[INTERVIEW] ‎President of Marriott Canada – Don Cleary

Today, we feature Don Cleary, President of Marriott Hotels of Canada. Last time, we did an audio interview with Vice President Global Loyalty Thom Kozik (Marriott) that you can find on YouTube.

This time around, I thought I’d go with a written interview instead. Due to a time sensitive schedule, I was unable to request questions from our readers. However, if you do have any questions, please let us know in the comment section and I will forward them directly to Marriott!

Also, now that we tried both methods, please let us know if you prefer an audio or written interview in the future.


1)      Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’ve been with Marriott International for 28 years and I’m currently the President of Marriott International’s Canadian region where I’m responsible for the development, leadership, operation and financial management of all 217 hotels in Canada under 19 of the 30 Marriott brands currently in the country. Prior to this role, I was the Chief Operations Officer for our Asia Pacific region – and prior to joining the Asia Pacific team, I held multiple leadership positions in North, Central, and South America.   Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and customer loyalty in Canada is a huge part of my overall regional focus – as it is globally. We recognize that Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) are two of the finest loyalty programs in the industry – each with devoted followers. While we have been spending a great deal of time over the last six months and will continue to do so in in the coming months, developing our strategy for SPG and Marriott Rewards, our members should take comfort in the fact that we know without a doubt these loyalty programs are the most powerful tool we have for developing strong relationships with our best customers.  I want to assure our Canadian members that devaluing points or member benefits is not something we are considering at all, we are only looking to enhance the programs and bring the best to bear for our most valued customers. 

2)      Spring is right around the corner, what should we look forward to during the season?

We’ve got a lot to look forward to this spring. We just announced this week that Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG®), are each offering a spring travel sale to book exclusive getaway rates throughout the U.S. and Canada for spring and early summer travel including Easter, Mother’s Day, and the July 1st holidays. From March 8th through March 19th, members can book exclusive Member Rates for hotel rooms starting as low as $89 per night for stays between March 31, 2017 and July 9, 2017* at more than 2,000 participating properties in the United States, and between March 31, 2017 and May 31, 2017 in Canada.

We are also planning some exciting stuff to help celebrate Canada’s 150 and are working on enhancing our great partnership with Aeroplan. I’ll be able to share more about this in the coming weeks.

3)      For Canadians travelling within Canada or international travelers coming to Canada, what would you say are some of the best reward redemption? How can we find them?  

There are so many fantastic places to visit in Canada and we have properties  across the country for every traveler, for every occasion. I think some of the most exciting rewards redemptions are through our Marriott Rewards Experience Marketplace and SPG Moments. For those who love to ski and we recently had and incredible experience marketplace package  in Whistler Blackcomb, SKI Magazine’s “No. 1 Overall Best Ski Resort in North America,” – three years running.  With Marriott Reward points you could enjoy, complimentary parking and breakfast, two days on the slopes, a stay at the Delta Whistler Village Suites, and a dinner gift card to Hy’s Steakhouse.  Those Marriott Rewards Experience Marketplace and SPG Moments redemption packages are great value and provide unique experiences across the country.

The fun thing about travel is the experiences it provides and through our loyalty programs, we are really bringing that to life, allowing our members to access unique experience redemptions to really immerse themselves in their destination. It’s nice to know that you can earn and redeem for something more than a free hotel stay. We have great things available now and we’ll have many more introduced to market later this year.  I would recommend to our members to keep a close eye on the Marriott Rewards Experience Marketplace and SPG Moments as we’ll be introducing even more exciting curated experiences for our members to redeem and enjoy.

4)      As an executive of Marriott Rewards, how often do you travel per year? What are some of the things you do on those trips at the Marriott properties?

As President of the Canadian region for Marriott International, I travelled across Canada on business for 150 days of the 365 in 2016. I travelled a lot more for personal travel across the country as well. I’m hoping to do even more this year. I love taking advantage of everything Canada has to offer. This year is especially unique as the national parks across the country are free to visit in celebration of Canada’s 150 – I plan to take advantage of that opportunity. Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are obvious places to visit but one of my personal favourite spots in Canada is Okanagan Valley in BC. It’s a hidden gem that many international travelers don’t know much about. We have the beautiful Delta Grand Okanagan Hotel in that region and this particular hotel recently spent millions of dollars renovating and launching a new restaurant called Oak and Cru last year. I also love the small coastal towns, especially in the Maritimes.  I also love Calgary Alberta for the city’s incredible culinary surprises – they’ve got so many amazing restaurants in that city. Our Calgary Marriott Downtown Hotel offers some of the best bourbon cocktails in the country and their ‘old fashion central’ cocktail experience is worth travelling to Calgary for. I’m a huge fan of golf and one of the best courses in Canada exist on east coast at the Algonquin Hotel and Resort, An Autograph Collection Hotel – the golf course on property has some spectacular water views.  I just travelled to the Westin Blue Mountain hotel this past weekend and was amazed by the scenic views during my stay.

5)      Can you share 2 tips or tricks when redeeming Marriott Reward points? One for Canadians and one when travelling internationally. 

First, I’d recommend maximizing your points and vacation time when you redeem.  Marriott Rewards gives you a free night when you redeem for a 4 night stays – so redeem for 4 nights and get an extra night free. Second, don’t allow a low points balance to stop you from redeeming. If you are low on points, you can use always use a mix of cash and points to book your hotel stays.

6) What can we look forward to in 2017? 

This is a fabulous time to travel in Canada, especially due to Canada’s 150. There are celebrations across the country that are going to be extremely exciting giving those visiting Canada even more to enjoy. We are really excited to be opening some amazing new hotels in Canada in 2017 and introducing more of Marriott International’s 30 brands to the region. We’ll be opening our first AC Hotel in Montreal later this year which is a very chic and modern brand with a European esthetic. We’ll also be opening two incredible luxury and lifestyle properties, and JW Marriott and The DOUGLAS, An Autograph Collection Hotel, in Vancouver as a part of the Parq project. There is also a new Element Hotel opening in Calgary soon, and a Marriott Hotel in Markham.

7) Any closing thoughts? 

I’d just like to remind all of our Canadian Marriott Rewards members – which includes The Ritz-Carlton Rewards – and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), that they can link their accounts at members.marriott.com to enjoy the benefits, recognition and experiences each program has to offer. Members will have their status matched across programs and can transfer and redeem points across programs for travel to more destinations than ever before. Combining the programs allows our members more choice within Canada and internationally with an expanded portfolio of nearly 6,000 hotels in 120 countries across 30 diverse brands, opening up a vast array of options to redeem  at more exciting destinations globally. Now Marriott Rewards and Ritz-Carlton Rewards members can use their points to travel to the Maldives; Santorini, Greece; and Bora Bora and SPG members have access to Aruba; Tuscany’s Serchio Valley; and Kruger National Park, South Africa among others.

Thank you Mr. Cleary for your time!


  1. “Enhancing our great partnership with Aeroplan”
    This was the most encouraging line of the interview.
    I think it’s great of him/them to be willing to be interviewed like this. (And I prefer the written format…thanks Matthew).

  2. I am most keen on learning if Marriott will mirror SPGs approach to lifetime status (years at level vs points and stays). If you can squeeze that question in next time it’d be appreciated. 2nd vote for written format.

    1. Great question. Though it may be a Marriott Rewards International question, rather than just for Marriott Canada only. Either way, I will alert them of the question!

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