November 28, 2022

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Travel Better – How To Use Your Hotel Points For More Than Free Rooms

The Superbowl. Machu Picchu. The Oscars. F1 races. Concerts by the world’s major superstars. Personal cooking courses with movie star chefs. VIP entry to the world’s greatest food stuff festivals.

What all of these “Bucket List” experiences have in common is that they have all been liked by tourists for free, by utilizing their hotel details – and in lots of cases, they are unbelievable bargains.

Here’s a real-existence illustration: Imagine observing superstars like Elton John or Billy Joel from a VIP suite in Madison Sq. Garden, with complimentary foodstuff and open bar with a guest of your selection. Now think about that the entire distinctive night for the two of you costs fewer points than it would choose to get a single absolutely free night time at quite a few hotels. Which would you rather expertise? Except you are not imagining it, it’s genuine, and it will retain occurring.

In actuality, you could likely include just one of these VIP live performance (or NBA or NHL game titles) activities just with the limited time indicator up bonuses made available resort branded credit score playing cards – without having paying a one evening in a hotel.

Marriott is the biggest lodge business in the entire world, and its frequent guest loyalty method, Bonvoy, is thought to be the largest of its variety with nicely north of 140 million associates. But numerous of these associates have no concept that these awards, normally a considerably much better way to use details than for stays, even exist. I have a pal who is a longtime road warrior business enterprise traveler, life span Million-miler on United and so on, who has been earning Marriott points for many years and expending them on lodge stays. I requested him and he experienced no strategy what Bonvoy Times was. When I explained to him, he instantly looked at attending the Miami Grand Prix.

“We designed Bonvoy Moments all-around 2018, but with the pandemic it is even now one of the greatest held strategies in the program,” Mandy Gill, Vice President of Worldwide Brands & Marketing for Marriott Intercontinental informed me for the duration of the the latest NCAA “March Madness” Men’s Ultimate 4 in New Orleans. Designed all over particular encounters, Bonvoy Moments is a tiny and lesser identified but impressive aspect of Marriott’s loyalty system for repeated visitors. The Remaining Four was residing proof, as I was surrounded by a handful of savvy clients who experienced used their Bonvoy points to attend 1 of the most desirable “Bucket List” sporting events in the world. The package provided not only top quality tickets with hospitality suite to the very last 3 video games of the match, but hotel rooms in New Orleans the total time, private hospitality at the hotel for breakfast and cocktails, presents, and distinctive VIP experiences like a Caesars Superdome tour and private coach’s breakfast with one particular of the winningest coaches in the NCAA.

The most important at the time-in-a-life span variety deals like the Ultimate Four are normally auctioned, and the winning bids for the biggies generally major a million details, which equates to a cost-free luxury excursion to Hawaii or such – free of charge lodging, that is. But the a lot more normal Times are straight up provides of a particular selection of details, which can be as little as 5,000 – fewer than a night at just one of the lower conclude houses in the Marriott portfolio ordinarily operates.

“We did these ‘virtual’’ 1 on 1 Zoom discussions with basketball legend Grant Hill (who won two Countrywide Championships at Duke, an Olympic Gold Medal and played 19 seasons in the NBA before turning into co-operator of the Atlanta Hawks) and we sold them for 5000 factors, and basketball admirers loved it. Our Gen Z buyers may possibly have just begun with us and really don’t have tons of points, but they can go to concerts at the Moxy in downtown New York using incredibly few details and appreciate it, and we are developing life time customers. At the superior stop we have Ritz-Carlton Yachts and villas and the Superbowl,” discussed Gill. “Bonvoy mother and father have used factors to take their little ones to see Justin Bieber and Harry Kinds and then they are heroes to their households. There’s actually anything for everybody. The important is to have a very extensive wide range of redemption amounts, some straight for factors, some auctions. The platform is just obtaining bigger and bigger, we’ve has 90 expertise offers in the initially quarter of 2022 presently. But it’s continue to a person of our most effective-kept techniques and we’ve experienced users convey to us they don’t explain to their friends about the auction until finally it’s about, so they never have to bid towards them.”

A single of the New Orleans auction winners was a repeated traveler named Charles. He informed me he had applied his Bonvoy points to show up at the Ultimate Four a few times prior to, and also the Nation New music Awards in Nashville as a VIP. Due to the fact he’s a Duke supporter, this yr he also made use of details to attend the Duke vs. Virginia match at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, a smaller facility exactly where tickets for non-students are notoriously really hard to get, and the NCAA regional finals in San Francisco.

Because it has partnerships with the NCAA, NFL, particular person NHL and soccer groups such as Manchester United, experienced tennis and personal venues which include Madison Sq. Back garden, the O2 arena in London and Los Angeles’ Crypto.com arena, the place the Lakers, Clippers, Kings and Sparks perform, athletics has lengthy been the biggest section of the Moments software, so a great deal so that a buzzword all over the Marriott portfolio is that “there is a resort brand for just about every admirer.” But the expanding platform has significantly focused on two other areas growing rapidly in acceptance, concert events and culinary gatherings, as effectively as spectacles these as the Oscars, a Bucket List night time for entertainment lovers. “Special gatherings these as the Oscars and Country Audio Awards have been suspended in the course of COVID, and before the pandemic the Oscars rivalled the Superbowl, and we are hoping to get back again to 100%. We also hope to increase Coachella as an solution for 2023.”

