Every year Starwood has a hotel category adjustment, whereby they change the categories that some properties belong to. For a bit of context, here are the category changes from recent years:
In other words, Starwood isn’t changing the number of points required per free night redemption at a particular category of hotel, but rather is adjusting which hotels belong to which categories.
As a reminder, Starwood has seven hotel categories, with free night redemptions priced as follows:
As I’ve explained in the past, these adjustments aren’t based on the quality of the hotel as such, but rather based on the anticipated average daily rate and occupancy for the year. Often these category changes have more to do with the market as opposed to the specific property.
The category changes kick in for bookings made on or after March 10, 2015.
This year’s changes actually look quite good:
- 22% of hotels are changing categories
- 10.49% of hotels are moving up in category
- 11.78% of hotels are moving down in category
The St. Regis San Francisco is going from a Category 6 to 7 property
Of course whether these changes are positive or negative is highly dependent on your specific travel patterns. In other words, if a hotel you frequent goes up or down in category you might be greatly impacted by these changes, or there’s a chance you don’t usually redeem at the properties that are impacted by the adjustment.
It is interesting to look at the trends for the increases and decreases we’re seeing:
- Hotels moving up in category: a vast majority of increases are in North America, along with a decent number in Asia/Pacific (literally not a single hotel in Europe is going up in price)
- Hotels moving down in category: most decreases are in Asia/Pacific and Europe, and there are also a good number in Latin America and North America
In looking at the category changes, I notice quite a few hotels I’ve stayed at over the past couple of years, including the following:
- St. Regis Saadiyat Island Abu Dhabi goes from Category 5 to 6
- Sheraton Gateway LAX goes from Category 3 to 4
- St. Regis San Francisco goes from Category 6 to 7
- W Boston goes from Category 5 to 6
- W San Diego goes from Category 4 to 5
- Le Meridien Cairo Airport goes from Category 3 to 2
- Le Meridien Taipei goes from Category 6 to 5
- Le Meridien Vienna goes from Category 5 to 4
- Sheraton Brussels Airport goes from Category 4 to 3
- Sheraton Prague goes from Category 4 to 3
- Le Meridien Munich goes from Category 5 to 4
- Sheraton Munich Airport goes from Category 3 to 2
- Westin Warsaw goes from Category 3 to 2
Suite at Le Meridien Cairo Airport — category going down is all the more reason to move there!
If you book a hotel that’s going up in category, be sure to book before March 10, 2015, as you can still pay the old rates that way. If you’ve booked a hotel that’s going down in category, simply rebook after March 10, 2015, though make sure there’s award availability before you do so (Starwood won’t otherwise automatically refund the difference in points).
Objectively these changes are more or less neutral, given that roughly the same number of properties are going up and down in category.
How these changes impact you depend entirely on which properties you redeem at. I can’t help but notice that a lot of the properties changing categories are very seasonal. For example, take the St. Regis Saadiyat Island, for example. In winter rates are quite high there, while in summer they’ll basically pay you to stay there, given how hot it is.
With the changes a lot of hotels are still great value on points during peak season, while in the off season you’re better off paying cash (which has always been the case).
How do you feel about SPG’s 2015 category adjustments — are any hotels you frequent going up or down in category?