Marriott announced Monday it's buying Starwood Hotels & Resorts for $12.2 billion. The deal will handily make Marriott the world's largest hotel company, but rather than wondering how many properties and hotel rooms the company will have, some frequent travelers -- especially members of Starwood's widely regarded rewards program -- are wondering what will happen to their precious points.
When the deal was first announced, Marriott promised "even stronger" rewards for the 54 million Marriott Rewards members and the 21 million Starwood Preferred Guest members when the two companies merge sometime next year, pending approval from the companies' shareholders. But the news has left SPG members concerned that their valuable points, called Starpoints, could ultimately decrease in value should the programs merge, according to a report by TIME. And that would not be good.
SPG is widely noted as the most rewarding hotel loyalty programs because it offers members "experiences" beyond just hotel room upgrades, such as box seat tickets to sold out events and other experiential perks, according to Jason Clampet, co-founder and Head of Content at travel industry intelligence site Skift. With that said, Clampet suggests that while members can expect changes, the idea of Marriott drastically altering the SPG program is unlikely.
"From what I know, [SPG] is something that other hotel brands have envied and it's possible that Marriott is like, 'we finally have it now,'" he said. "It's not going to be exactly how it is now, but there’s a comfort members can take in knowing that Marriott is not stupid and they’re not going to ruin the best loyalty program out there. They might change the drapes, but I doubt they’re going to tear the building down."
Additionally, Clampet said that any changes to both SPG and Marriott Rewards likely won't happen for at least eight months, if not longer.
"In the short term, I wouldn’t trade in my SPG program for Hyatt points," Clampet said. "I’d definitely stick with it."
Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson appeared on Bloomberg Television Tuesday morning to discuss the deal and address concerns about the future of the loyalty programs, saying the merger "will be hugely positive for consumers" and that members will actually get "more and more points." But neither Marriott nor Starwood has revealed any details.
In a statement to Thrillist via email, a Marriott spokesman was equally vague.
"Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest are the two most recognized hotel loyalty programs," said Thomas Marder, vice president of Managing Global Corporate Relations at Marriott. "Our programs and portfolios complement each other well and we intend to draw upon the best of both programs to provide more value for our guests and hotels. We expect to close the transaction in mid-2016. We will be studying the integration of the programs and talking to key stakeholders prior to making final decisions."
The bottom line is that the two companies and the two rewards programs are still very much separate, so you can stop freaking out about your points and continue enjoying all of your fancy perks, you maniac. For now, anyway. Though you're still a maniac.
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Tony Merevick is Cities News Editor at Thrillist and . Send news tips to email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.