It was only a matter of time: Starwood, which has long owned the majority stake in Design Hotels, is folding the collection of one-off properties into its portfolio, making Design Hotels the 11th brand in the Starwood portfolio.
Why you should care: With Design Hotels now part of the SPG program, travelers will be able to earn and redeem points at unique (and super-hip) gems all around the globe. As big as the Starwood network is, some major destinations are surprisingly underrepresented—in Berlin, for instance, your only SPG options are a Sheraton and a Westin. Now, you can add some of the city’s most stylish hotels, like Das Stue and Hotel Zoo, to that list. The same can be said for many other parts of the world (Design Hotels has 287 properties everywhere from Kitzbuhel, Switzerland to Grenada—both markets where SPG has not yet planted its flag at all).
Why you should be a bit skeptical: Since Marriott is in the process of acquiring Starwood, there’s no telling how the new loyalty program will work. And though Design Hotels says that it will continue operate its own hotels under the oversight of CEO Claus Sendinger, it will be the fourth “independent-feeling” brand for Marriott once the merger takes place. (The others: Autograph Collection, Luxury Collection, and Tribute Portfolio.) Something’s got to give, and the company will likely consolidate to two flags: one top-tier luxury brand, and another more lifestyle-driven, four-star one. Hopefully the core appeal for Design Hotels won’t become diluted in the process.
The takeaway: Without a loyalty program to its name, Design Hotels was always going to be the unconventional, uneconomical, yet totally fabulous, choice. Now you can earn points by staying there—and if your company is loyal to Marriott, you may even get away with staying at Design Hotels on a business trip some day soon! Yes, it’s a game-changer. But due to the questions surrounding SPG’s future, only time will tell how sweet the score.