Why I’m Switching Hotel Brands

For the past 12 years, I’ve been traveling like a mad man. Flying about 25 – 30 round trip flights a year on American Airlines and staying in Hilton brand (Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites) hotels almost every night of those trips. About 40 – 50 nights a year, sometimes more. But it’s time for a change.

I really like what Hilton has done over the years. They are a great brand but I find my personal tastes changing. So I’m switching to Marriott. I’m needing more from a hotel brand that makes travel just a tad easier and honestly… I like seeing big brands who are updating their look to keep up with travel trends.

I saw this when I walked into a Courtyard Marriott. I felt like I found a hotel that looks as cool as Aloft but with a lot more comfort.

I was very impressed.

One of the reasons I’m switching is this. Over the years, I’ve paid close attention to how loyalty and points programs have changed. What seems to be happening is some big brands tend to make it harder and harder to get to a higher level of status and to accumulate points. Thus making it harder to book a free night stay or a free flight.

When I looked into Marriott rewards a little closer I noticed not only is can you accumulate points and status a little faster, Marriott also has a very competitive structure for redeeming rewards for a free night stay.

Example: I booked our family a free night with Courtyard Marriott for our Thanksgiving trip. It cost 10,000 points. The Hampton Inn down the street costs 25,000 points. Both hotels are in the same area.

Here was something of a surprise for me as well. I went to re-activate my Marriott rewards number, which I haven’t used in YEARS! I was shocked to see I still had 17,000 unused points with Marriott. Yep… so I used them:)

Marriott also has a very intuitive app. I just booked a weekend of hotels for a run in Texas using the app and it was just as fast, if not faster than going online to book the rooms.

Now… let’s say most things in the travel world are equal. Many large hotel brands are close in comparison. Nice rooms, good prices etc.

But here was the one deciding factor that put me over the edge. I decided to tweet out that I was thinking of switching from @HiltonHHonors to @Marriott.

I immediately got a response from @Marriott and @CourtyardHotels. I had a short conversation with both of them. Brought @AmericanAir into the conversation… they responded as well… and made my decision.

Any brand willing to engage the conversation people are having about them is worth taking my business there. It’s one of the main reasons I fly American Airlines and rent cars from National.

As a side note… @HiltonHHonors was silent the whole time.

Am I mad at Hilton? Not at all. Do I feel like I deserve something from them? Not at all. I’ve given them 12 years of loyal business and they have served me well. But times are changing and becoming more updated with the needs of this new travel world.

Big travel brands need to remember. There are a lot of business travelers like me wanting to engage with them online to better the experience all the way around from talking favorably about their brand online to getting some faster customer service.

Marriott gets it. So does American Airlines.

If you are loyal to certain brands… Why? What is it that makes you proud to be their customer?

  • http://patalexander.com Pat Alexander

    Spence, I’m no longer the road warrior that I once was, but @AmericanAir and @Marriott have been my brands of choice and in a number of instances, my best friend during those years of long, exhausting travel. Since I am usually a regular at a particular hotel for 6-8 months when working with a client, it is really special when they recognize you when you walk in the door and greet you by name. In a couple of instances over the years there have been issues at a particular Marriott property. They are always resolved immediately.

    But the absolute best was the day we arrived in Victoria, BC. We had been traveling the entire day. We were staying on reward points as we were on vacation. They were very polite at check-in and let us know they had upgraded us to a suite. Really? On Points? And what a suite it was. A large corner suite with a view, full living room, dining room, small kitchen area, large bedroom, huge bathroom, 2 sinks. I could live there. Best Hotel Room Ever.

    When I have to stay somewhere other than a Marriott property or fly on another airline, life is just not the same.

    Good choice. Enjoy your Thanksgiving.

    • http://www.spencesmith.com Spence Smith

      That’s huge Pat! It’s little things like that where hotels like Marriott will always win. Choosing to upgrade someone just because they can… the room is empty, you are a loyal customer… so why not!!
      It’s what keeps us coming back. It’s a true Reward.

      Happy Thanksgiving and it’s always good to hear from you!

