While Starwood got great vibes from its members for this year’s recategorization of hotel award categories, it was pretty much as expected — their award categories are driven by each hotel’s average daily room rate for the previous year, and those are down markedly. (Plus the past few years have seen huge increases in the category rankings, and I believe modifications to the daily rate range for each category.)
Meanwhile, Starwood’s two unique attributes are being matched by its competitors: no capacity controls on awards (now matched by Hilton and Hyatt) and upgrades to suites (now offered four times a year confirmed for Hyatt Diamonds instead of unlimited based on availability at checkin for Starwood Platinums).
For some time I’ve wondered what Starwood would do to up the ante on the competition. Speculation heated up last year, and then came disappointment: SPG Flights.
But now that Hyatt – admittedly a smaller program – now offers members both of the things that used to be unique to Starwood (oh, and free internet for elites to boot), it’s got to be time for Starwood to roll out something big. So I’ll offer up a suggestion I’ve made, time and again, though I figured it would be Starwood out of the gate first with it rather than Hyatt: confirmed upgrades for Platinum members.
It wouldn’t be hard to accomplish, Starwood already provides for suite upgrade awards with points — 5 days in advance on a paid stay, or for usually double the points on an award redemption, at participating properties and capacity controlled.
Just use the same inventory to confirm platinums into suites x times per year. The cost to SPG would be the same per upgrade as it already is, and for which SPG charges its members points.
Make it 4 confirmed certs per year for up to category 5, or use 2 certs for a cat 6 or 7. They’d limit each certificate to no more than x nights each, and perhaps get a 25% breakage rate (make them non-transferrable so they aren’t all redeemed). Of course Starwood needs to generate more than that in revenue to justify.
They could offer additional confirmed upgrades for stays beyond the minimum necessary to qualify for Platinum, thus encouragin incremental stays beyond requalification (as some airlines do).
Starwood needs to do this to catch up, it’s no longer follow the leader for them anymore…