Marriott announced upcoming changes to which hotels are assigned to different award categories effective April 8 — and it’s pretty ugly.
- 27% of Marriott hotels are going up or down in category.
- Of those, 22% are decreasing by one category and 78% are increasing by one category
One in five Marriott hotels are going to cost more points to redeem a free room night award.
This is after last year’s devaluation which included the creation of a new, more expensive category 9 redemption tier, and an increase in points prices for 36% of Marriott hotels (while ~ 1% went down in price).
You can find the full list of changes here.
Book award reservations no later than April 7 to get current pricing, for stays 50 weeks into the future.
One Mile at a Time notes that the Marriott announcement includes,
You can also use Cash + Points to take advantage of booking your redemption stay early.
… but that does not mean what you may think it means. At Marriott, cash and points just means you can book some nights at a hotel with points, and other nights with cash. And you can combine those nights into one reservation instead of having more than one reservation number. This is the least useful ‘cash and points’ on the planet, and given what cash and points usually means (booking a given hotel night with a combination of points and money, generally at a discount) it strikes me as disingenous of Marriott to claim to offer cash and points when they do not offer the ability to book a given award night with a combination of money and points.
So why is Marriott doing this.. again?
The short answer is because they can.
In year-over-year measurements, the industry’s occupancy increased 2.1 percent to 64.0 percent. Average daily rate rose 4.8 percent to finish the week at US$114.85. Revenue per available room for the week was up 7.1 percent to finish at US$73.52.
Hotel rates and occupancy are back to trend, having fully recovered from the Great Recession of 2009.
Now, Marriott’s devaluations still aren’t quite as bad as Hilton’s.
But not every chain is treating the economy, and their need (or lack of need) to incentivize travelers the same. Starwood’s annual category changes were overall balanced (with hotels mostly going up in North America, and mostly going down in Asia). And Hyatt’s 2013 devaluation was probably the most limited in scope, even if it increased prices at a bunch of the properties that I happen to most want to redeem for.
So while this continues an industry-wide trend, it also seems that the programs which are already the least rewarding overall are the ones making changes to become even less so.