriott got on board with major hotel groups like Hilton and Hyatt and announced extensions to membership status and benefits.   Rather than paraphrase the announcement and possibly creating a miscommunication, I’m quoting it to be as clear as possible regarding the terms.

Elite Status Extension

This is from the announcement Marriott posted on its website today:

For Our Members:
Travel is a way of life for our Marriott Bonvoy members. It is the way we connect, get inspired and evolve our business every day. While it is the right thing to do, it’s been hard not to be able to travel. We know that when you get back in the air and on the road, your points and status will be important to you.
  • Status Extension: We want you to be able to enjoy the status that you earned in 2019. With that in mind, the status you earned in 2019 will be extended to February 2022.

  • Points Expiration: To provide you ample time to redeem points, the expiration of points will be paused until February 2021. At that time, your points will only expire if your account has been inactive for at least 24 months.

  • Suite Night Awards (SNAs): We have extended the expiration of suite night awards by one year from December 31, 2020 to December 31, 2021.

  • Free Night Award (FNA): Members who currently have an active Free Night Award (FNA) expiring in 2020 as part of their credit card benefit, annual choice benefit, promotions or travel package will be able to use it through January 31, 2021. (Exception: Members in mainland China, Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR and Taiwan the Free Night Awards will be extended 12 months into 2021 from the date of expiration). (emphasis mine).

It is great that Marriott is matching others and extending 2020 elite status through February 2022.  I’m baffled as to the reason China is being favored over everyone else as far as use of free night awards.

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Sheraton Dongcheng Executive Suite Beijing

If you believe the Chinese government, the virus is under control in China.  Travel restrictions within China are being lifted while the rest of the world remains stuck in coronavirus hell.

It is also interesting that Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are being lumped in with the provisions applying to China even though they are separate entities with different levels of infection and different responses to Covid-19.  It appears that Marriott is treating them the same as China to avoid running afoul of the Chinese government.  In the past China has threatened retaliation if Marriott took any actions that did not recognize the Special Administrative Regions and Taiwan as being part of the People’s Republic of China.  It is somewhat concerning that China is able to impose its political views on the rest of the world by threatening to limit access to its market.

Executive Lounge -Marriott Marquis Bangkok

From a personal standpoint, this announcement is of little benefit.  I have lifetime Titanium status with no hope of reaching top tier Ambassador due to the annual spend requirement of $20,000.  And extending my free night awards to January 31, 2021, buys only about an additional 30 days for two of them and about 60 days for the other.  Still I think this is a good move by Marriott and one it needed to make to match competitors.

Cancellation Policy

Of more interest to most are the changes in Marriott’s cancellation policy.  People are not travelling and staying in hotels much theses days.  However, there are situations when travel and hotel stays will be required.  Marriott has initiated policies that apply to anyone staying at a property in the Marriott group irrespective of membership in the frequent guest program.

Most notably, a few days ago Marriott amended its cancellation policy.  Now guests with existing individual or group reservations, including pre-paid reservations, may change or cancel the reservation without charge up to 24 hours prior to arrival as long as the change or cancellation is made by June 30, 2020.

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Ritz Carlton Tokyo

Note that changes to existing reservations will be subject to availability and any rate differences.  The same terms  apply to guests making new reservations.  Design Hotels and Homes & Villas by Marriott International are excluded from the amended cancellation policy.  The amended cancellation policy also mirrors steps taken by Marriott’s competitors.

Marriott previously announced that Bonvoy points will not expire before February 2021.

Marriott Joins The Coronavirus Effort

Marriott has established three programs to aid the fight against the pandemic:
  1. Rooms for Responders: It is partnering with medical associations to match doctors and nurses with free accommodations in some of the areas most impacted including New York City, New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C. and Newark, NJ.
  2. Community Caregiver Program: In the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, Marriott provides significantly discounted rates for first responders and healthcare professionals who want to book rooms at hotels in close proximity to the hospitals where they’re working.
  3. Donate Marriott Bonvoy Points: Members of the Marriott Bonvoy program can donate Marriott Bonvoy points to relief organizations that are active in COVID-19 responses around the world, including the American Red Cross, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, UNICEF and World Central Kitchen.
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    Santiago Renaissance Hotel welcome gift

Final Thoughts

The changes to elite status, free night awards, and cancellation terms are playing catch up to the changes made by other large hotel changes.  So I don’t give Marriott  much credit for them, and I have no idea why Marriott is favoting members in China as far as the use of free night awards.  Members should be treated equally.  I commend Marriott for the steps it is taking to assist with recovery from the pandemic.

Are there any other policy changes you would like hotels to implement in view of coronavirus’ effects on travel?