Here’s The Problem With Marriott’s Suite Upgrades

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Before Marriott Rewards and SPG were merged Marriott didn’t officially offer its elites upgrades to suites. Very occasionally (and usually on short trips) Marriott properties have upgraded me to a suite in the past but, more often than not, the upgrades I’ve received have been to a slightly larger room on a high floor.

That’s always been fine for me as I rarely need the space that a suite offers but I know that the lack of suite upgrades has been a bugbear for some.

Those crying out for suite upgrades had their wish granted when Marriott updated its elite benefits following the merger of the Marriott Rewards and SPG loyalty programs but, now that the new rules are in place, I’m not sure guests will be getting what they may expect.

Yes, Marriott Platinum Elites are now entitled to suite upgrades under the rules that came into force in August but no one appears to have defined exactly what constitutes a suite….and therein lies the problem.

One of the properties at which I’ve been upgraded to a suite in the past (pre the SPG merger) was my favorite Marriott in London – the London Marriott West India Quay – and the type of suite I was always upgraded to was very nice indeed.

London Marriott West India Quay

The bathroom was nice, the bedroom was a good size and the living area was a standalone room with a lot of space for two large sofas, a dining table, chairs a desk and more.

London Marriott West India Quay

The suite also had some of the better views available from the hotel.

London Marriott West India Quay

London Marriott West India Quay

When someone brings up the idea of a “hotel suite” this is the kind of thing that springs to my mind and, I suspect, to a lot of other people’s minds too.

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago (when I was planning a trip) and I noticed this layout for a suite on the London Marriott West India Quay website:

This is a room the property is calling a “studio suite” and it’s what Platinum Elites can expect to be upgraded to.

I know that this is what Platinum elites can expect because I was upgraded to a very similar looking room on a recent trip to the property and I was told at check-in that I had been upgraded to a suite.

The room itself was perfectly nice and it was definitely bigger than the standard rooms the hotel offers……but it just didn’t feel like a big upgrade. Or at least it didn’t feel like the type of upgrade someone may expect when told that they’ve been upgraded to a suite.

The studio suite was on a low floor, the view out of the windows wasn’t exactly anything to write home about….

…..and, all things considered, I think I would have preferred an upgrade to an “executive room” (smaller than the studio suite but higher up and with a better view) which it what I’ve usually received when visiting in the past.

I don’t know if these rooms were categorised as “suites” before the upgrade policy change (I don’t remember seeing them on the hotel website in the past) but, based on the fact that my pre-merger suite upgrades have always seen me placed in a considerably larger unit, the cynic in me suspects that this could be something new.

It’s possible that the property has introduced a new room category to accommodate the requirement to upgrade Platinum Elites to a “suite” and, if this is really what the London Marriott West India Quay has done, you can be sure there will be a lot of other Marriott properties doing the exact same thing.

Before I get a flood of emails calling me “entitled” let me be very clear about something: I didn’t need a suite on this trip and I’m not annoyed that I didn’t get one of the bigger suites that I’ve been upgraded to in the past, but I still think this could be an issue for Marriott and its guests going forward.

The studio suite at the London Marriott West India Quay was a perfectly reasonable room but it wasn’t noticeably bigger than the regular room I had at the Sydney Harbour Marriott last year (or bigger than any number of other non-suite rooms I’ve had over the years) so, by calling it a “suite”, the property is in serious danger of creating an expectations gap for its guests.

For a lot of people a “suite” is a large room which usually (although not always) has a separate living area and which comes with some degree of wow factor that’s missing from other rooms at the property. If Marriott properties are going to be upgrading elites into “suites” that lack any of those features then there are going to be disappointed guests out there.

I fully admit that having been told that I had been upgraded to a suite I was expecting the kind of suite the property had put me into in the past (on more than one occasion) so I was disappointed with the room I was given.

Had the check-in agent told me that they were all out of suites but that I’d been allocated one of the larger rooms they had left things would have been different – I would have had my expectations managed and I would have been grateful for the effort the property had put in to making sure I was looked after.

Bottom Line

Perhaps this has more to do about my definition of what a suite actually is than about how Marriott properties classify their rooms but I still think this will be an issue going forward.

I don’t think I’m alone in what I expect when told I’ve been allocated a suite so, if Marriott’s suite upgrades consistently fall short of what a good number of people expect, there will be disappointed guests and complaints heading Marriott’s way – it’s all about managing expectations.

Whether Marriott cares enough to do something about this is debatable but, for now, get your expectations set in advance – a Marriott suite upgrade may well not be anything particularly special so I advise you don’t get too excited about this new benefit.


  1. “Suite” and “studio” are antonyms. “Studio suite” is an oxymoron, as far as I’m concerned. A suite implies, at a minimum, two entirely separated areas (i.e. two separate rooms).

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience. Based my past visits, “upgrades” with most chains are not as great in the US/European region. But if you happen to be in Asia, they genuinely give you a proper suite upgrade

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