Starwood’s 2016 Hotel Category Changes

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:

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).

Bottom line

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?


  1. Very brutal. Not feeling positive at all about these changes as, with a few exceptions, most places I’d want to visit/re-visit are going up in price. Category increases in Japan, especially, are disappointing.

    Overall, I wish Starwood would articulate program changes due to Marriott takeover sooner. Can’t speak for others, but they are losing my stays because I’m selecting Hyatt as a first option these days due to uncertainty.

  2. One thing that stood out for me as I browsed the list was that the Four Points Penghu in Taiwan is going from a 1 to 5! 😮 That’s a pretty big change. Is it in a booming city or something?

  3. 12% of Starwood’s global portfolio going up in price
    8% of Starwood’s global portfolio going down in price
    don’t conclude in
    4% of hotels go up in price….
    it still means 12% going up….


  4. The couple of ones I most planned to stay at are going up in price big time. Darnit. I was also surprised about rises in the UK and Europe, too, given currency.

  5. Feeling happy I have booked in Park Lane for April/May with the Stay 5th night free. Cat 5 now so 48000 points. After the change it would be 80000 points. Ouch!

  6. San Francisco is again hit hard this year. I guess I sort of understand given the hotel shortages in SF, but there is something about the Park Central being a Cat 6 that really offends me. Same with the Park Lane in London. Cat 6, really?

    It seems the Japan increases are simply a reversal of the decreases last year, so I’m sorta meh there–I thought the St. Regis Osaka being Cat 5 was a little good too good to last.

  7. Westin Riverwalk San Antonio went up? Wow. That hotel is a complete mixed bag. Glad to see my Westin St Louis back down in price though. I think it went from 4 to 5 last year, so now that it’s back down to 4 it makes for a reasonable value (great location!).

  8. @Tennan
    Penghu is a vacation island which is always packed with tourists during the summer when the waters are warm. The hotels there are mostly built during the 70s , Sheraton is the first large new hotel to be built in years so it will most certainly be in high demand, that’s probably what contributed to the catagory increase.

  9. London, RIP….no more Category 5 hotels in good locations. Now every SPG award night will cost at least $20,000 in credit card spend. I think I’ll switch my spend back to my Club Carlson card, where I can book very nice, centrally located properties for $14,000 in credit card spend/night.

  10. Hard to read the table without labels that show which column is the 2015 category and which is the 2016 category… not sure if this is only on my browser.

  11. I am amazed at all the changes from category 5 to category 6 in North America. This is the a dramatic increase, almost doubling the price of awards. Both hotels in Maui, St John, Grand Cayman, Cancun and many large cities. These hotels aren’t even actually that nice, they are just in a good location. With how hard it is to accumulate SPG points, they are basically out of reach now.

  12. @Tennen & @JayLTX

    As JayLTX mentioned, there’s not a lot of other options in the islands there. It’s a brand new property and it’s become a big draw for the tour groups. Especially the Mainland Chinese tour groups. And as Ben mentioned, many of these category changes are reflective of occupancy spikes.

    With the Mainland Chinese tour groups hitting places like Thailand, Taiwan, and Japan in mass you’ll see a lot of availability at SPG properties in those countries disappear. We found ourselves out of luck recently because of the Chinese New Year in Chiang Mai in staying at the Le Meridian Hotel there.

    We had real problems finding availability several months out at the PengHu SPG property and eventually called SPG to help book several nights there. For a Category 1, soon to be Category 5, we felt the points needed for several free nights was absurd and ended up cancelling our booking.

  13. Correction, Chiang Rai is still a good deal. Still a Cat 2 hotel, however they are moving up Chiang Mai to Cat 3. Not surprising, given the nightly price during high season.

  14. How can you say Marriott’s changes are “brutal” and give SPG a pass? Especially given the size of the increases. Marriott categories move in 5K point increments, so a hotel moving from 35K to 40K points is roughly 15% increase. A Starwood hotel moving from 12K to 20K points is a 66% increase. Not all category changes are equal.

  15. I also noticed that Swan went up while Dolphin didn’t (these hotels have been a fantastic use of SPG points for 5-day stays or Nights & Flights packages), and I had to go back through the list to make sure I didn’t miss the Dolphin. I wonder if that was an oversight.

  16. I mostly stay at Westin St. Francis in San Fran and Westin in Maui I just lost 40% of my points purchasing power overnight. I’ve been in business for 27 years an have never been able to do something like that. DOES NOT SEEM RIGHT !

  17. You would think with Airbnb taking over the market, they would not make these silly changes! After seeing the Hawaii increase, I much prefer to rent a house (Airbnb) in Maui, rather stay at my usual.

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