Mar072011

Last day to book Marriott before 2011 hotel category increases

Today, Monday March 7, is the last day to book reward nights at 351 hotels being assigned to a higher  hotel reward category on Tuesday, March 8. Most of these hotels will cost 5,000 points per night more for hotels rising one category level.

There are 35 hotels rising from category 4 to category 5 which will make them ineligible for free night certificates earned from Marriott Rewards MegaBonus and Marriott Rewards Visa credit card enrollment free night certificates limited to category 1 to 4 hotels.

Loyalty Traveler Analysis of Marriott Rewards 2011 hotel category assignment changes

First trend – Aruba, Netherland Antilles Caribbean island is the Marriott hot spot.

5-night Marriott stay = 140,000 points today or 160,000 points tomorrow.

Marriott’s Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino, along with two Marriott timeshare properties, Marriott’s Aruba Surf Club and Aruba Ocean Club, leap to the prestigious category 8 reward level. 

Category 8 has been the exclusive domain of world class destinations like New York, London, Paris and Rome.

Now Aruba ties London and New York for most Marriott category 8 hotels at three each. Paris is only two and Rome just one.  

The Asians must be getting a team ready for 2012 competition. Australia can’t be far behind.

Marriott Aruba has a 23.74% hotel tax.

For now, dock the yacht in Aruba at 40,000 points per night, or possibly more points if you want to see the ocean from your hotel bedroom when you’re off the boat. Of course, go Dutch and you can live social in Aruba at 20,000 points per night each for two. Unfortunately you need 160,000 points in one account to get the Marriott Rewards 5th night free rate, so going Dutch might not be so practical or economical if you need to buy points to reach 160,000 points.

Actually Marriott Rewards allows free transfer of points for spouses and domestic partners from one account to another to reach the amount needed for a specified award redemption level.

You can buy 50,000 points in a calendar year for $625. That is a fairly high price for buying points. For a location like Aruba the points might be worth the cost if you had 60,000 points and could buy 100,000 for $1,250 and redeem for a 5-night vacation. Aruba is a place where $500 per night is not uncommon.

Renaissance Aruba Beach rises to category 6 on March 8. 120,000 points for 5 nights makes this Aruba location the poverty jetsetter’s retreat.

Hey babe, Virginia Beach, Virginia or Zurich and Vail?

Category 7 hotel rewards share the realm of New York, London, Paris, Boston, Miami, South Lake Tahoe and San Francisco.

People must really like Virginia Beach.

I went to Virginia Beach once in 1973 when I was in 7th grade and lived at Fort Eustis, north of Newport News, Virginia. My memory is a beach of jelly fish.  The area might be appealing to me now if I were to return, but I don’t know about a Residence Inn and SpringHill Suites moving from category 6 to category 7 in 2011.

Hotel names like Grand Cayman Marriott Resort and Key West Marriott Beachside Hotel and Zurich Marriott in Switzerland sound like places for legal and illegal financiers to mingle with pirates in the lobbies. Vail Marriott Mountain Resort is a jetsetter vacation getaway. JW Marriott Washington D.C. has fantastic location near White House and IHG’s The Willard and Starwood’s W hotel.

Then, there are the Residence Inn and SpringHill Suites Virginia Beach Oceanfront properties rising to category 7 and 35,000 points per night. Fairfield Inn Virginia Beach rises to Category 6 on March 8.

Hotels rising from Category 5 to Category 6 reward nights are evenly divided between 10 international and 10 domestic hotels. Aruba, Australia and Canada are places where room rates have risen and the dollar has weakened. The domestic hotels look like popular tourist destinations and of course Courtyard JFK Airport has a high traffic location.

Hotels rising from Category 4 to Category 5

Important: Book today if you want to use certificates for these Category 4 hotels rising to Category 5 hotels.  These hotels are rising from 20,000 points to 25,000 points per night.

Toronto, Munich and Cologne in Germany, Sao Paulo, Cairo, Moscow are places with rising hotels.

In the U.S. are Disneyland, San Diego, Miami, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Boston, Boston Logan, Raleigh, La Guardia (LGA) airport.

The majority of changes involve current category 1, 2 and 3 hotel assignments.

112 hotels increasing from category 3 to category 4.

