Posted by Ric Garrido

Starwood Preferred Guest announced hotel category changes for reward nights effective March 1, 2012. The net effect is something like 138 hotels will drop in category level while 183 hotels rise in category level.

Update March 15, 2012: The tables here were based on the initial February 16 release of SPG category changes in a pdf. I copied those changes into a spreadsheet. Several of the hotels showing category changes in these tables were removed from the final change list. Starwood Lurker on FlyerTalk stated March 2 that the initial pdf was outdated. 

Starwood Lurker on FlyerTalk March 2, 2012 stating initial SPG category changes pdf outdated.

Here are a few of the hotels originally listed that did not change category and some new hotels that did change category since the February 16 list was published.

  • Le Meridien Bora Bora remains category 7. This hotel was listed as dropping to Category 6.
  • Westin Key West Resort went up from a category 5 to category 6. This hotel was not on Starwood’s original list.
  • Le Meridien Istanbul Etiler went up from category 4 to category 5. This hotel was not on Starwood’s original list.
  • Le Meridien Chiang Mai remains at category 2 and did not drop to category 1. This hotel is still listed on the current SPG list as dropping to category 1.
  • Four Points Long Island – remains at category 3 and did not drop to category 2.
  • Sheraton Bradley Airport Hartford, CT remains category 3 and did not drop to category 2.
  • Sheraton Denver West – remains category 3 and did not drop to category 2.
  • Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort – remains category 4 and did not drop to category 3.
  • Westin St. Louis – remains category 4 and did not drop to category 3.
  • Le Centre Sheraton Montreal listed as dropping from category 4 to 3 in the current SPG changes pdf online is actually now SPG category 5  according to its hotel website.
  • Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers remains Category 5 and did not rise to Category 6. This is good news for New York guests and the one positive change from the original list.

[original Feb 21 post content continues below]

The numbers shown in this post may be off by a couple of hotels compared to the Starwood pdf. There are some hotels listed on the Starwood pdf of category changes that are no longer in the system (Syria) or exiting the Starwood family soon (Le Meridien Cancun). Four Points Seattle is shown as a change rising from category 2 to category 3, yet that hotel already is listed as category 3 on the SPG site.

The bad news is the hotels going up are concentrated in the upper tiers while hotels going down are primarily in lower tiers. This means that many resorts and high priced urban hotels will cost more points while many Sheraton and Four Points hotels already in the lower tiers will cost even less as of March 1.

SPG members can book hotels at the lower reward price until February 29, 2012. Pay attention to the cancellation policies.

Link to pdf of SPG Hotel Category Changes

Members on FlyerTalk report being able to book reservations as far out as July 2013. You may need to try more than one agent to get someone willing to work with you on reservations far in advance.

Analysis of Category Changes

Category 1 Hotels = 3,000 points/night or 2,000 points Friday/Saturday. Cash & Points Award = $25 + 1,200 points per night.

27 hotels are in SPG Category 1 currently in February 2012.

  • 17 hotels drop down from category 2 to category 1.
  • 3 hotels rise to category 2.

There are currently 27 SPG category 1 hotels worldwide. For several years now I have stated each year that SPG category 1 is being emptied as the proportion of hotels dropped from around 20% of the global chain to less than 3% in the past decade.

The good news is the March 1, 2012 changes are repopulating SPG Category 1 as 17 hotels drop down from category 2 while only 3 hotels rise out of the lowest category 1 to category 2. There will be 41 hotels in SPG category 1 as of March 1, 2012.

SPG 2012 cat shift-2-21-12

Category 2 Hotels = 4,000 points/night or 3,000 points Friday/Saturday. Cash & Points Award = $30 + 1,600 points per night.

213 hotels are in SPG Category 2 currently in February 2012.

  • 17 hotels drop down to category 1.
  • 27 hotels rise to category 3.
  • 1 hotel, Sheraton Baku Airport, Azerbaijan rises to category 4.

SPG 2012 cat2up-2-21-12

Category 3 Hotels = 7,000 points/night. Cash & Points Award = $45 + 2,800 points per night.

318 hotels are in SPG Category 3 currently in February 2012.

  • 60 hotels drop down to category 2.
  • 22 hotels rise to category 4.
  • 2 hotels, Aloft Harlem, NYC and Sheraton Guangzhou, China rise to category 5.

