Home Hotel Loyalty Marriott Bonvoy A Good Example Of A Truly Bad Marriott Bonvoy Policy

A Good Example Of A Truly Bad Marriott Bonvoy Policy


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Marriott is the largest hotelier in the world (by some distance) so it stands to reason that its Bonvoy rewards program has more members than any other hotel rewards program around. Sadly, size isn’t everything, and while a lot of Bonvoys deficiencies are well documented, I’ve just been given another reminder of just how bad some of Marriott Bonvoy’s policies can be…even if you hold top-tier status.

The Background

This summer, the family and I plan to be back in Los Angeles, and while Joanna and I can’t wait to be able to interact with city life once again (3 lockdowns have taken their toll) we’re also considering a short break at a resort (within driving distance) where we there’s no need to do anything but relax, read a few books and possibly even indulge in a bit of pampering.

Being based in Southern California means we’ll have a lot of options (there are plenty of great resorts properties within a driveable distance), but while we’re tempted with a trip to Laguna Beach, Santa Barbara, or even Big Sur, we’re probably going to go against convention and head to the desert around Palm Springs.

Yes, it will be super-hot, but it’s also guaranteed not to be crowded and if we don’t plan on doing very much for the short time we’ll be there do we really care that it will be over a hundred degrees. No, probably not.

Two resorts that look perfect for a couple who just want to lie back and indulge in some masterly inactivity are the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells and Marriott’s Renaissance Esmeralda Resort. The properties sit side by side and are surrounded by the same golf complex so as far as the location goes, there’s nothing to separate them.

As far as quality goes I can’t be sure how they compare as it’s been well over a decade since I last stayed at either of these properties, but I’m reasonably confident that either would suit us just fine.

The Issue

I currently hold top-tier elite status with both Hyatt and Marriott so as far as benefits go I should be well taken care of at either property, but as I have some Marriott Suite Night Upgrades to use (they’ll expire long before my Hyatt suite upgrades), I was tempted to favor the Renaissance over the Hyatt.

A quick search on the Hyatt and Marriott websites quickly showed that the Renaissance was noticeably cheaper than the Hyatt for cash rate bookings ($225 + fees vs $152 + fees) and that while the Hyatt costs 20,000 points per night, the Renaissance costs 40,000 points per night (for the dates I was checking).

At this point, the Renaissance was looking promising as at $152 + fees, I would be happy to pay cash and save my Bonvoy Points for a more valuable redemption. A few moments later, the Renaissance stopped looking so promising.

When I priced up a stay at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells and the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort one hugely annoying thing became clear all too quickly – both properties charge horrendous “resort fees”.

Resort fees are an abomination at the best of times, but to charge them during a season where occupancy rates are notoriously low and properties are less than a third full is ridiculous.

Still, both properties are charging these fees and the Hyatt Regency has the gall to charge more, so you may be wondering why the Renaissance is incurring my ire more than the Hyatt. The answer to that is simple, and it all comes down to the weakness of the Bonvoy program.

While there is no getting away from the horrendous resort fee at the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort, one of the great benefits of the World of Hyatt program is that all members (regardless of status level) have resort fees waived on award bookings.

If I try to book an award stay at the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort I still get charged the $36/night resort fee (and the taxes associated with that fee)…

…while if I book an award night at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells, the resort fee disappears:

Moreover, not only will Hyatt waive resort fees for all World of Hyatt members who book an award stay, but it will also waive resort fees for all top-tier Globalist members who pay a regular cash rate too – I can book a cash rate at the Hyatt Regency and get the resort fee removed from my bill at check-out.

This is a colossal failure of the Marriott Bonvoy program because Hyatt isn’t the only hotel program to waive resort fees on award bookings – Hilton waives them too.

When Bonvoy is happy to charge its top-tier elites a fee that other major hotel rewards programs waive for all their members, you know that there’s something seriously rotten with the program.

Bad Move By Marriott

Clearly I will not be booking a stay at the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort as I have no intention of paying any property a resort fee if I can help it, and this leads me on to my second point of just how silly a policy this is for Marriott to maintain.

Leaving aside the lunacy of charging a resort fee during a season where properties struggle to attract guests, it’s utter stupidity to have a policy in place that encourages your more frequent visitors to look elsewhere.

When all Hyatt and Hilton award bookings come free of resort fees, why would anyone booking with points (and who has a choice) ever book at Marriott property that charges a resort fee?

This isn’t just a bad policy for Bonvoy members, it’s also a bad policy for Marriott because it can almost certainly lead to Marriott properties bringing in less money.

In my case, I’m looking to book a stay where I expect to be spending a disproportionate amount of my time at the resort itself, and that means that I’ll be spending more money than usual at the hotel’s restaurants, bars, and spa. This is spending that the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort is not going to see and as my daily resort spending will definitely exceed the $36/night resort fee that has pushed me away from the Renaissance, Marriott’s policy of not waiving resort fees on award bookings has just cost the Renaissance that income.

