It’s pretty normal for hotel loyalty programs to have annual category adjustments, whereby the number of hotels in each category changes. In other words, the number of points required for a free night at a particular category of hotel doesn’t change, but which hotel belongs to which category does.
While these are different than award chart devaluations (whereby the number of points required for a free night at a certain category of hotel changes), they can be even worse. If half of hotels go up in category, for example, that really ends up being a pretty big devaluation in terms of the purchasing power of your points.
With that in mind, so far this year we’ve seen category adjustments from Hyatt and Starwood:
- With Hyatt, 13% of hotels changed categories
- 9% of hotels went down in category
- 4% of hotels went up in category
- With Starwood, 22% of hotels changed categories
- 10.5% of hotels went down in category
- 11.5% of hotels went up in category
With Hyatt the changes were actually a net positive, while with Starwood they were slightly negative at worst.
Well, now Marriott Rewards has announced their 2015 category changes, which kick in for bookings made as of March 20, 2015 (keep in mind that Marriott Rewards lets you make award reservations without having enough points in your account, so you can make speculative bookings quite easily).
Marriott Rewards categories as such aren’t changing
With Marriott’s changes, 36% of hotels are changing categories. But the shocking part is that 75% of those hotels are moving up in category, while only 25% of hotels are moving down in category. In other words, 27% of hotels are going up in price, while only 9% of hotels are going down in price. That’s a net increase to the cost of redemptions at 18% of hotels.
Here’s the link with the 2015 Marriott Rewards category categories. Be warned, it’s a tedious read. Rather than sorting by region or city, they’re literally sorting by hotel name. So your best bet is to just search for the specific properties you’re most interested in.
This category adjustment by Marriott is especially interesting. 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.
It’s interesting to see such a big net increase in categories from Marriott, while Hyatt did the opposite and Starwood was somewhere in the middle.
Are Marriott’s hotels commanding higher rates with higher occupancy than the competition, or is Marriott raising categories simply because they can?