marriott bonvoy coachella

Marriott Bonvoy members bid on the Aloft Hotel-designed Safari Tents at Coachella. (Photo: IMG LIVE | Alex Kreuter)

Palm Springs

Rock Star Status: How Marriott Bonvoy Members Put a VIP Spin on Coachella

Music poured from eight massive stages dotting the grounds of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, as Latin beats, hip-hop, EDM and screaming guitars thundered through Indio, California’s, desert air, amplified by the jagged San Jacinto Mountains flanking the festival grounds.

Looming art installations dotted the festival’s sprawling lawn — colorful teepee-like towers, the now-iconic Coachella Ferris wheel and a larger-than-life astronaut on wheels were among the works that punctuated the event’s landscape, each swarmed by camera-toting concertgoers seeking the ultimate selfie.

marriott bonvoy coachella
The iconic Ferris wheel. (Photo: Michael Hess)

This is Coachella — undeniably the music world’s hottest ticket — a mecca for celebrities and the see-and-be-seen set, as well as regular folks who simply adore good tunes. Tens of thousands of music lovers flock here each spring to experience two weekends of A-list performances by acts like Ariana Grande, Childish Gambino and Idris Elba.

The enormity of the event is otherworldly, and savvy Marriott Bonvoy members and their guests were able to experience the festival and VIP perks by bidding their points on Coachella experiences on the Marriott Bonvoy Moments platform.

marriott bonvoy coachella
Marriott Bonvoy Members enjoying the pop-up lounge. (Photo: IMG LIVE | Alex Kreuter)

Some of the most coveted offers for Coachella 2019 included luxury tent and yurt accommodations, Marriott Bonvoy Lounge access, VIP festival passes, backstage tours and a private bungalow with butler service.

Marriott Bonvoy Traveler caught up with many of the winning bidders at the Marriott Bonvoy pop-up lounge on the Coachella grounds, an air-conditioned respite stocked with popsicles, inspirational postcards and unique experiences like back massages and a fortune teller.

“I had high expectations, and [the Safari Tent] totally blew them away,” says Kathleen McGing, a Titanium Elite member who bid 500,000 points on the Safari Tent with VIP festival access — perhaps the most coveted of the Moments.

marriott bonvoy coachella
Rock ‘n Roll glasses in the Safari Tent. (Photo: IMG LIVE | Alex Kreuter)

“They styled [the Safari Tent] after an Aloft Hotel, so it was unbelievably beautiful, and they had really cool little features in there, too, like a device that you could make music with, a fully stocked bar, cocktail recipes and boom-box-shaped glasses for us to make our cocktails in,” Kathleen says. “[Aloft] thought of everything for the Safari Tent.”

To be sure, glamping can make a massive festival in the midst of a hot desert landscape seem all the more appealing.

“I’ve been staying in Marriotts frequently for work and for travel for the last nine years, so I’m used to a very comfortable travel experience. The idea of coming to a music festival and sleeping in a tent or having to deal with all the crowds wasn’t as much fun,” says Kathleen. “Being able to stay in an air-conditioned, luxury tent is more along the bar that’s been set.”

Other winning bidders for the Safari Tent with VIP festival access, like Gold Elite members Carla Ferreira and Spencer Phillips, noted the additional value in their VIP status.

marriott bonvoy coachella
Carla Ferreira and Spencer Phillips were among the winning bidders for Safari Tent. (Photo: Michael Hess)

“VIP is important to us because we have that all-access, where we can move freely around the festival, like to the back of stage,” says Spencer. “We don’t have to deal with the crowds so much; there’s all types of perks that come with it.”

Carla, who bid 500,000 points on this particular Moment, agrees. “I feel like I wouldn’t be able to come to Coachella and be comfortable without VIP access,” she says. “To know I have that sectioned-off area that I can be in gives me comfort.”

Of course, not all Marriott Bonvoy members opted to bid on the tents. For Gold Elite members Harpreet and Bill Purewal and their children, the ideal Coachella experience involved spending time together as a family, plus having VIP concert access along with a comfortable space to unwind.

marriott bonvoy coachella
The exclusive Marriott Bonvoy Bungalow. (Photo: IMG LIVE | Alex Kreuter)

The couple bid just over 300,000 points on VIP festival passes with exclusive access to the Marriott Bonvoy Bungalow, a curated space within the Bonvoy Lounge that included individual butler service, a fully stocked bar and snacks, and amenities including a glam squad and masseuse.

“One of the reasons we’ve liked this Coachella Moment is because our kids like to come, and we get to experience it and have some of the perks and get to enjoy being with them,” says Harpreet. “And [the bungalow] service has been so amazing; we can get anything that we want. Like yesterday, I needed a Band-Aid, and I got three. It’s little things like that.”

marriott bonvoy coachella
Writing out postcards in the lounge. (Photo: IMG LIVE | Alex Kreuter)

For the Purewals, and other Marriott Bonvoy members who bid on Coachella experiences, Moments like these are key to memorable travels and part of the value of accruing points through the loyalty program.

Some members, like Ambassador Elite member Jacob Ma, gain their points primarily through business travel but keep an eye out for deals to maximize their earnings.

“I do take advantage of all the Marriott promotions, so all the promos, the double points, the Double Takes that are happening right now, I definitely take advantage of all those,” says Jacob, who placed the winning bid on Coachella’s VIP festival passes with hospitality tent access.

marriott bonvoy coachella
Staying cool in the lounge. (Photo: IMG LIVE | Alex Kreuter)

Still, at the end of the day, the Moments are about inspiring one thing: good travel.

“We’ll definitely, after this experience, save our points to use them for something else, like the Monaco Grand Prix, and there are some cool experiences in Greece,” says Carla, when asked if her Safari Tent might inspire her to seek out future Moments. “Good travel means that we’re out having fun, that we’re together … and we have some kind of experience together.”

Spencer adds, “I think it’s all about experience and the moment — being able to travel and have a great moment that will leave a lasting mark on you.”