Every year Starwood has some hotel category adjustments, where they change the categories that some properties belong to. For a bit of context, here are the category changes from recent years:
- SPG 2015 category changes
- SPG 2014 category changes
- SPG 2013 category changes
- SPG 2012 category changes
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:
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.
In other words, the changes typically reflect the local economies of the hotels, so you can expect hotels in “booming” markets to go up in price, while hotels in “bubble” markets to go down in price. Well, at least in theory.
Starwood has just announced their 2016 hotel category changes, which kick in for bookings as of March 1, 2016. That means you have just over a week to book before the prices change. You can make the booking for stays on subsequent dates, as March 1 is the “book by” date and not the “stay by” date.
In 2016 we’re seeing 282 hotels (~20% of Starwood’s global portfolio) change categories:
- 168 hotels are going up in price (~12% of Starwood’s global portfolio)
- 114 hotels are going down in price (~8% of Starwood’s global portfolio)
That means net we’re seeing ~4% of hotels go up in price.
Here’s a list of the SPG properties changing categories, starting with those increasing in price, and followed by those decreasing in price:
In terms of regions where we’re seeing a lot of increases, in general properties in the US, Europe, and Asia are going up in price. The increases in Europe are a bit surprising given the weak Euro, and I’m also quite surprised to see how many properties in China are going up in price.
As far as decreases go, the only countries in which we’re seeing consistent decreases are Canada, Colombia, Russia, Turkey. There are also some decreases in Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and the UAE, though they’re not consistent.
Whether these changes are positive or negative is dependent on your specific travel patterns. If a hotel you frequent goes up or down in category you might be greatly impacted by these changes. If you don’t usually redeem points at any of the properties on the list, then these changes won’t impact you.
In looking at the category changes, there are a few I found especially interesting:
- The Walt Disney World Swan is increasing from a Category 4 to Category 5 property, while the Walt Disney World Dolphin is staying the same
- The Sheraton Dubrovnik is decreasing from a Category 4 to Category 2 property
- The W Bali Seminyak is increasing from a Category 6 to Category 7 property, which seems obscene given that the hotel isn’t that expensive
- Le Meridien Chiang Rai is increasing from a Category 2 to Category 3 property; that hotel represented a great value on points, though not so much anymore
The Sheraton Dubrovnik is decreasing from a Category 4 to Category 2 property
If you book a hotel that’s going up in category, be sure to book before March 1, 2016, 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 1, 2016, though make sure there’s award availability before you do so (Starwood won’t otherwise automatically refund the difference in points).
This year we’re seeing a net of 4% of hotels go up in price. This comes after last year’s changes, which were more or less neutral, with roughly the same number of hotels going up in price as down.
While I understand some of the increases in the US, I’m kind of surprised by some of the international increases, given the strong USD and weak global economy. The category increases in China are most perplexing to me.
You have a bit over a week to book hotels at the old rates, so if you’re pondering a stay at a property going up in price, you’ll want to lock that in. If you’re staying at a hotel going down in category, be sure to check back in a bit over a week so you can hopefully rebook and save points (just remember there still needs to be availability, as doing this requires you to cancel and rebook).
How do you feel about SPG’s 2016 category adjustments — are any hotels which interest you going up or down in category?