Travel News: Marriott & Starwood changing award categories! Look before you book!

Marriott and Starwood are changing the award categories of around 1,400 of their hotels effective March 7th, 2017. If you are planning to stay at Marriott or Starwood hotels later this year using reward points, you should check the list NOW: Some hotels might get more expensive, so you should book them before March 7th, some will be cheaper to book after March 7th!

First off, thanks to Marriott for giving us a heads-up on the upcoming changes, allowing us to book hotels at the old rates, it’s just good customer service (compared to Club Carlson that just eliminated a major benefit without notice!). 
Most hotel rewards program go through these adjustments every year. The award categories are roughly based on the Average Daily Rates these hotels charge, so changes in category often reflect market changes in the cash rates they can command relative to the rate they previously had or new hotels were expecting to have! Unfortunately, they have typically been a devaluation of points with many more hotels becoming more expensive rather than going down in category!

Sheraton Lombok

Sheraton Lombok

In that light, this year’s category changes are not too bad: Starwood is changing the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) categories for 325 hotels, with 120 going up (37%) and 205 going down (63%) – that’s a net positive overall. A lot of the hotels in China, India and Malaysia are going down in category, while a number of properties in Japan and on popular Bali are going up, for example the Sheraton Lombok, Westin Nusa Dua and Le Meridien Jimbaran and Sthala Ubud. Taiwan and Thailand are mixed, with the consistently overpriced Sheraton Grand Bangkok going down one category, but several hotels on the beaches of Ko Samui and Phuket going up! You can find the full list of all hotels changing category here!

The changes at Marriott are a net negative, with 23% of their over 4,500 properties changing, 60% going up and 40% going down! A lot of the changes are with the US hotels – given the hotel hotel market in the US not surprising. In Asia, the Courtyard Bali Nusa Dua is going up – considering that it is not on the beach and there are so many hotel options, not much of a loss. The JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur is going down – it’s in a great location, but also usually cheap on cash rates. The Courtyard hotels in Taipei, Taiwan, and Pattaya, Thailand, are also going down. You can find the full list of hotels changing category here!

Overall, you still have more hotels becoming more expensive than cheaper, which should reflect the overall trend in hotel rates. At least we got some warning to make our reservations prior to the change. And you might get lucky – there are a few hotels in destinations I’m planning to travel to that just got cheaper!

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