Bottom Line

It’s well known that the Marriott Bonvoy program has some very poor policies, but in most cases those policies have been designed to ensure that Marriott and the properties under its umbrella make as much money as possible. In the case of resort fees, however, the Bonvoy policy is short-sighted and it gives guests every reason to explore their options elsewhere. That’s going to cost the hotels money and the last time I checked, that’s the exact opposite of what a hotel rewards program should be doing.

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15 COMMENTS

  1. So let me get this straight: you were going to stay at the place with the lower cash rate, which would still be cheaper even if you include the non-waived resort fee, but the existence of the resort fee has made you so mad you’re going to stay at the place that would cost more on a cash rate, and doesn’t let you burn a short expiration suite upgrade? Have I got that right?

    Seems to me if those two resorts really are equivalent you’re more interested in making an ideological point on resort fees (and getting a nice blog post for clickbait) than actually saving cash on a better room rate and running through that expiring upgrade. Which, I mean, sure, it’s your money, and yes, resort fees make everyone roll eyes except for hotels collecting them, and Marriott is stupid (BTW this applies to IHG too), but in your shoes and assuming all things are equal I’d take the Marriott room, upgrade it, and keep the money in my pocket, and fight the resort fee battle another day.

    • You love to use the word clickbait, but you don’t appear to have a clue what it means. Have you tried looking it up?

      • I retract my use of the word clickbait if you’re going to focus on that. So much for “love”.

        I still don’t think paying more in cash for an equivalent room, all things supposedly being set out as equal, makes a lot of sense unless you had an ulterior motive for writing a blog post.

        • You’re the perfect example of what’s wrong with a lot of travelers – you’re happy to roll your eyes at resort fees (and no doubt complain about them) but then you question why someone would deliberately choose to avoid a property that would charge a resort fee in favor of a property that wavies it.

          No, I don’t really care about my Marriott upgrade (it would have been nice to be able to use it but I don’t much care if it gets unused) and as I’m not paying Hyatt in cash, the cash rate (or the difference in cash rates) is irrelevant.

          I’m happy to give up my Marriott upgrade and to use some Hyatt points if it means that I can actively choose not to reward a property that wants to sting me for a rip-off fee in favor of one that’s willing to waive their rip-off fee.

          In an ideal world, I’d get to choose a property in the same location but that doesn’t charge a resort fee at all (over the Renaissance) but this isn’t an ideal world so I do what I can.

          Ultimately, I’d rather not be a hypocrite (by whining about properties that charge me resort fees and then staying at them anyway) so if I have to let a couple of Marriott suite night upgrades go unused and use some Hyatt points, so be it.

          • I have made the same decision to stay at Hilton and Hyatt properties because of their policy of waiving resort fees on award bookings. Marriott does lose out on bookings because of this policy. And my wife is even a lifetime titanium member.

  2. You need a professional to manage the comments for you, Ziggy. Your replies are rude and seem to miss actual subject matter of the comments. Why would people want to continue to engage in constructive discussion eith you if you’re just going to belittle them?

    BTW – I agree with the first comment. Renaissance.

    • Ok, so it’s ok for a commentor to accuse me of clickbait and imply that I’m being irrational, but it’s not ok for me to reply in kind? Give me a break.

      Nevertheless, thanks for the advice but I’ll continue to handle comments as I see fit.

      ETA: I forgot to ask, where exactly (in this short comment chain) was someone trying to “engage in constructive discussion”?

    • Perhaps I’m misreading the tone but the original comment sounds more like someone trying to score points or start an argument and less like someone trying to engage in constructive discussion.

  3. Stay at the Hyatt… They’ve updated the pool and it’s awesome. Might be crowded, even during the summer, but it’s easily the best resort pool in the desert now. There is an adult area if you’re travelling without kids.

    • Thanks for the tip – that’s very useful to know. The Hyatt is definitely #1 on the our right now and looks like it will stay that way.

  4. Sorry, all. I always wish to get the best I can for less overall but I HATE resort fees. Period. If there is a way around them , I’ll take it. They are dishonest, especially when lumped together with taxes, etc. as “fees”. They are right up there with fuel surcharges when oil is at rock bottom.

  5. Resort fees, destination fees or whatever a property wants to call them are a blatant ripoff! And yes, I too feel Marriott is the worst offender of them all. I switched my allegiance from Marriott to Hyatt and one major reason is because Hyatt doesn’t charge resort fees when booking with points. Also, I used to stay exclusively at Starwood hotels, especially Westin and Sheraton properties. But I’m amazed at how many of my former Starwood favorites, now owned by Marriott, are very rundown and neglected.

  6. I have had this happen too but with ambassador status with Marriott I just call ahead or email manager and they will most likely wave them. $36 is pretty inexpensive for the most part. I am diamond at Hilton and globalist too. But I usually choose the more updated hotel no matter the cost as it always works out the best.

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