It's a very special day for our company, the 25th anniversary of Marriott Rewards, our guest loyalty program. With 30 million members, it's one of the largest hotel loyalty programs in the world. I know many of you are Marriott Rewards members and I thank you very much.
I remember when Marriott Rewards began as a grassroots effort by some of our hotels. They wanted to recognize their most loyal customers. When we first started the program, we had a lot of critics and non-believers, but we were onto something good.
Other hotel companies soon joined us. Back then, the industry loyalty programs were divided by brand. Guests could only redeem points for the same brand where they had been earned. In 1997, we became the first loyalty program to change that, so guests earning points at Courtyard or Fairfield Inn could redeem them for stays at full service Marriott hotels or any other brand in our system.
Now, one out of every two guests that stay with us is a Marriott Rewards member. They consider themselves more than customers. Members write to me how the program has allowed them to go places they never would have dreamed of and to take their families on special vacations they could not have afforded without the points they've earned.
One member, Tom Troja, describes how he uses his Marriott Rewards points. He said, "I have played golf in Desert Springs, drank a pint in London and gone to Oktoberfest in Munich-Taught my kids to play golf at Absecon, New Jersey, tanned on Caribbean islands and lost golf balls at Doral in Miami. Shortly before my dad passed away, I went skiing in Vail with him and my brothers - the resort upgraded us to the presidential suite. It was really great to see Dad in that hot tub."
Now, as many of you know, we made some major changes to the program last month. We talked to many of our members and decided to make these changes, including eliminating blackout dates, after learning that they were looking for ways to use their points whenever and wherever they want.
For the most part, the feedback from our members has been very positive, but from some, it has not been. I have read your comments on the Marriott Rewards Insiders community and your letters, too. It's a balancing act anytime we make a change, but I believe these changes will benefit the majority of members.
In the past 25 years, our Marriott Rewards program really has come a long way. It's grown from just a handful of members earning points at select brands to 30 million members being able to redeem nights at over 2,900 hotels around the world. And today, Marriott Rewards is growing fastest outside of the United States as our company expands globally. Happy anniversary, Marriott Rewards, and thank you to all of our loyal members.
I'm Bill Marriott and thanks for keeping Marriott on the move.