As Starwood works its way through the merger process with Marriott, the question still remains what will happen to the Starwood Preferred Guest, Starwood's loyalty program?
No one quite knows yet, Marriott has made some great changes to their loyalty program to bring it in line with the way Starwood has done things for a while. As an example, guaranteed early/late checkout and checkin has been added. Also, events much like Starwood moments program have been added, along with a few other loyalty status items that match the Starwood SPG program. We still have yet to see how valuable the points system will be, but likely Marriotts program will never match how great the SPG program points have become.
So what should we do in a post Starwood world?
First off, we have to keep in mind that SPG is supposed to remain in place through at least the end of 2017, but has the possibility of extending that date should Marriott see fit, or if the merger gets delayed for any reason.
Sticking with Marriott is certainly a choice, but the program will likely be heavily devalued. Marriott is a huge chain, the hotels are a dime a dozen, no matter where you are, you can find a Marriott property. Big chain hotels like this have such a large market share, that their loyalty programs get diluted. This would be the same issue with IHG hotels or Hilton, their points just aren't worth much.
The other option is to go with a smaller chain like Hyatt. Hyatt has some great properties around the world, except that like SPG they are small and not present in many markets. SPG for the most part has been in most cities I want to be in around the world, but it can be limited. For instance Starwood only has 1 property in Cape Town, South Africa... Hyatt doesn't have any. In those cases I'd be forced back into a larger chain, but this is possible with Starwood too.
Hyatt's loyalty program is quite good, not nearly as good as the Starwood Preferred Guest program, but probably the second best program out there. This is partly due to their smaller size. They program is more lucrative to draw in the customers that might otherwise go to a larger chain like Marriott or IHG.
Hyatt seems to be the way to go for me. While we still have a few years to figure out what will be happening with the SPG program, having a plan of action is always good, so we shall see where the future takes us. Right now though, I foresee Hyatt becoming my loyalty program of choice.