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Marriott buys Starwood for $12.2 billion...what's in it for loyalists?

Starwood Hotels, parent of such brands as Sheraton, Westin, Four Points, W, Le Meridien and more has agreed to be acquired by Marriott for $12.2 billion in cash and Marriott stock. The result will be the world's largest hotel group, as shown in the graphic.


There have been rumors for months that Hyatt or a Chinese group or Intercontinental (IHG) would take over Starwood; Marriott wasn't mentioned as often. The deal is to be completed during 2016. Starwood shareholders will receive about $2 and .92 Marriott shares for each share they hold.


Starwood has been seen by the industry as drifting in recent years and missing opportunities, and there have been management changes and pledges of renewal. Nonetheless, it has a portfolio of well-known brands, some of which have a decidedly more upscale image than some of the Marriotts. That may make the merger an especially good move for Marriott.


For many of us, though, the question will be "What's in it for me?" and if you're one of those 21 million Starwood loyalty program members, that's a real question. Starwood's program has been considered one of the most desirable, both because of its fairly easy redemption for rooms, as well as its favorable rates for conversion to airline miles or American Express Membership Rewards points. And its AMEX card has usually come with sizable opening bonuses.


Arne Sorenson, Marriott President and CEO, who will head the combined company has praised the Starwood program and its app, and told analysts in the conference call announcing the merger that "we will take the best of both programs and make sure that those bests are preserved and that the program is enhanced." 


Zach Honig, of, pointed out that there is a possible precedent for keeping the two programs separate, as IHG is doing with the Kimpton Hotels loyalty program, but Sorenson's words sound more like combining. We SPG members will have to keep a close eye on developments; if it looks like anything bad is happening to convertibility, there should be time to move the miles to airlines or AMEX.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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Received this e-mail this morning.

Today's exciting announcement.
Today we're excited to share the news that Starwood Hotels & Resorts will join together with Marriott International to create the world's largest hotel company. For our Starwood Preferred Guest® (SPG® members, this will mean even more choices in even more places, giving you access to 1.1 million rooms across 5,500 hotels and resorts in more than 100 countries.
We will work to bring you the very best of SPG and Marriott Rewards®, two of the most rewarding loyalty programs in our industry. Our members are at the core of everything we do, and that will not change.  
Today is the first day of a long journey as we combine our two companies. For now, we remain separate, and there is no change to your SPG program status, your Starpoints® or your existing reservations. You will continue to earn Starpoints and elite stay/night credit for your stays, as well as bonus Starpoints for any promotions in which you are participating. There is no change to how you manage your SPG account or book reservations.
Over the coming months, as we have more to share, we'll be sure to reach out to you by email, at and via twitter (@spg). In the meantime, we remain at your service wherever you need us — whether in our hotels, at, on the SPG mobile app or via our Customer Contact Centers.
Thank you for sharing your travels with us.
Chris Holdren
Chris Holdren
Senior Vice President, Starwood Preferred Guest 

I'm hopeful, since I think the last thing in the world Marriott should want to do is to signal Starwood loyalists that they aren't valued. Wonder how long before SPG rewards will book Marriott rooms...that could be a quick thing to do!

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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