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Marriott Bonvoy Suite Night upgrades are a benefit that can be chosen by guests earning 50 and 75 elite night credits in a calendar year and they’re an element of the old SPG program that Marriott adopted following its acquisition of Starwood. Elite members can earn up to 10 suite night upgrades per year with each upgrade capable of upgrading one room (to a suite) for one night.
On the face of things, Marriott Bonvoy Suite Night Upgrades look like a very nice benefit to be offered, but there are so many ways in which Marriott has allowed the upgrades to be devalued that they can often feel like a chore to use rather than the fantastic benefit they should be.
The fact that some Marriott brands don’t have to accept Suite Night Upgrade awards (e.g. Ritz-Carlton), the fact that individual hotels can choose not to accept Suite Night Upgrade awards (e.g The Langley) and the fact that an upgrade cannot be confirmed more than 5 days before a guest’s arrival date are already major reasons why this elite benefit is not nearly as useful as it should be, but it was a recent experience at the St Pancras Renaissance that really summed up just how big of a joke Suite Night Awards can be.
I had a cash booking at the St Pancras Renaissance and, as the thumbnails below will confirm, the property has the following room categories that rank above a regular guest room:
- Junior suites
- Grand junior suites (essentially a standard suite)
- Three 1-bed themed suites
- One 2-bed themed suite
- One 3-bed themed suite
Despite this, when I applied my suite night upgrades to my reservation, the only upgrade option I could request was to an entry-level junior suite.
You may think this is strange…especially if you happen to have read section 4.3 c (ii) of the Marriott Bonvoy terms and conditions which states the following:
Platinum Elite Members and above receive a complimentary upgrade to the best available room subject to availability for the entire length of stay at the time of check-in.
This wording refers to upgrades issued at check-in and which do not require the use of a Suite Night Award. So, if complimentary upgrades should see a guest moved to the “best available room”, shouldn’t Suite Night Award also offer the option to upgrade to the best available room?
The issue here lies with Marriott because, as it has done in a number of other areas, it gives its properties far too much leeway to dilute benefits and, when given leeway, properties will often take it. In this instance, the following wording from the Marriott Bonvoy terms and conditions is what the St Pancras Renaissance can fall back on (bolding is mine):
Suite Night Awards may be redeemed for advance confirmable upgrades for select, premium rooms or standard suites on a per room, per night basis, subject to availability
Suite Night Awards may only be used for standard suites or other premium rooms as designated by the Participating Property.
Essentially, Marriott’s terms and conditions are saying that properties can choose what rooms to offer for Suite Night Upgrades and the rooms don’t even have to be suites. That seems more than a little nonsensical considering the benefit in question has the word “suite” in its name.
Unsurprisingly (as no one is really doing any traveling right now), my upgrade was confirmed and my room was changed to an entry-level junior suite…
…and had that been the end of things I would have only been a little annoyed that, even during a pandemic when hotels are essentially empty, Marriott Suite Night Upgrade Awards aren’t a guarantee of an upgrade to a standard (proper) suite.
But that wasn’t the end of it. The screenshot you see above isn’t telling the full story because I’ve cropped out a key bit of information. Here’s the screenshot in full:
It’s it just me or does anyone else think that failing to upgrade a guest to a standard suite when they’re using a Suite Night Upgrade Award and then asking the guest to pay extra (almost double their original room rate) to access that standard suite, doesn’t look particularly good? What kind of message does that send out?
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the hotel in question was (and still is) mostly empty, so it’s not as if upgrading me to a standard suite would have been denying the property income that it may have received by selling the room to someone else. There was no one else to sell the room to.
Having most rooms sitting empty and just a trickle of guests coming through the door is a very good opportunity for a property to make a positive and favorable impression on what few guests it has without the property incurring any significant additional costs (the only additional cost to upgrading me to a suite would have been the extra time it takes housekeeping to clean a suite rather than a junior suite)…so why not seize that opportunity? I just don’t get it.
To add a little bit of irony to this story here’s another bit of information: On the days I spent at the St Pancras Renaissance, I should have been vacationing at the Ritz-Carlton Abama in Tenerife (the UK’s quarantine rules put an end to the Tenerife trip which is why I ended up in London) and even though that Ritz-Carlton stay was booked with points and despite the fact that I cannot use Suite Night Awards at Ritz-Carlton properties, this particular property upgraded me to a full suite well over a week before I was due to arrive.
Apparently Suite Night Awards aren’t good enough to get a guest upgraded to a standard suite at the St Pancras Renaissance (even when the property is empty) but it only takes Bonvoy Titanium staus to get a guest upgraded to a full suite at the Ritz-Carlton on Tenerife. Doesn’t that make a mockery out the Suite Night Awards?
If Marriott’s Suite Night Upgrades cannot get a guest upgraded to a standard suite when the hotel in question is mostly empty, it’s hard not to wonder if the benefit has been misnamed. Suite Night Awards have the potential to be a truly great benefit, but because of the number of properties that refuse to honor the awards and because there is so much variance in what properties honoring the awards are prepared to offer, they’re not so much a benefit as a lottery ticket…so perhaps that’s what they should be called. “Marriott’s Suite Night Lottery” would be a far more appropriate name.