Breaking Down The Recent Category Changes At Starwood Preferred Guest

There’s been a flurry of activity the past 6 weeks in regards to changing values at the major hotel chains.  Some good, mostly bad.  We had Priority Club, Marriott and Hilton all handing out some well placed kicks to the teeth while Hyatt had a quieter approach, and certainly a more generous one.  The last shoe has dropped with Starwood Preferred Guest weighing in on their category changes.  They lie firmly in between Hyatt and everyone else.  Not horrible, not great.

Since I have more interest in the SPG program than Hilton or Marriott, I did take the time to go through the list of changes in more detail.  I pulled out a few highlights (and lowlights):

The Westin Resort & Casino in Aruba is dropping from a category 5 to 4.  I recently sent my in-laws to this property which used to be a Wyndham iirc.  They had a decent stay and it was nicely renovated, but I wouldn’t consider it as nice as some of the other category 5s, so this seems like an appropriate change.

Sheraton Harrisburg Hershey is moving up from a category 2 to 3.  Hershey is a short 2-hour drive from our house so we end up at this property 3 or 4 times a year.  I thought it was correct when it dropped to a 2 last year, and don’t agree with it being a 3 this year.  The property has consistently needed to be encouraged to honor SPG benefits during my stays.  And, although they’ve gotten better at this, this is still an older property.  If it’s a 3, it’s definitely at the bottom of the 3s.  The category change will most likely keep me from using points here.

Sheraton Miyako in Tokyo drops from a category 5 to 4.  I stayed there last year and wasn’t overly impressed.  It was fine, but no comparison to the Park Hyatt Tokyo.  A category 4 sounds like a much better fit.

The Westin Kierland Villas in Scottsdale go up from a cat 5 to 6.  I haven’t been, but most of the villa/suite properties seem to end up as 6s or 7s, so this isn’t surprising.

Sheraton Denver Downtown goes up from a 3 to a 4.  While this property has undergone a renovation the rooms really aren’t the best.  But, average rates in Denver are up over the last two years, so this isn’t surprising.

Hotel Danieli in Venice goes from a category 6 to 7.  I stayed there a number of years ago and found it to be a delightful old property located perfectly at the San Zaccaria pier near San Marco.  Breakfast on the roof was one of the highlights of our trip.  7 is steep, but this is a special property.

Overall, I’m okay with the upgrades.  Starwood isn’t giving you a ton of time to book awards at the old levels (only until March 5th) but in comparison to some programs it’s a reasonable amount of time to lock in a redemption at a lower level.

Yesterday I considered all the changes in whole and found Starwood and Hyatt to be among the least painful changes, and thus the most rewarding programs for my travel.

How have the recent changes impacted your thoughts on hotel loyalty?  Are you switching programs?




  1. “I thought it was correct when it dropped to a 2 last year, and don’t agree with it being a 3 this year.”

    Unless you think they’re playing games, it’s purely math — categories determined by projected average daily room rates for the coming year (benchmarks that their managers will be judged by, not number purely used for calculating points prices).

    So kind of is what it is — regardless of the quality of the property (and indeed this one was my very mental model of a domestic category 2!) — if they are seeing higher room rates then the category may go up.

    1. Agree, but that’s why I think it should still be a 2. I’ve paid the least amount for a room there in the last 12 months than in any other time I’ve stayed there. This kind of gets back to SPG’s contention that they sometimes use forecasts to dictate redemption rates. But, I really haven’t seen higher rates there in the past 12 months, mostly lower (which would support the drop last year).

      Regards, Edward Pizzarello

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