Starwood’s 2016 Hotel Award Category Changes

Starwood has just announced their hotel award category changes for 2016, which will apply to bookings starting March 1, 2016. That means that you have about a week and a half to lock in your Starwood award nights before the prices change for 282 properties.

Much like Marriott, once a year Starwood changes the categories to which certain hotels belong. These changes can be for any number of reasons, but thankfully are not limited to just increases. In fact, this year we are seeing quite a few reductions as well.

Starwood award nights operate under a category system with 7 redemption categories. Award costs for those categories on weekdays are:

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While award costs for those categories on weekends are:

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Starwood has just announced their hotel award category changes for 2016, which will take effect for bookings as of March 1, 2016. It is important to remember that the March 1, 2016, date is the book by date, not the stay by date. This means so long as you have booked your redemption before March 1st, you will pay the old rate.

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You can find all of the properties impacted by these changes in the hyperlink above, but overall we are seeing category changes (either up or down) for 282 Starwood properties. That represents approximately 20% of Starwood’s portfolio. Overall we are seeing:

  • 168 properties going up in price (~12% of Starwood’s portfolio)
  • 114 properties going down in price (~8% of Starwood’s portfolio)

In reviewing the list of properties that are impacted by these changes, it seems that most of the increases are focused on properties in the U.S., Europe and Asia. I am a bit surprised by the Asian increases (in particular, in China) as luxury hotels in Asia tend to be less expensive per night than elsewhere in the world to begin with.

As to properties that are seeing a category decrease, it looks like Canada, Russia and Turkey are seeing large scale decreases. This makes sense given the economic, social and political climates in both Russia and Turkey, but I cannot quite figure out why we are seeing so many decreases in the Canadian market.

It is important to remember that if you do not regularly redeem your Starpoints at properties that are going up a category, you really will not be impacted by this change too much. If you have an awards stay coming up though I would definitely recommend you check the list to see if your hotel(s) is(are) listed so you can determine whether it is best to keep your current reservation (if the price is going up) or to cancel and rebook after March 1st (if the price is going down).

Given that I live in the Orlando area, I found it very interesting that the Walt Disney World Swan is increasing from a Category 4 to a Category 5 while the Walt Disney World Dolphin is remaining the same as a Category 4. This means that if you are looking to book a Disney trip using your Starpoints that you would be better off redeeming them at the Dolphin rather than the Swan.

Final Thoughts

While we never like to see award prices go up, I do not think these changes are really that significant as only about 4% of the SPG portfolio of hotels will be going up in price this year. I think the most interesting increases have to be all of those in China given the current economic climate there and the fact that luxury hotel cash prices are usually relatively low in China to begin with (I paid $79/night at the Accor Sofitel in Chongqing a few weeks ago and got a mega suite upgrade).

Remember that you have about a week and a half or so to book any award nights at current rates for hotels that are going up in price as of March 1st. Alternatively, if you see that your hotel will be going down in price, I would recommend waiting to book until after March 1st.

What do you think of these changes for 2016?

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