Marriott Loyalty-Program Hiccups May Have Boosted Hilton's Ranks

(Bloomberg) -- High-profile and not entirely well-received changes to Marriott International Inc.’s loyalty programs may have paid off -- for the company’s biggest competitor.

Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. Chief Executive Officer Christopher Nassetta said a conference earnings call Wednesday that his company added 14 million new Hilton Honors members in 2018, bringing the total to 85 million. Loyalty programs are crucial to lodging companies because they enable hotels to fill rooms without paying commissions to online travel agencies.

“I suspect that we are benefiting by getting members of other programs that are shifting their loyalty,” Nassetta said, without naming any competitors. “I can’t give you hard data on who’s come exactly from where, and, to a degree, as long as they are great customers that we can get engaged with us, we don’t care.”

In August, Marriott merged its legacy rewards program with Starwood Preferred Guest, which it acquired in 2016. The move, which created a new program called Marriott Bonvoy, was fraught for Starwood loyalists, some of whom complained about losing certain benefits.

A spokeswoman for Marriott, which reports earnings on Feb. 28, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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