Marriott & Starwood Announce 2017 Hotel Category Changes

Historically, both Marriott and Starwood have made annual hotel category changes. While they don’t make changes to the number of points required for a free night in a particular category of hotel, they do change which hotels belongs to which category categories.

For some context on the 2016 changes (early last year):

2017 Marriott & Starwood hotel category changes

Now that Marriott owns Starwood, the two brands have announced their 2017 hotel category changes together, which kick in for bookings as of March 7, 2017:

How many hotels are changing categories?

With Marriott, roughly 1,100 hotels will be changing categories, with 60% moving up in price and 40% moving down in price.

With Starwood, 325 hotels will be changing categories, with 63% moving down in price, and 37% moving up in price.

Marriott has provided the following examples of properties moving up and down:

Marriott-Category-Changes

Meanwhile Starwood has provided the following examples of properties moving up and down:

  • Notable properties in popular destinations moving down include: The St. Regis Langkawi in Malaysia, Great Northern Hotel, A Tribute Portfolio Hotel, London and Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina in Dubai, and W New Orleans – French Quarter.
  • Notable properties in popular destinations moving up include: Le Méridien Bora Bora, W Montreal, Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, Sheraton Grand Los Angeles, Vana Belle, a Luxury Collection Resort, Koh Samui, and The Westin Resort Nusa Dua, Bali.

Starwood-Category-Changes

What do I make of these category changes?

Between the two brands, almost 1,500 hotels are changing categories, which represents a good chunk of their 5,700+ hotels worldwide. The good news is that as a percentage, only slightly over 50% of properties are going up in price.

Of course everyone’s thoughts on the changes will vary significantly based on what properties they redeem at. We all have our favorite hotels, so a couple of specific hotel going up or down in category could have a bigger impact on our perception than the rest of the hotels combined.

The good news is that the changes don’t seem to be too bad, at least based on my quick glance of the lists. Not too many full service hotels are changing categories. While there are lots of U.S. hotels changing categories, many of them appear to be limited service properties, which I personally don’t generally redeem points for.

At least on the Starwood side, historically these changes are driven by the projected average daily rates at the individual hotels, so these changes are pretty reflective of the economies in hotels’ markets. For example, I doubt it will come as much of a surprise that many hotels in Turkey are dropping a category or two.

At least on the Starwood list, many of the hotels that interest me have dropped a level.

The St. Regis Doha is dropping from a Category 6 to Category 5…

St-Regis-Doha - 64

The W Guangzhou is dropping from a Category 5 to Category 4…

W-Guangzhou-Hotel

The St. Regis. Moscow is dropping from a Category 5 to Category 4…

St-Regis-Moscow - 5

The Sheraton Frankfurt Airport is dropping from a Category 4 to Category 3 (which can be a great deal, since paid rates are sometimes very expensive)…

Sheraton-Frankfurt-Airport-Suite - 4

And perhaps rather frustratingly, the two Le Meridien properties in Bhutan are dropping a category each. I’ll be staying at them soon, though am within the cancelation deadline already.

Bottom line

Ultimately these adjustments happen every year. I appreciate that Marriott and Starwood communicate them in advance. While the overall trend is towards prices increasing, it’s a mixed bag, and some people will be happy with the changes, while others won’t be.

Personally the changes don’t look too bad to me. If you’re considering a hotel going up in price, you have about a month to lock in the old prices. If you’re considering a hotel going down in price, it might make sense to wait to book, or at a minimum, make sure you’re outside the cancelation deadline on March 7.

Are there any Marriott or Starwood hotels changing categories that stand out to you?

Comments

  1. The Prince Gallery Hotel in Tokyo going from 6 to 7 is notable as it looks like a very nice property. Might be worth some speculative booking for anyone thinking of going to Tokyo.

  2. @Lucky, thanks for this. Aloft Charleston – moves from category 2 to 3. I just booked a 3 night stay in April for 10k Starpoints when the paid rate is around USD 200/night giving a really great redemption. Even weekday rates are around 130 even though it’s far from downtown Charleston. So I think I locked a good deal.

  3. 2 great properties in India – Luxury Collection have moved from Cat 3 to 2. ITC Windsor in particular – excellent property and Platinum members get free unlimited cocktails in the evening with hors d’ouvres. Just stayed there last year and enjoyed it. Should be on the radar for anyone looking to visit Bangalore. Paid rates for regular rooms can be around $100 easily.

  4. @lucky – why not simply adjust the dates of your upcoming stays in Bhutan to some point in the future then cancel those stays, and then book new reservations under the new (lower) category? I don’t know your specific stay cancellation policies but in general this has worked for me in the past.

  5. Quite a few ALOFTs moving up , in a number of countries. Maybe the brand is starting to resonate…but ALOFT Schumann, Brussels from 2 to 3 ? It’s quite nice but can be had for about €60 when the EU parliament ( or related talk-fest) is not in session.

  6. What stands out to me is the crowding at the top of the Marriott category chart. Increasingly, I find middling hotels to be Category 6-7 which makes using points for them a poor value proposition. So long as I can get Category 9 for 45k points (where cash rates run $500+/night) I would be an idiot to spend 35k for a random Courtyard.

    Do you think when they finally merge award charts they will create a bunch of new categories, or a whole new chart for the luxury properties (a la Ritz)?