About half of the 15 international hotels include full-service Marriott and Renaissance properties in  Shanghai, Bogota, Sao Paulo Airport, Stuttgart, Germany, Kuwait City, and Cebu City. Canada has several Courtyard and Residence Inn hotels rising.

97 of the hotels rising from category 3 to category 4 are in the U.S. The interesting aspect of these changes is the rates at U.S. hotels have actually been lowest of all the global regions. The changes affect Courtyard, Residence Inn, Fairfield Inn and SpringHill Suites across the country.

115 hotels are rising from category 2 to category 3. These are nearly all in the U.S. and geographically diverse.

There is a net loss of 42 hotels from the category 1 level at 7,500 points per night. With all but 3 hotels of about 250 in category 1 located in the U.S., the loss of 42 hotels is a significant shift of hotels out of the bottom category for U.S. travelers. The blow is only an additional 2,500 points.

The shift of 227 hotels from categories 2 and 3 to categories 3 and 4 is not balanced in any way by the 55 hotels moving down from categories 4 and 3 to catagories 3 and 2. This is a net shift of 172 hotels, about 7% or 1 in 15 Marriott brand hotels in the U.S. going up 5,000 points per night tomorrow.

The past two years have seen room rates fall across the U.S. and the U.S. has one of the lowest average daily room rates across the globe. Looks like Marriott is picking up some of the rate difference through higher hotel reward cost for U.S. travelers.

See  March 2 Loyalty traveler post for a complete list of hotels changing category March 8.

The good side of the hotel category changes

89 hotels decrease in reward cost on March 8.

There are no hotels currently in category 7 or 8 that are decreasing a category level.

Dropping from Category 6 to Category 5 (3 hotels)

Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg, Florida Golf just isn’t the same with Tiger Woods a fallen angel, but this golf resort goes for less in 2011.

Ledra Marriott Athens, Greece.  You might sense a little anti-American  sentiment, but you can get it for a little less per night as this hotel drops from 120,000 points for a 5-night stay to just 100,000 points.

Casa Magna Marriott Puerto Vallarta for a zinging beach experience. A high floor should keep you out of target. I jest of course. VallartaToday.com, the English language local newspaper, says your chance of being a crime victim in the U.S. is 8% compared to 1.3% in Mexico.  I avoid those 8% neighborhoods around California.

Dropping from Category 5 to Category 4 (15 hotels)

JW Marriott Beijing or JW Marriott Caracas are a little bit cheaper on March 8. You can tell me all about the joys and authenticity of hostels, home rentals and couch surfing. When I am in Caracas, I’ll take the JW Marriott as a top recommendation. Although the Renaissance La Castellana Caracas is also category 4 and is ranked #1 on TripAdvisor today for Caracas hotels.

Boca Raton and Doral are the cheap vacation reward destinations with four full-service Marriott and Renaissance hotels dropping category. Renaissance Hotels in Tampa and Cleveland drop too. BWI Airport Marriott will cost less for a layover.

Dropping from Category 4 to Category 3 (29 hotels)

Beijing is the cheap place to be with two Marriott and two Renaissance hotels dropping to category 3 at 15,000 points per night. These hotels are 60,000 points for a 5-night stay. Getting that visa into China should go a little easier when your hotel address is an extended stay with Marriott Hotels.

Florida locations, Dallas and San Antonio Texas, Salt Lake City and full service Marriott hotels in Oklahoma City and Greenville, South Carolina are all dropping category. Norfolk Marriott at 60,000 points for 5-nights is a 10-mile drive to the category 7 Residence Inn of Virginia Beach.

Dropping from Category 3 to Category 2 (26 hotels)

Looking at these hotel names is like reading the Case-Shiller Home Price Indices for worst performing housing markets in the U.S. – Phoenix, Las Vegas, Orlando, Jacksonville, Tampa-St. Pete, Ohio and Michigan.

Dropping from Category 2 to Category 1 (16 hotels)

Rural, suburbs, undesirable locations that you do not want to find yourself staying overnight. I actually am not familiar with any of these locations. Enough said.

Check the list, study it twice and see if there are any last minute reward nights you want to book before the hotels increase in category level on Tuesday March 8.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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