Friday, February 22, 2013

Starwood Category Changes Leave (Most) High-End Properties Unscathed

It's that time of year again - the time of year when hotel programs adjust their category classifications. I've already shared my thoughts on the harsh changes to Marriott's program and Hilton's program. Next up is Starwood.

Admittedly, I was a little nervous because Starwood is my primary hotel program. A devaluation of the same magnitude as Marriott or Hilton would've really hurt. Fortunately, Starwood's changes look to be relatively tame - especially at the top end of the spectrum!

The Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens is one of the high-end properties actually moving DOWN a category

Overall, 48 properties are moving down the award chart, and 218 are moving up. What's interesting is how those numbers look when you break it down by the current hotel categories:
  • Of the 41 category 1 hotels listed on Starwood's website, 10 are moving up to category 2
  • Of the 240 category 2 hotels listed on Starwood's website, 73 are moving up to category 3 and 8 are moving down to category 1
  • Of the 332 category 3 hotels listed on Starwood's website, 98 are moving up to category 4 (1 to category 5) and 14 are moving down to category 2 (1 to category 1)
  • Of the 213 category 4 hotels listed on Starwood's website, 19 are moving up to category 5 (1 to category 6) and 2 are moving down to category 3
  • Of the 221 category 5 hotels listed on Starwood's website, 9 are moving up to category 6 and 16 are moving down to category 4
  • Of the 70 category 6 hotels listed on Starwood's website, 6 are moving up to category 7 and 7 are moving down to category 5
  • All 26 category 7 hotels will remain in category 7

A few notable observations:
  • For both categories 5 and 6, there are actually more hotels moving DOWN a category than there are hotels moving UP a category!
  • A significant majority of the hotels that are moving up are in categories 1-3
  • ~25-30% of hotels in categories 1-3 are moving up, and very few are moving down
  • The pain is particularly bad when looking at hotels moving from category 2 (which requires 3000-4000 points / night) to category 3 (which requires 7000 points / night). It's a doubling of the number of points required, assuming an even mix of weekday and weekend nights.

On the whole, I'd say I'm pretty relieved with these changes. Sure, some of my favorite hotels are unfortunately in the "movin on up" group - including the Moana Surfrider and St. Regis Princeville in Hawaii - but the overall impact is pretty modest.

moana surfrider hotel waikiki hawaii
The Moana Surfrider in Honolulu is moving up from category 5 to category 6

The net impact on high-end properties is basically a wash, but as I've said before, high-end properties are not where Starwood offers great bang for your buck. In spite of the much more drastic devaluation, I think Hilton will still be my program of choice for super high-end redemptions. I know Hyatt now looks to be the obvious choice due to their very modestly-priced top tier, but I just don't find their coverage to be broad enough to meet my needs. I will almost always try to stay at a Starwood when one is available, but when that's not the case there's usually a much better chance of finding a Hilton nearby rather than a Hyatt.

How are you feeling overall about this round of changes to Starwood's hotel categories?


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