SPG 2012 cat3down-2-21-12

The category 3 to category 2 shift is the most favorable consumer change. From here the changes are not so favorable as the higher SPG hotel categories see more hotels going up than down.

SPG 2012 cat3up-2-21-12

Category 4 Hotels = 10,000 points/night. Cash & Points Award = $60 + 4,000 points per night.

335 hotels are in SPG Category 4 currently in February 2012.

  • 53 hotels drop down to category 3.
  • 104 hotels rise to category 5.

Category 4 sees the largest shift in hotels of any category.

SPG 2012 cat4down-2-21-12

The real impact of shifting up to category 5 is the addition of peak season rates. The SPG changes mean about 10% of Starwood hotels globally will be added to category 5 and be subject to peak season rates. Not all Starwood high category hotels have peak season rates, however, many of the category 5 hotels currently have as many as 16 weeks of the calendar year at peak season rates. This can be an increase from 10,000 points per night to 16,000 points per night in the new category.

SPG 2012 cat4up-2-21-12

 

Category 5 Hotels = 12,000 points/night or 16,000 points/night during peak season dates specified by hotel.

Cash & Points Award = $90 + 4,800 points per night.

135 hotels are in SPG Category 5 currently in February 2012.

  • 4 hotels drop down to category 4.
  • 17 hotels rise to category 6.

SPG cat5up-2-21-12

Category 6 Hotels = 20,000 points/night or 25,000 points/night during peak season dates specified by hotel.

Cash & Points Award = $150 + 8,000 points per night.

54 hotels are in SPG Category 6 currently in February 2012.

  • 1 hotel drops down to category 5, Grosvenor House, Dubai.
  • 7 hotels rise to category 7.

SPG 2012 cat6-2-21-12

 

Category 7 Hotels = 30,000 points/night or 35,000 points/night during peak season dates specified by hotel.

Note that many category 7 hotels do not have standard rooms and require double points or more for award nights. Some hotels require as many as 140,000 points per night.

Cash & Points Award = Not Available for Category 7 Hotels.

19 hotels are in SPG Category 7 currently in February 2012.

  • 3 hotels drop down to category 6:
    • Le Meridien Bora Bora.
    • W Retreat Koh Samui, Thailand.
    • St. Regis Punta Mita Resort, Mexico.
  • 7 hotels rise to category 7 from category 6.

 

Observations and thoughts on SPG category changes

Sheraton Sofia Bulgaria is a Category 2 Luxury Collection Hotel. 26,000 points for 7 nights. Sounds like a deal to me. I’d love to see Sofia. Magnificent cultural history to delve into with time to relax in the big city.

Le Meridien Budapest at category 3 is a good deal. Budapest is one of the cheapest cities in Europe for a vacation.

Portugal is a great deal with several new Category 3 hotels, down from category 4. Three hotels dropped including the Luxury Collection Convento do Espinheiro Resort & Spa in Evora.

Sheraton Algarve rises 4 to 5.

Westin Kierland Scottsdale was category 5 in 2008, dropped and rises again.

San Francisco hotels all rise to category 5 and this change fits with fact that San Francisco had some of the highest rate hikes of any city in the U.S. for 2011. The increased rates kept me out of the city most of the past year.

Boston and Cambridge see four hotels rise to Category 5

W Hotels rise from 4 to 5 in Atlanta, Chicago, New Orleans, Minneapolis and Seattle and Taipei and Santiago.

Minneapolis sees three hotels move up from 4 to 5.

New York City has five Manhattan hotels rise from 4 to 5.

Four Points Kuwait rises to Category 5.

Four Points Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia is going to be a category 5. This hotel was a category 2 in 2003 when I stayed there.

Many hotels and resorts in China rise from category 4 to category 5.

Bali Nusa Dua is up to category 5 from category 4 hotels. These two hotels were category 2 (Westin) and category 3 (Luxury Collection) when I stayed there in 2003.

Chile and Argentina and Brazil all see most hotels rise.

