Each year hotels with award redemption categories adjust which hotels are in which categories, and thus how many points they cost to redeem. In most cases the cost in points is related to average room rates, although Marriott’s have been tied to frequency of redemption.
This year Marriott and Starwood both have announced their planned changes at the same time, and coordinated that those changes will go into effect March 7.
If you’ve got an award you want to book that will be getting more expensive March 7, book it now. You can redeem at current pricing as far out as hotel schedules go.
If you have an award booked now for travel after March 7, and the hotel will be going down in price, you may want to rebook it and save some points next month.
Marriott Category Changes — Not As Bad As You’d Expect
I’ve come to expect many more hotels going up in price than down from Marriott, and they haven’t even always given us notice about which ones. In 2013 an unhappy Marriott Rewards member even wrote a song about it (to the tune of Les Miserables “Master of the House”).
This year about a quarter of hotels will be changing category, and naturally more (60%) are going up than going down.
However the increases skew towards limited-service hotels, full service hotels are equally balanced between increases and decreases.
In the US 73 TownePlace Suites, 64 SpringHill Suites, 133 Residence Inns, 112 Fairfield Inns, and 136 Courtyards are changing categories. I realize these are important to many customers, but I’m just not interested in using my points for these.
Marriott highlights that about three quarters of hotels remain categories 1 – 5, so eligible for redemption with the free annual account anniversary night for holders of the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card.
The Ritz-Carlton Bali drops while the JW Marriott Cancun goes up. I’d rather stay in Bali.
Starwood Category Changes — More Hotels Getting Less Expensive
About 21% of hotels — 325 in all — are changing category. 63% of those are going down (getting less expensive) and 37% are going up (requiring more points).
Five hotels jump 2 categories, none in the U.S. Two of those go from category 3 to 5, and three from category 2 to 4.
Meanwhile two hotels drop 2 categories — both from category 4 to 2: the Four Points by Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Airport/Cruise Port and Sheraton Grand Istanbul Atasehir (a big drop in Turkey is not surprising).
Starwood’s categories have traditionally been based on the year’s projected average daily room rates. These two hotels expect room rates to be below what was expected in 2016.
The Four Points Havana drops from 6 to 5.
I’m bummed to see Vana Belle in Koh Samui going up in category from 6 to 7, that’s one I’ve been considering visiting. Naka Island in Thailand as well goes from 5 to 6, another on my list. And the Le Meridien Bora Bora goes from 6 to 7, it was the one halfway accessible property there. However I much enjoy Malaysia and the St. Regis brand so a drop in category from 7 to 6 at the St. Regis Langkawi is good news for me.
In general Africa properties are weighted towards reductions — 9 down and 2 up. 15 hotels fall in the Mideast while only one goes up. Asia skews 2:1 towards reductions, 75 falling and 37 going up. Central and South America also skews towards reductions with 19 falling and 3 going up. Europe also skews towards reductions with 17 falling and 32 rising. It’s North America where hotel increases somewhat outpace decreases.
This tells us something, actually, about where Starwood sees the global economy or at least hotel rates as a proxy — largely flat with the US outperforming the world on a relative basis.
Specific Changes Will Matter to You — But Overall Shift in Value in Modest
I commend Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest for getting these changes out a month in advance, with full property lists, so that members can find which hotels they may wish to book at ‘old’ prices and also plan to get points back on existing reservations where possible.
The changes at specific hotels will matter to those who do book them, but roughly speaking net net there’s not a huge shift in value up or down for the programs as a whole as a result of these changes.