Starwood Adjusts Award Category, More Hotels Go Up in Price than Go Down

Starwood has announced their annual hotel category changes (.pdf) and it’s pretty much as expected, maybe a little bit better tan expected.

Starwood Preferred Guest determines the price of a hotel in points based on the hotel’s average daily room rate. The rate puts each hotel into a redemption category. And each year they adjust hotel categories based on room rates for the previous year.

Over the past year room rates, overall, have seemed to be on the rise. And so I expected a bunch more hotels to go up in category than to go down in category. That’s what happened, but not to nearly the imbalance that I expected. On eyeballing the list it looks like about 185 go up in category and 144 go down in category.

Some of the Thailand properties finally dropped in category, the Royal Orchid Sheraton is a good hotel on the river but it isn’t in the same league of luxury of the rest of Starwood’s Bangkok properties and it’s good to see it finally a category 2. The Le Meridien Chiang Rai — one of my favorite resorts although I understand not quite as on the ball perfect as under their previous G.M. – has dropped down to category 1. (The Le Meridien Chiang Mai does as well.) The Westin Siray Bay goes from 4 to 3. The W Retreat Koh Samui goes from 7 to 6 , though even a 6 is pretty much a stretch since they charge double points as all rooms are suites, which is of course also why the hotel maintains room rates that put it into category 6 in the first place. Although the St. Regis Bangkok goes from category 5 to 6, and I almost lose my lunch.

Meanwhjile, Bora Bora just got a little more doable as the Le Meridien there drops from category 7 to category 6.

The St. Regis Llhasa, which I’ve had my eye on, goes up from Category 5 to 6. And the Andaman in Langkaway, which fortunately I have booked while still a category 4, goes up to 5 — boosting room rates presumably along with the capital projects they’re undertaking.

Overall, the New York hotels that weren’t already out of the stratosphere and into category 6 will be soon. (My great value suggestion of the Parker Meridien is no longer such a great value.) San Francisco gets more expensive. And so does China, overall. It’s even odd to see a property in Egypt bumping up given situations there. Although sometimes turmoil just means no new hotel rooms going online and the ones that are already there get more expensive. It’s choke-worthy to see the Sheraton in Addis Ababa at category 6, but it’s all about the rates.

I’ve checked into the Sheraton LAX, the best true airport hotel in Los Angeles, four times in the past couple of months and I’m saddened to see it go up to category 3. Washington, DC also gets pricier with a jump to category 5 for the Westin Georgetown and the Westin City Center (the old Vista Hotel where mayor Marion Barry was videotapes smoking crack with a prostitute) and also category 5 for the Westin Arlington (which I see as odd since we’re just signing contracts at work for rooms at $119/night well into 2014). Meanwhile the Westin Tysons Corner goes to category 4.

These price changes don’t go into effect until March 1 which means you have until then to make bookings into the future at the lower award price for those hotels going up in category. And of course you can cancel later (based on the hotel’s cancellation policy) so you might as well make speculative bookings you think you’ll use, if you’re considering hotels that are slated to get more expensive.

Similarly, if you have current bookings at hotels whose award price will be going down, you can reprice those after March 1 in order to get some points back.

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, 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. I’m not so sure about the accuracy of the list. I have 2 award stays coming up (already booked) in the next few months — one of them is at the Four Points Seattle Downtown. This was a Category 3 hotel when I booked over a month ago and a test reservation for next week (one night, midweek) confirms that, as well. I considered it a fabulous steal at a Category 3 and it wouldn’t surprise me if the hotel is really a 3 moving to a 4.

    A shame about the Parker Meridian. It was a bargain, now it’s not. I could handle the tired old rooms when I was paying fewer *Points for the stay (and I love the location), but now? Not so much.

  2. @RichMSN of course a test booking for next week shows the old category level — because the new category pricing won’t start to be charged until March 1

  3. San Francisco is goin up as well. Almost all SF properties. It would be fine if they made some improvement in the properties to warrant the increase, but I highly doubt that.

  4. The Four Points Seattle Center was a Category 2 (a steal!) when I booked it this past fall, right after they joined the chain. Since it was a recent addition, maybe they bumped it up to a 3 early?

  5. The 2 new Taipei hotels are going up from 4 to 5. I still think the Sheraton should go back from 4 to 3…

  6. Well, I did expect a rise in SF since the last go-round included a number of category drops, and room rates have increased. Of course, there’s always the Palace…

  7. Starwood Preferred Guest claimed that it determines the price of a hotel in points based on the hotel’s average daily room rate from the previous year, but then it revised that to say it considered what it expected would be the rates in the future.

    Remember, the above was sort of the excuse given why SPG properties did not decline in price in points terms when the financial situation was far messier in the US than it is today and the rates had dropped far more than the point price adjustments indicated.

  8. My apologies — I was incorrect — I *was* charged the lower rate — 2 weekend and 2 weekend nights for 14K *points total. What’s odd is when I look at the stay details, it says the total points redeemed was 28K. That didn’t actually happen. Thank goodness. 🙂

  9. I just tried a test booking for next week. It’s now a Category 3. So much for the advance notice, I guess.

  10. RichMSN,

    Call up SPG and ask for a manual adjustment. They have done it rather routinely before for such circumstances as yours.

  11. “My great value suggestion of the Parker Meridien is no longer such a great value”

    That’s putting it mildly. Love the location, love the automatic Platinum upgrade to a Junior suite but really – the room is dated. The only luxury is the amount of space. Crappy TV, old bathroom, stale furniture – and the price in points almost doubles!

    I wrote on FT that I get most of my points from credit card spend. I’d rather spend $22,000 on the Hyatt card and get the Andaz 5th Ave than spend $20,000 on the Starwood AMEX for the PM. Even better, spend $11,000 in travel and dining on the Chase Sapphire for those same 22,000 Hyatt points!

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