Bonvoy Helps Boost Marriott's Direct Bookings

In the three years since Marriott completed its acquisition of Starwood, the hotel giant has notched a number of notable accomplishments including improved guest satisfaction, the launch of a new loyalty program and a surge in direct online bookings.

As part of its third-quarter results report, Marriott President and CEO Arne Sorenson said the company has realized many “meaningful synergies” over the past three years and has also recycled more than $2.2 billion of assets.

But perhaps the biggest news to come from the report was the discussion about the growth the company is realizing thanks to Marriott Bonvoy.

“Earlier this year, we launched our new loyalty program, Marriott Bonvoy, which provides meaningfully enhanced member benefits while leveraging our broad portfolio and significant hotel distribution,” said Sorenson in a statement. “With more than 12 million guests joining Marriott Bonvoy since the beginning of the year, program membership reached 137 million in the quarter and the percentage of occupancy from members increased 320 basis points worldwide.”

During a call with investors this week, Sorenson expanded on those comments.

“Our guests are increasingly booking online,” Sorenson said. “Our direct digital channels leveraged the popularity of Marriott Bonvoy and offered the lowest cost per reservation. Those channels — and Marriott mobile — accounted for 32 percent of our room nights booked in the third quarter, [which was] over 400 basis points higher year over year.”

Over the same period, the company reported, online travel agent (OTA) bookings declined nearly 100 basis points year over year, according to Travel Weekly.

Sorenson said progress on the direct-booking front comes as consumer perception of the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program has been improving.

Marriott Bonvoy, which combined Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest and Ritz-Carlton Rewards platforms, had initially faced criticism when launched earlier this year. Since then, however, opinions appear to have changed.

“Social media feedback about the program has become decidedly favorable,” Sorenson said. “Marriott Bonvoy is on a roll. Global room revenue from Marriott Bonvoy members is up 12% year to date over the last nine months, and members contributed 52% of systemwide room nights, a 320-basis-point increase year over year.”

Sorenson also revealed that the company will continue seeking to curtail its dependence on OTAs.

“The most significant thing we’ve done with the OTAs, and not just with the new agreements, is that we have been more aggressive in essentially dialing back the business we’ll take to OTAs when we project we’ll have high occupancies,” explained Sorenson. “We’ve had that right for a few years, but we weren’t using it as aggressively as we’re using it now.”

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