The increases are centered in North America, the decreases in Asia, with more hotels going down than up but more hotels entering the upper redemption tiers than leaving those tiers. Ultimately changes we can live with.
Please note that we are not adding new categories or changing category pricing. Just over 20% of hotels are changing category, of these 56% are moving down and 44% are moving up.
Here’s the preliminary (‘subject to change’) list of hotels changing category.
Hotels dropping in award category:
- 8 hotels are dropping in category in Africa/Middle East.
- 88 hotels are dropping in category in Asia/Pacific. This is great news for redemptions in China and India and across the region. Oddly with so many hotels dropping in the region, none are in Thailand.
- Only 8 hotels are dropping in category in Europe, 3 of which are in Turkey and 3 in Russia and Ukraine. None are in Western Europe.
- 10 hotels are dropping in category in Latin America.
- 25 hotels are dropping in North America. Somewhat useful to me, the Le Meridien Arlington — a former Kimpton — will be a category 4.
Hotels increasing in award category:
- 11 hotels are going up in category in Africa/Middle Eat
- 5 hotels are going up in category in Asia Pacific
- 15 hotels are going up in category in Europe, surprising to me 4 of them are in Greece.
- 7 hotels are going up in category in Latin America
- 74 hotels are going up in category in North America
On net several regions of the world are stable. North America gets more expensive, and Asia gets lets expensive. That’s an interesting take on the world economy, and it’s a disadvantage for most North American members who are likely to redeem close to home.
Nonetheless, most hotels aren’t shifting categories. There aren’t new, higher award categories. And existing categories aren’t getting more expensive. So on the whole business as usual.
What really hurts though are the properties bumping up to categories 6 and 7, because those start to get priced astronomically.
Category 5 is 12,000 points most of the time (16,000 during high season dates). Category 6 is 20,000 (and 25,000). That’s a 2/3rds increase most of the year. Category 7 is 30,000 (35,000 during high season). So going from 6 to 7 is a 50% increase most of the year.
- W Austin goes from 5 to 6
- W San Francisco goes from 5 to 6
- W Los Angeles goes from 5 to 6
- Westin Maui goes from 5 to 6
- Sheraton Maui goes from 5 to 6
- Sheraton Waikiki goes from 5 to 6
- St. Regis Atlanta goes from 5 to 6
- The Westin Riverfront Mountain Villas, Beaver Creek goes from 5 to 6
- Hotel Maria Cristina in San Sebastian, Spain goes from 5 to 6
- Westin Athens goes from 5 to 6
- Grande Bretagne, Athens goes from 5 to 6
- Arion, Athens goes from 5 to 6
- Le Meridien Taipei goes from 5 to 6
- Schloss Fuschl in Austria goes from 6 to 7
- St. Regis Rome goes from 6 to 7
- Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort does a rare 2 category jump from 4 to 6
The flip side is that hotels dropping from category 6 to category 5 get much more affordable:
- Le Meridien Palm Springs
- Westin Tokyo
- Hotel National, Moscow
- Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay
- St. Regis Shenzhen
- St. Regis Beijing
There are no hotels that drop out of category 7.
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.
The nice thing is that these changes go into effect March 4. So you have just over a week to make a booking at the old rates. If you lock in a reservation now at a hotel going up in category, you get it at the cheaper price. (You can book an award at current pricing through the end of the hotel’s loaded calendar.) If you have a reservation at a hotel that’s going down in price, you can get it repriced come March 4 and receive points back.
Since most hotels are cancellable on award nights, or at least enjoy a generous cancellation policy similar to standard rates, you can usually make speculative bookings as well — lock in the option of rooms at lower points prices, just remember to cancel the award if you aren’t going to use it.
While there’s balance overall in category changes, like with many chains we’re seeing more hotels entering the top / most expensive redemption tiers than leaving those tiers. And especially if you have plans for U.S. redemptions it behooves you to have a look at the list of changes and lock in some redemptions soon.