We knew this announcement was coming but I don’t like the fact that folks only have about 2 weeks to act on it.
A quick explanation as to why hotel chains do this annually. Using Starwood as the example, the rate a hotel charges for paid nights also dictates at an abstract level what an award night costs. A number of years ago, Starwood pioneered “no blackout dates” for standard award nights. Traditionally, chains reimbursed individual properties a fairly small amount of money for an award night. In those cases, the properties didn’t want award nights when they’re occupancy was really high as this would take actual revenue out of their pockets (and usually a pretty high dollar amount stay). Starwood agreed to reimburse properties a much higher amount when a hotel was close to selling out and booked an award night.
This meant the property was less biased towards paid nights since Starwood was paying them almost full boat, just like a paid guest might. Some other chains have copied Starwood in some form or fashion on this. One of the reasons we have so much detail on Starwood is because of the lawsuit they had last year with a few properties that tried to game the system. At any rate, Starwood adjusts categories for some properties each year (both up and down) based on rate forecasts for the upcoming period. This year’s list has high and low points.
Here are my initial thoughts on the announcement, in no specific order.
1. Looking at the list of properties moving down, there really aren’t that many in the US. Japan, China and India seem to have a bunch of reductions. I’m not an expert on Asia or India, but I’ll throw in a few observations. Things I found notable in the “Moving Down” pile:
Westin Playa Bonita goes from a 5 to a 4. We stayed there last year and enjoyed it but 12,000 points seemed steep, especially considering I regularly found rates around $200 a night. As a category 4, 10,000 points seems a better fit.
The Westin Puerto Vallarta drops from 3 to 2. This is actually a pretty decent property though the surrounding area isn’t great. It’s probably a bargain as a category 2.
Le Parker Meridien Palm Springs drops from a category 6 to 5. That was one of the properties involved in the lawsuit I mentioned above. Still shocked they didn’t get thrown out of the program.
3 There are a bunch of properties moving up, though less than the total moving down. This list may be more relevant for my readers since the US is more heavily represented along with some key leisure destinations. A sampling:
St. Regis Rome moves from a category 6 to a 7. I love this property and this one hurts. I already have my reservation for this year there (more on this when I get my second post done on the dissection of my summer trip planning). 30K-35K a night is tough, especially because this property seems to have reasonable enough rates from time to time for paid nights.
Element Denver Park Meadows moves up from a 2 to a 3. It’s a decent property located in between Denver and Colorado Springs in the Highlands area. It was a total steal as a category 2.
Sheraton Mountain Vista Villas in Avon, Colorado goes from 4 to 5. Westin Riverfront Mountain Villas in Beaver Creak, Colorado goes from 5 to 6. These used to be two reasonably affordable ski resort options that are less so now.
A bunch of Hawaii properties (Sheraton Waikiki, Sheraton Maui, Westin Maui) all go from 5 to 6.
In whole, it’s not a terribly painful set of changes. More properties actually go down in category than go up. Properties that jump to 6 or 7 are the things I look at most carefully.
There are more properties moving up to 6 than 7 which is likely more emblematic of the fact that there are a lot more category 5 properties than 6s (I think).
There are only a few additions to the category 7 club including the aforementioned St. Regis Rome and the Schloss Fuschl in Austria.
I guess it could have been worse.