In this post I share some of the observations I made as I went through the lists of Marriott brand hotels that decreased or increased in award category for 2010. Going through the hotel award categories reveals some hotel industry indicators and a sign of the travel times.
The full list of 600 Marriott hotel award category changes effective March 8, 2010 can be found here.
J.W. Marriott awards follow the current industry trend of luxury at bargain prices
J.W. Marriott hotels, the premier Marriott brand fully within the fold of Marriott Rewards, reduced award cost in several locations through a one level reduction in hotel award category. The website shows 54 named J.W. Marriott hotels in the system and nine of these hotels dropped one award category level.
Six of the hotels were reduced from category-6 at 30,000 points per night to category-5 at 25,000 points per night. The award cost for a 5-night stay has basically dropped from 120,000 points with the 5th night free discount to 100,000 points for these category-5 upper upscale hotels.
Kuala Lumpur, a long-time destination for luxury at bargain basement prices, sees the JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur retreat from its category 5 status to category-4 at just 20,000 points per night.
Two other high category J.W. Marriott hotels dropped. Santa Monica’s Le Merigot was in the newly created 2009 category-8 award level at 40,000 points per night and now is a cool 5,000 points per night less in category-7 at 35,000 points.
The popular J.W. Marriott Ihilani on Oahu (one of my favorite hotels to use as an example of the high cost of Hawaii vacations) dropped from a category-7 award down to category-6.
120,000 points for a five night stay at the Ihilani hotel is probably a good points redemption award much of the time. Throw in a little cash and an extra 5,000 or 10,000 points per night and you might get the Hawaii ocean view upgrade, even if you do not have high elite status. Maui is consistently the highest priced Hawaiian Island. If you want bargain resorts, and not Oahu, then Kauai is the island of some good hotel deals.
J.W. Marriott Caracas is the only JW Marriott to move up; from category 4 to category 5 in the 2010 changes. How typical for Venezuela to run against the current.
Three of the new Marriott Autograph Collection hotels sound like southern dreams with the rebranding this month of the Grand Bohemian Hotels in Asheville, Orlando, and Savannah from their Preferred Hotels Group affiliation. These three hotels are listed as category 5 hotels in Marriott Rewards.
Ritz Carlton is the number 1 luxury brand according to the recent BTN survey of corporate travel bookers, and you can even use your Marriott points for free nights at the RC. Some great deals and a trend of moving down several hotels from the 70,000 points per night Tier 2 level down to 45,000 points per night as Tier 1 Ritz-Carlton awards available with Marriott Rewards points.
Category-4 and category-5 hotels were the big unknown in the hotel award shift since the announcement last month of the award category changes provided an early release of changes, but only for the higher categories beginning with category-5 hotels moving to category-6 and category-6 hotels moving down to category-5.
Category-4 and category-5 hotels contain some gems. There are upper upscale full-service hotels in some locations that will be the top of the line hotel for that city. , there are the international locations where the Marriott or Renaissance address identifies you as a serious business person or tourist with a prominent hotel address. This is the award category area where room rates can easily fluctuate from $100 to $300+ per night. Some upper upscale hotels will provide a great award value when your stay aligns with high cost.
Here are some notable examples of category-5 hotels (25,000 points) dropping down to category-4 hotels (20,000 points) last week. The change results in a 20% award cost reduction for 2010.
Beijing, China has seen the Marriott Hotel City Wall, Renaissance Beijing Capital, and Renaissance Beinjing Chaoyang drop from category-5 to category-4. Hong Kong Sky City Marriott.
Airport Layovers get Cheaper
Renaissance London Heathrow dropped from category-5 to category-4 as did the Orlando Airport Marriott. At London Gatwick the Courtyard dropped from category-4 to category-3 reducing the cost of award nights by 25%. Toronto Airport Marriott also dropped to category-3.
Germany mostly up
Nine hotels in Germany from the full-scale Marriott and Renaissance hotels to Courtyards across the country from Hamburg to Heidelberg increased a category level. The Renaissance Karlsruhe went the other way dropping from category-4 to category-3.
Russia up too
For a city that led the world for highest hotel rates just two years ago, the increase from a category 4 to a category 5 for two Marriott Hotels in Moscow still seems like a steal.
USA College Towns See a Pattern of Increases
From State College, Pennsylvania to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, the Courtyard Hotels apparently have been booked and award rates have seen the rising. You will pay more points when you are sleeping with the Washington Huskies in Spokane, WA or the partiers in Chico, CA; and across the country to the old money at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee or Old Dominion College in Norfolk, Virginia. College towns are hotel boom towns in 2010.
Staycations Outside the D.C. beltway
Virginia, District of Columbia, and North Carolina have seen rises. Virginia Beach is hitting the big-time resort award categories with three former category-5 hotels reaching category-6 and even the Fairfield Inn Virginia Beach rising to a category-5.
Head south – a lot of Florida is a little cheaper in 2010
Almost 1 in every 6 Marriott brand hotels dropped in award category for 2010 is located in Florida.
The Miami Beach Marriott South Beach was knocked from its perch at category-8 and is now down to category-7 for this year. For the leisure traveler seeking something a slight step down from luxury, the Ponte Vedra Beach dropped from category 6 to 5. Five hotels in Orlando are 5,000 points less as well as six other full service Renaissance and Marriott hotels dropping from category 5 to category 4.
And nearly 40 other hotels from the ranks of Courtyard, Springhill Suites, and Fairfield Inn have been reduced for Florida travelers.