Barbara De Lollis reports on her conversation with Westin’s new brand chief and asks about elite recognition.
“We’re working closely with SPG to figure out how not only to deliver SPG awards, but a branded award as part of that,” Brian Povinelli, the newly named brand chief for the 179-location chain told me the other day.
“Mid-year 2011, we expect to roll out some new platinum amenities and preferred member amenities that will be more in a brand voice,” he says.
Now, Starwood definitely needs to improve their elite offerings. What was once a market leader has seen competitors catch up and even surpass them, while Starwood’s elite offerings have remained fairly constant for years.
Starwood Platinums do get good space available upgrades, best available room at checkin up to and including standard suites. Marriott and Hilton top tiers specifically exclude suites although hotels sometimes still deliver them. Of course Hyatt offers confirmed suites four times a year to Diamonds. But at hotels where Platinums don’t get a meaningful upgrade, and that have no lounge, there’s really no unique benefit to being a Platinum member other than the 500 point check-in amenity. (Ok, internet, but that’s quickly become standard across chains. And of course welcome amenities are common as well.)
So some new recognition is due. I was disappointed once I heard ‘more in a brand voice’ because I read that as ‘meaningless.’
Now, I could be wrong, but what clues Barbara does offer aren’t exactly encouraging.
While he declined to reveal specifics just yet, he did hint that one possibility might involve New Balance fitness gear.
This wasn’t exciting when Westin was “Powered by Reebok” and it isn’t exciting now. Hope they can get more thoughtful…
Truth be told, I still have faith, and I don’t think that what Westin has up its branded sleeve is the extent of what’s cooking up in White Plains. They currently have the most lucrative hotel promotion in the market, so they haven’t forgotten how to leverage their loyalty program. And they do know that the rest of the world has been catching up. It might just be basing expectations on hope over experience but I still expect something big out of Starwood and sooner rather than later.