  • wmarkwhitlock

    Did you ever stay at the Renaissance Nashville during GMA week? It’s a Marriott property and I’ve been impressed as I’ve gotten to meet and spend time with the management. They are top notch people striving for top notch service on every level.

    Please take the rest of my comments with a grain of salt because I’ve only stayed 20 nights away from home this year.

    I’ll have to look into loyalty plans, because I’ve found in my journeys two thing:
    1. Hilton normally beats Marriott by at least $10 in every city I travel to.
    2. Hilton has provided a more consistent experience from city to city. I can expect my Hampton Inn experience to be near perfection no matter what property I visit. No so with Courtyard.

    If the loyalty plan is more loyal to me, I might be switching.

    I DO love staying at Residence Inn much more than Homewood Suites. Their attitude and atmosphere is much more suited to me.

    Regarding airlines, I don’t travel as much as you, but I don’t like American at all. I find their on board crews to be snooty and uncaring about their passengers. And I HATE their baggage policy. My travel office booked me on American for a trip to Florida. I was carrying two equipment bags for a recording session and the extra baggage fees—and hassle—were not worth the level of service I received at the counter, on the aircraft, or anywhere else I touched American.

    Note: I used to LOVE Delta, but they’re just as bad as American on many of the same fronts.

    • http://www.spencesmith.com Spence Smith

      Hey Mark!

      You know… Hampton Inn is pretty consistent and yes… I love the Renaissance in downtown Nashville. Stayed there many times back in the day. I really love the update to it now. it’s very cool.

      I also have stayed in Residence Inn’s several times and love them too. Much more than Homewood. I’m pretty choosy on where i stay especially when it comes to pricing. Some of the hotels i just booked through Marriott where either the same price as hilton brands or a little less. which is good. I know it changes though from city to city.
      I also understand your frustration with American Airlines. I think since i’m high on their status, I have very little dealings with ticket agents and bags. However, I have seen some step way out of line at times and it’s disappointing. But like you said… I’ve seen this on several airlines.
      For me it comes down to problem solving customer service especially online. The brands that are bringing on nice helpful social media people are making huge gains because they know their reputation hasn’t been good in person.
      American has their problems for sure, but they get customer service thru twitter right and that makes me want to stay with them. Plus… for me… they are more consistent than not on flights. I have several co workers who fly delta and united… horror stories!!
      thanks for the comment Mark and let’s get together next time I’m in nashville!

  • Blue

    “As a side note… @HiltonHHonors was silent the whole time.”

    looking at the first screenshot, it looks like you misspelled hilton as hitlon which may not have helped on that. though, you would think they would monitor for common misspellings as well… in theory anyway…

  • http://www.andytraub.com/ Andy Traub

    Conversation means so much doesn’t it? And it’s NOT hard to be part of it. I am much more loyal to brands who will talk with me via Twitter. Nice write up.

  • http://twitter.com/StevenStuller Steven Stuller

    I agree. It’s important to at least engage in the conversation. If I were Hilton, I’d be fighting to keep a 12 year loyal business traveler in my brand. Not let them walk away so easily.

    I’ve been a lifelong Marriott fan. You won’t be disappointed with the switch.

  • tessa

    We love Marriott. They always seem to do the little extras that make it nice to be there. Last week when i was checking out of Springhill in Tallahassee I asked what time breakfast started. It wasn’t open for another hour, but someone heard my question and ran to the kitchen and got us bagels, muffins, and bananas for our car ride home. It made us so happy!

  • Jill Mongene

    I love that you are loyal to American Airlines Spence!! Joe has 26yrs with them and folks like you are few and far between. So, thank you from our family for that loyalty as well.

    I love Marriott. Always have and it’s the only place I will stay. You picked another gem. They will not disappoint.

    Hope to see you on the roads somewhere. Sure miss you around BNA.

  • terryweaver

    I left Hilton Honors Myself. I had booked a few confernces and they had my points expire. It’s not my fault they don’t have properties in all the places I travel to. I have split my travel between Holiday Inn Express and Hyatt Place with a little Element and Aloft thrown in there. Both Holiday Inn and Hyatt have me in there upper tier for 2013 so I will probably stick to those as much as I can.

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