  7. @Karthik Ramachandran – Aloft CHS is indeed a good value. A far better location though is the Wyndham Mills House in the historic district.

  8. I am pleased to see many hotels in Taipei & China going from 5 to 4, which is significant because they will be 10k fixed vs 12-16k. Now, will they up the redemption chart? That’s the burning question, how long ago was the current chart relased?

  9. No way are they going to bother changing the charts until the merged program. Marriott didn’t add a category 10 either

  10. @Italdesign – thanks. Agree the option you suggested is better and I would love to be close to downtown. Unfortunately no other SPG property and I’d rather put the stay budget to enjoying some great food in Charleston

  11. Wow… Tons of Canadian properties climbing on SPG… The economy and currency is weak atm, though… I find the moves surprising.

  12. @ Karthik Ramachandran et al, I have always wondered why SPG has segmented some of the ITC Luxury Collection Properties in India like ITC Windsor Bangalore (imminent Cat 2), ITC Grand Chola Chennai (current Cat 2), ITC Mughal Agra (current Cat 2) in the same Cat 2 as many non- descript Alofts, Four Point Sheratons and the like. Folks who have stayed in these properties as SPG Plat or even SPG Gold would vouch for the sheer opulence or stateliness of these properties. The room rate argument doesn’t seem to hold good, since many a time I have seen these properties at $ 150+ levels for standard rooms. I have experienced some of the best experiences, while redeeming SPG points at these properties. I don’t want to jinx a good thing, but just curious as to where these properties fall short and end up with lower Cat status. Have others felt the same?

  13. @PK

    The categories aren’t judged by the past year performance but projected ADRs in the coming year (which in itself is indirectly based on past performance). As such, I’d normally expect most ITCs (Except Grand Bharat) to be Cat 3 or 4 (their current categories). I’m a little surprised too that they touched Cat 2 at which they’re fantastic value!

    Two factors could be at play here:

    1) ITC hotels aren’t owned *or* managed by Starwood. They’re entirely run by ITC and the SPG thing is a marketing/distribution partnership, so there might be some nuances in their contract and the flow of money for redemptions may not be as simple as for SPG operated properties. I’m guessing both are however happy with their agreement since its an ongoing partnership and was renewed in the last few years.

    2) Hotels sometimes can try to game the system a bit by lowering or elevating their category by misprojecting in order to lower or increase the number of redemptions. Park Hyatt Maldives is a great example, its one of the most expensive Hyatt properties but isn’t in its top category. It is heavily reliant on redemptions to make money (if it wasn’t a Hyatt or a chain hotel allowing redemptions, it would be a pretty average Maldives 5 star resort, its not bad, the standards in Maldives are just that high). But since it is a points redeemable hotel (a rarity there, along with Conrad), both get disproportionate coverage and business.

    Redemption compensation from chain to hotel is usually very minimal (covering costs for instance) when the occupancy isn’t high, whereas it jumps to ADR when it crosses a high threshold (Say 90-95% or 98%), so a lot of the time you have to crunch the permutations and combinations and a Revenue manager might find its in his best interests to fill up his isolated resort or small business hotel with redemption guests so that all the points get ADR value (likely to be their most lucrative guests for those nights since all others will be on agent rates/wholesale rates/corporate/negotiated/volume/discount/advanced purchase/prepaid rates, all of which are lower than ADR.

  14. I guess I could really simplify the above with this:

    When a hotel expects to have high occupancy or be sold out anyway, it is paradoxically in their interests to ensure that a high % of their occupants are on points redemptions rates since they will be compensated at the Daily rate by the chain for these bookings.

    ITC might want to draw in as many possible SPG redemptions as they can because that, after all, is the entire point of the partnerships. So they sell their own rooms and feel like they regularly touch the 70% mark through other channels, and they want the incremental 25% from SPG, which puts them over 95% and now every SPG redemption is charged at the highest rate the hotel has for that day. These are of course, random figures. Their dual channel approach (they don’t pay a cut to SPG/Starwood for bookings from their own ITC portal) might be a reason for their depressed chart values.

  15. As Cairo expat/resident who frequently flies to the Gulf, what I noticed from this Cat change in the MENA region are :

    1) Brand-new Westin Cairo Resort which opened only a few months ago went down from Cat 3 to Cat 2 (very similar case with Le Meridian CAI airport which is Cat 2). Both SPG hotels near CAI now offer excellent redemption value (3K in weeekend) (cf. I am very curious about what Cat will be given to St Regis CAI. As brand-new Westin CAI was Cat 3, I guessed it would be Cat 4 but it could be Cat 3 as Westin now went down to Cat 2)
    2) many SPG hotels in Abu Dhabi went down.
    3) many SPG hotels in the Maghreb (e.g. Morocco, Algeria) went down too (even Marriott Algeria !)
    4) All three Doha SPG hotels (W, St Regis, Sheraton) went down from Cat 6 to 5. Good options to use Cat 1-5 SPG free night certificates ! (cf. the same applies to Westin Bahrain now : Cat 6->5)
    5) No surprise, most of SPG hotels in Istanbul went down. Still brand-new Sheraton Grand Istanbul Atasehir now offers excellent redemption value (Cat 4->2). Stayed there once, location prob not fantastic for tourists, but very beautiful hotel and satisfying stay.

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