In normal, it is much easier to accrue and use points with Bonvoy than any other lodge system, just since Marriott is the most significant resort organization in the planet, possessing just surpassed the 8,000 hotel mark (fittingly, the new Marriott Bethesda Downtown at Marriott HQ, on web site at the company’s world-wide headquarters in Maryland, was the eight thousandth opening), with qualities across a lot more than 30 brands spanning each and every fashion and selling price issue – for this reason “a manufacturer for just about every enthusiast.” These involve some of the world’s leading tier luxury manufacturers (Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, and Luxury Assortment), “regular” luxurious stalwarts (Westin, JW Marriott, Le Meridien, Tribute, Renaissance), hipper brand names (W Inns, Moxy and Edition), center of the highway giants (Sheraton and of program, Marriott), uniquely independent lodges that really don’t in good shape chain molds and skew upscale (Autograph Collection), quite a few decrease priced, airport and frequent organization traveler staples (Courtyard, AC, Aloft, Fairfield, 4 Factors and Springhill Suites), as perfectly as various prolonged remain leaders (Element, Home Inns and Townplace Suites). A lot more accommodations in a lot more areas suggests extra choices for every single kind of traveler.

And just like the airline programs, earning details has long gone way further than just stays, with various co-branded credit history cards (from time to time featuring 60-100,000 point enrollment bonuses), partnerships with dining places, and most notably, a unique one with Uber that allows you link your Bonvoy account and generate details for rides and Uber Eats. The Factors Guy, sage of all issues loyalty, mentioned that “Marriott Bonvoy also delivers loads of other perks that fans of the plan love… consider gain of your points by scheduling experiences ranging from tickets to the Tremendous Bowl or Billy Joel in a suite at Madison Sq. Back garden to non-public guideline excursions or VIP obtain to cultural events like Miami Art Week and the Earth Expo in Dubai.” Readers of ThePointsGuy.com site, who are likely to be hardcore regular tourists, just voted it the Very best Resort Loyalty Application.

“Since the pandemic, so several men and women want to get back again to leisure vacation,” stated Gill. “We want to have the best loyalty software in the hotel business, and we normally ask ourselves, ‘How can you attain a lot more points and use individuals details in an much easier, much more entertaining way?’ For the Times software, we drive for factors you could not get you, and we do this globally.” That can indicate the F1 race in Sydney, soccer in the United Kingdom, concert events in Dubai or cooking classes with a movie star chef through one particular of the several leading foods and wine festivals all-around the world. Some new illustrations of one particular-off activities redeemed contain a tennis clinic with Andy Roddick, possessing a tailor made wedding ceremony robe designed by bridal designer Justin Alexander, and a non-public eating expertise with Chef Daniel Boulud at his new cafe, Le Pavillon.

But there’s also a next noteworthy brand name extension, Marriott Bonvoy Excursions & Routines. This is a compilation of community excursions and ordeals, these as going for walks tours, biking tours, cooking lessons, sightseeing cruises and private guides. It is very similar to tour scheduling engines Viator or TripAdvisor, other than excursions and functions are vetted by Marriott, and travelers get paid a reward five Bonvoy factors per dollar invested. “We are extremely picky about the excursions and routines we give, and it lets you strategy and do every little thing on one system,” reported Gill.

As she spelled out, “People pick the vacation spot to start with, then a lodge. They could possibly say they want to go to New Orleans, and then relying on their fashion and price range, they decide on the Ritz-Carlton, the JW, the W, Westin, the Saint (Autograph Collection), Sheraton, whatever. So normally, we consider to emphasis on the desired destination and the neighborhood activities that assistance them get the most out of it. The lodge is just aspect of that, within just the destination it is about the experiences.”

Both equally platforms mesh with one of the most significant traits in the travel marketplace in excess of the earlier ten years, termed “Experiential Travel,” which has been epitomized by the move away from laying on the seashore and the enhanced desire in further dives into heritage, lifestyle, delicacies, studying a thing or carrying out a unique activity on holiday vacation. This is also recognized in the travel marketplace as “making reminiscences,” and the most effective recollections come from what you do, not where by you stay.

This is why Marriott has designed Bonvoy Times, a system that goes way outside of the classic factors for cost-free nights redemption, and normally presents travelers a improved benefit. For case in point, a pair of tickets to see the Clippers participate in at the Crypto.com arena in LA from the Bonvoy Luxury Suite with food and beverages for two can be had for just 30,000 details. The exact same arrangements for a Knicks video game at Madison Square Yard (MSG) can be 50,000. On the new – and extremely well known – Elton John farewell tour, you could go to Moments and with no any bidding, acquire a pair of tickets in Marriott’s MSG VIP suite, which include absolutely free foodstuff and alcoholic beverages for two, for 75,000 details. Billy Joel at MSG or Blondie at O2, both with VIP suites? 75,000 details.

To place these offers in perspective, all of these are for two persons and considerably less factors than you would often want to redeem a one night time at a Ritz-Carlton. I recently stayed at the St. Regis Bahia Seaside vacation resort in Puerto Rico and liked it, so out of curiosity I punched up a 2-night time non-getaway weekend continue to be this thirty day period (April) at the lodge in the lowest room classification. The price? 237,500 factors. That is far more than three VIP concert events and does not consist of something but the home.

Or as Gill put it so eloquently, “To See Elton John for two people in a suite with no cost meals and booze and anything for 75,00 points is just crazy. Some of these are wonderful promotions. We know there are associates who travel a large amount for organization but what about everyone else? We want them to even now be in a position to have experiences, so we have issues at all ranges, and we are incorporating more all the time. It could possibly price you 25,000 factors to get a absolutely free home at a Fairfield Inn, but you could have gotten in on our Moments NFL Draft package for just 8,000.”

There are over the top rated Bucket Checklist VIP deals to the Superbowl and Kentucky Derby at one particular finish and very attainable but however one of a kind and unique activities at the other, a thing for each stage of Bonvoy associates – but to start with they have to know that the application exists. So I am telling them.