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Is Starwood's Secret Loyalty Program Really All That Different?

March 19, 2010 at 12:37 PM | by | ()

We spent the other night catching up on with some old "friends"--the hotel loyalty program threads posted on Flyertalk, which is THE place to go for any of your loyalty and rewards program concerns.

And after reading through this particular thread from last year about Starwood Hotels "Ambassadors", we're starting to believe that the new super-secret program Starwood recently launched is NOT anything different.

Since this gets a bit confusing, we'll walk you through it. Around February of 2009, high-ranking SPG members were contacted by Starwood Ambassadors offering up personal concierge-like services. The FlyerTalk members in the thread listed above go back and forth about their experiences being contacted and listing what they were offered by said Ambassadors. (We've posted some of those comments below.)

Then late last week, Barb DeLollis at USA Today reported that Starwood had launched a new loyalty program, separate from SPG, but that does involve the use of Ambassadors. However, a Starwood rep assured her that the program is different from the pilot program the FlyerTalk members were dishing about last February.

But is it really different?

We really don't see any differences yet. Then again, we're still waiting on people who were recently contacted by Starwood about this secret program to spill some detes for us. And we're especially eager for people who aren't SPG members at all to tell us if they were contacted too.

Until then, we're inclined to agree with Gary Leff who writes the View from the Wing blog and is a moderator at FlyerTalk. Leff tells us that the new Starwood loyalty program is only different from the previous program in that its offering the members "additional perks, services and better access to upgrades."

But in the end, the types of upgrades you get from the Starwood Ambassador may have less to do with being a valued platinum SPG member or a secret loyalty program member and more to do with the hotel itself. Leff explained in an email to us:

In the end there are some hotels that are better about how they treat Platinums than others, and on the whole the number of top tier guests and the number of suites at a hotel are what's most important, sort of priority for upgrades aside. The Westin Diplomat is still and will always be a great Platinum hotel because they have more than 80 suites in the upgrade pool. The W Seattle will always be a tough upgrade because they only have about 8 suites at the property, total.

We'll be keeping tabs on the evolution of this secret Starwood program (which as far as we know still has a secret name) but if you want more, keep checking on this thread at FlyerTalk. Got any of your own scoop on the secret program--what it's called, if it's really different, how they are finding their members--then please let us know. Anonymity assured.

And now we'll leave you with these interesting comments from the Starwood Ambassador thread on FlyerTalk

An SPG Platinum member describes being contacted by a Starwood Ambassador:

"I am calling to introduce myself and thank you for being a premium and highly valued SPG member. I would like to know a little bit more about your likes and dislikes so I can try and create a uniform experience when you stay at any of our properties. Also what would really like in your room as complimentary amenities (I asked for water, extra coffee and fruits). I can also help you with reservations for restaurants, movies shows etc. Think of me as your concierge"

However, this particular Flyertalk member wasn't so keen on the ambassador's services since they were already pretty loyal to an American Express Platinum Service concierge. Another Flyertalker below describes the services a bit more:

She said it is a new program for only the best guests. And she was my only point of contact for reservations, needs while travelling, hotel services etc. I followed up the call with an email asking more detailed questions. It sounds like they are trying to keep us loyal to Starwood in a down economy and the cost of hiring these "Ambassadors" would be justified if they can keep us coming back

It is interesting to note that both of these FT members were SPG Platinum.

While there are a lot of positive experience using the Ambassadors listed on FlyerTalk (or as they call them, "Ambys") involving upgraded, making travel plans and the like, this member recently wrote:

Unfortunately, my first stay post "ambassadorship" is a huge disappointment. Switched recently from Le parker to the Westin and honestly got better customer service as silver SPG member* at W New York (am currently platinum and have been staying at SPG properties 3-4 nights/week since the beginning of the year). Had to prompt to get the platinum amenity - no upgrade...

(*This person meant before as a regular ole' SPG Preferred member)

Got anything else to add about this new SPG program? Put it in comments below

Archived Comments:

Thanks for explanation

Thanks for a nice explanation! You've saved a lot of people who will face it from many doubts! As for me i don't trust such threads. But I adore travelling. Before going somewhere I find a lot of information about the place I'm gonna visit. I use torrent SE http://www.torrentbasket.com to download videos. When you know what there is in this place there is a less chance you miss it.


I agree that it doesn't differ a lot from other programmes, maybe it is only their PR strategy. I  was stydying this in my term papers at college, that's why I can fully agree with the author of this article