Starwood just announced changes to hotel reward categories going into effect March 1. (HT: SPG Champion As with Marriott there are no new higher redemption categories being introduced (Starwood introduced category 7 back in 2007).
As I understand it hotel categories in the Starwood system are determined based on projected average daily room rates for the year ahead. When rates are expected to drop, categories fall. With rates projected to be higher than they had been projected to be the year before, categories rise.
During the Great Recession we saw moderation of points pricing. In 2009 Starwood eliminated peak season points price premiums for the year and dropped the price of 156 hotels while increasing 82 a nearly 2-to-1 drop. In 2010 Starwood didn’t make major changes to hotel categories. I expected more to drop.
- In 2013, categories increased at 20% of hotels
- In 2014, more hotels moved down in category than up
- In 2015, about 1 in 5 hotels changed categories — and these were more or less evenly split between increases and decreases. US hotels went up the most, a trend we continue to see in 2016.
Here’s the story for 2016:
- 282 hotels are changing category. That’s almost 1 in 4 Starwood hotels that are changing category, although there’s at least some relative balance between those going up and those going down.
- 114 hotels go down in category. Of those, 113 go down 1 category and one hotel — the Sheraton Dubrovnik Riviera Hotel
— goes from category 4 to category 2.
- 168 hotels go up in category. Of those, 166 go up 1 category. One hotel — the Element Hanover in Lebanon, New Hampshire — goes up from category 2 to category 4. One hotel — the Four Points by Sheraton Penghu in Taiwan — goes from category 1 to category 5 (!).
Notable hotels that will become less expensive to book:
- Le Meridien Bora Bora drops from Category 7 to 6
- Le Méridien Fisherman’s Cove, St. Regis Lhasa Resort, and St. Regis Bangkok drop from Category 6 to 5. The St. Regis Bangkok is still priced too high in points considering how inexpensive rooms have been there lately (and paid suites, even).
New category 7 hotels you don’t have enough points to redeem for include:
- W Bali
- Schloss Fuschl in Austria
Surprising additions to category 6 include the W Doha (I was just there on cash and points as a category 5), Sheraton Grand Tokyo Bay, Westin Tokyo, Westin Singapore, Hotel Grande Bretagne (Athens), and W Seoul.
Only 22 hotels dropping in category are in the U.S. Category reductions are common in the Mideast, Russia, Mexico, China, Colombia and Brazil.
82 hotels going up in category – or nearly half the increases – are in the U.S. There are 5 category increases in Thailand despite tourism challenges there, and 7 increases in Mexico. There are 5 increases in Japan and 8 increases in India. Meanwhile there appear to be 22 category increases in China – by far the second most – and despite that country’s economy seeming to crater.
Starwood sees the US and China as strong markets in 2016, based on the economics behind these projections. I’m skeptical. The Mideast has its problems, but the W Doha is an exception likely because it receives the best satisfaction scores for the brand in the region.
Changes go into effect March 1 so you have less than 2 weeks left to book at the old price. If you want to reserve an award for stays into the future at one of the hotels that’s getting more expensive, do it right away. Hotel awards are generally cancellable (they follow cancellation rules for paid rates) so you can make speculative bookings.