Hoping to One-Up the Competition, Marriott Adds Unique Travel Experiences to Its Loyalty Program

Including camel rides, castle tours and communal spaces

Travelers can book local experiences through PlacePass when they reserve their hotel. Marriott
Headshot of Christine Birkner

In an increasingly competitive landscape, Marriott has added to its loyalty program by offering something that home-sharing services can’t: the opportunity to book a camel ride in the desert or a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon with your hotel stay.

Today, Marriott announced an investment in PlacePass, a site that lets you search for and compare prices for global travel experiences. Through PlacePass, Marriott customers can now choose from 100,000 local experiences in 800 destinations, like wrestling with a retired sumo wrestler in Tokyo, touring the castle where Downton Abbey was filmed, or riding camels in the desert outside of Dubai, when they book their hotel.

This adds to the music, sports and culinary experiences guests can already redeem for points through Marriott’s current loyalty program, which has 100 million members. Guests will have to buy the experiences on PlacePass outright for the time being, but Marriott hopes to build a program so people can eventually trade loyalty points for these experiences.

Marriott now offers more personalized experiences, tailored to the users’ past stays, purchase behavior and upcoming trips.

The investment in PlacePass shows how hotel rewards programs are evolving, said Stephanie Linnartz, global chief commercial officer and evp of Marriott International.

“In the early days, loyalty programs were: you stay with us, you get points, and you can redeem them for hotel stays,” she said. “We’re realizing that the relationship needs to be deeper and broader than that, beyond just a transaction.”

Marriott now offers more personalized experiences, tailored to the users’ past stays, purchase behavior and upcoming trips, when they visit its website or app.

“We want to offer you things to do beyond staying in the hotel, because consumers today want that authentic, local experience,” Linnartz said. “It’s why homesharing has become so big.”

To further compete with homesharing, Marriott is also testing private communal spaces for cooking or hanging out, ideal for families or groups of friends on a bachelor or bachelorette party, who might otherwise choose to stay at a homeshare.

“If consumers want a local, authentic experience, we want to react to that,” Linnartz said. “We’re embracing innovation and thinking about what we can learn about consumers’ changing behaviors.”

@ChristineBirkne christine.birkner@adweek.com Christine Birkner is a Chicago-based freelance writer who covers marketing and advertising.