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What You Need to Know About the Marriott-Starwood Merger

The creation of the world's biggest hotel chain could bring big changes for loyalty members.

U.S. News & World Report

What You Need to Know About the Marriott-Starwood Merger

Hotel Vela - Hotel W

With 30 distinctive brands and more than 5,500 hotels, the deal will make Starwood-Marriott the world's biggest hotel chain.(Getty Images)

When Marriott International announced a $12.2 billion bid for Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, consumers weren't the only ones shocked by the news. Analysts, investors and businesses alike found themselves surprised by the acquisition. While the sale of Starwood was not unexpected, major industry players like Intercontinental Hotels Group and Hyatt Hotels Corporation had long been vying to acquire the company, and Marriott was a game-changing suitor. And with Starwood and Marriott facing increasing competition from home-sharing companies like Airbnb and HomeAway, along with a 9 percent stock decline since early spring, the deal could mean big things for both brands.

So, how will the creation of the world's largest hotel company affect travelers? For Starwood fans, the merger could mean a change in the hotel group's distinctive hotel chains, which includes brands such as Westin, Sheraton, W and St. Regis, along with a mad dash to use hotel loyalty points. But while Starwood loyalists are concerned about how the deal will affect the ease of earning and redeeming reward program points and perks like free flights and room upgrades, the merger will allow Marriott to have a broader selection of high-end properties to choose from once Starwood is brought into the fold. No matter what side of the fence you sit on, here are some big things you need to know about the deal.

Rewards Points Might Be Impacted in the Future

Starwood Preferred Guest participants are being urged by travel rewards experts to use their points as soon as possible to maximize their value. While the Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott Rewards programs are separate for now, and members can continue to collect Starpoints for each stay, once Starwood is absorbed into the Marriot point system, major changes may be underway. In fact, elite-tier Starwood members are concerned that the point redemption value may be less lucrative if the SPG program adopts the Marriott Rewards program policies rather than remaining an independent loyalty program. Still, while it's uncertain how the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program will be affected once the takeover is complete, one thing is certain: Members of both programs will be granted more lodging choices and options for transferring loyalty points. Whether the merger will translate to a change in program earnings structures to incentivize repeat travelers or more perks and upgrades for loyalists is still up in the air, but guests can certainly expect a change in the coming months and a larger pool of hotels to earn points.

Expect More Options

The merger is great news for Marriott Rewards members who like the diverse chains in both the Marriott and Starwood portfolio. Not only will the acquisition add new properties across the globe, it will offer up thousands more rooms to choose from when booking. Combined, the group will own more than 5,500 hotels worldwide, 30 distinctive chains and more than a million guest rooms across the globe. That means a bigger inventory (and more price points to pick from) for all guests.

Anticipate Competition Despite Consolidation

Even though Marriott and Starwood will become the world's biggest hotel company, that doesn't mean it won't face strong competition with other groups, like Hyatt Hotels Corporation, InterContinental Hotels Group and more. The competition will still be fierce, however, this merger gives Marriott property ownership in some of the largest (and fastest) growing cities across the United States, including Detroit. The deal also gives Marriott a stronger position in popular urban destinations, like New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles, offering guests a wider selection and variety of rooms and chains to choose from that cater to a broad selection of price points and types of travelers. 

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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