Starwood Announces Hotel Category Changes for 2016, Redemption Prices Going Up and Down

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.

More recently:

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.


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.


W Doha

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Those Westin hotels Bonaventure and airport going up? LOL on both of those properties. The Bonaventure is downtown LA. Has a 1990s feel to it. Bretagne in Athens is pretty good. I was there for New Years. Aloft Chicago to cat 5 ? Not in my opinion. That hotel is often pretty expensive for what it is. Westin Copley to Cat 6? Park Lane to Cat 6? Thats crazy. I hear that place is pretty creaky and I wont stay there. Aloft Munich to Cat 5? That was no great stay for me.

  2. im going to cynical, and why would I be in the world of loyalty programs??? Are some of these laughable increases a positioning to lock in higher award night revs when Marriott takeover complete, provided this is the last SPG adjustment? Based on the Marriott moves and some of these, I’m not feeling good about the future.

    Whoa! Cancun Westin to a 6?!?! That was a 4 a couple years ago, when the meridian in can in was a 4. And this while the peso has been obliterated?

    Park lane we saw coming due to renovation. Though Westin grand central is surprising.

  3. Thje Australian Dollar gets hammered and only one minor hotel goes down in Category, SPG is becoming a joke. The Euro is also down substantially yet most hotels in Europe are going up in category…please

  4. The Hotel Grande in Athens used to be a Category 6 but they dropped it either last year or the year before. Since that time, it has become a much more popular hotel and they have done well so no real surprise that it is going back up (except for the fact that it is in Greece and the financial situation going on).

  5. I do smell marriott already here, and i don’t like it one bit. Cancun laguna mar a cat. 6??!!? Puhhh-lease. In Marriott’s world maybe, where Courtyards are cat. 6 sure. I think this is a sign of things to come, and it does not look good. Clearly many of these proprieties are not showing avg room rates higher this year than last. So there it is, as suspected. Marriott will preponderantly devalue by category creep, just like its own ‘award-winning program’ which has been devalued to bits. That is the stealth way to go for sure. This does not look good, and is a very different annual set of changes than SPG has done on its own in recent years.

  6. They’re also dropping at least one hotel that I know of. I’m staying at the Hotel Kamp, a Luxury Collection Hotel in Helsinki in March and I got an email this week that as of 2/29 it’s no longer going to to be part of the SPG program. They’re still going to honor my booking though, which I paid for with points; however I won’t be getting any of the additional SPG benefits I would normally get. bummer.

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