Westin Riverfront Mountain Villas Beaver Creek in Avon, Colorado rising to Category 6 is a real drag, especially for summer travel. This Starwood Vacation Ownership property will be a poor redemption value outside of peak ski season. This resort was peak season all summer 2011. The Westin Riverfront hotel resort will remain at category 5.  This area typically has relatively low priced summer rates around $200 or less per night and favors spending cash rather than points.

St. Regis Aspen and Steamboat Villas, Colorado rise to cat 7. I didn’t think the St. Regis Aspen had that much to offer as a category 6 reward and now I see little value in this hotel at category 7.

Chatwal Hotel Manhattan, W South Beach Miami and St. Regis Puerto Rico rise to category 7. Costa Rica and St. Regis Florence rise to category 7. WOW!

My interest is seeing what peak season dates are added to the hotels when the new category ratings come out March 1.

10 Responses

  1. arent hotels limited to 12 weeks of peak season time per year? i thought william on FT once said that

  2. Wonderful analysis, very helpful…one of my favorite blogs

  3. @rob – there may be a limited number of weeks, but it has to be higher than 12 weeks. There are hotels that had more than 12 weeks of peak season in 2011. Looks like a few hotels had at least 15 to 16 weeks of peak season in category 5.

    I edited the line to read “many of the category 5 hotels currently have as many as 16 weeks of the calendar year at peak season rates. ” and took out “50% of calendar year”.

  4. I noticed that you mention the Sheraton Long Island has dropped to a Cat 2 from a 3 but if you visit the hotel website or SPG it still states this hotel is a Cat 3?

  5. @Damian – You are correct that Sheraton Long Island is still category 3. I also see Sheraton Denver West is still category 3 and not category 2.

    These tables are based on the initial SPG release Feb 16 of March 1 hotel category reassignments.

    After researching this on FlyerTalk I learned that several hotels listed here as going down a category actually did not drop. Starwood Lurker stated March 2 the initial pdf of SPG category changes was outdated and he requested SPG publish a new list of hotel category changes. There are even mistakes in the new list.

    http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/starwood-preferred-guest/1314991-category-changes-2012-a-15.html

    I will create a new set of tables to reflect the current SPG pdf of changes. There are probably a dozen or more hotels that need to be changed in my tables. Here are the hotels mentioned on FlyerTalk that changed from the initial SPG pdf and therefore are incorrect in my tables.

    Le Meridien Bora Bora remains category 7.
    Westin Key West went up from a category 5 to category 6.
    Le Meridien Chiang Mai remains at category 2 and did not drop to cat 1.
    Four Points Long Island – remains category 3.
    Sheraton Bradley Airport Hartford, CT remains category 3.
    Sheraton Denver West – remains category 3.
    Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort – remains category 4.
    Sheraton Montreal listed as dropping from category 4 to 3 in the current SPG changes list online as I am writing this is actually category 5 now according to its hotel website.

    I’ll try and update the SPG changes in a new post.

  6. […] was notified there were category changes inconsistent with my Feb 21 Loyalty Traveler post – Analysis of SPG Hotel Category Changes March 1, 2012. Then reading the FlyerTalk thread again pointed out the hotels listed in this […]

  7. […] changes for 2012 took effect on March 1, 2011. 183 hotels went up and 138 went down. My LT post “Analysis of SPG Hotel Category Changes March 1, 2012” (Feb 21, 2012) has a list ordered by city, state and country for […]

  8. I am really surprised no one has commented about the points increases. They are OUTRAGEOUS!. For example, last year the Maui Ocean Villas, a timeshare resort, was 12,000 points per night. Now it is a category 6 hotel which is 20,000 points per night (on par with the St Regis brand). Now the peak season rate is 25,000 points a night compared to 12,000 a year ago. That is over a 50% increase in points for a free night. They are doing this peak season rate with most of the hotels I say in. This once great program, has lost it’s value in my mind. I will no longer recommmend it.

  9. […] changesfor 2012 took effect on March 1, 2012. 183 hotels went up and 138 went down. My LT post “Analysis of SPG Hotel Category Changes March 1, 2012” (Feb 21, 2012) has a list ordered by city, state and country for […]

  10. […] changesfor 2012 took effect on March 1, 2012. 183 hotels went up and 138 went down. My LT post “Analysis of SPG Hotel Category Changes March 1, 2012” (Feb 21, 2012) has a list ordered by city, state and country for […]

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