Does Westin by Wyndham or IHG Sheraton sound enticing?

How about La Quinta Inns, a vision of Four Points?

Starwood Hotels, everybody’s favorite darling at the high end hotel market segment, apparently has its investors, who are seeking higher returns, rumbling for a change. This discontent is fueling talks of Starwood Hotels merging with Wyndham Worldwide or InterContinental Hotels Group, two global chains who could benefit from more high-end hotels. Or maybe even Blackstone Group can take over Starwood Hotels, like they did with Hilton and La Quinta for great return on investment.

Or Starwood Hotels could possibly buy a large mid-scale brand like La Quinta to expand growth quickly.

Instead, we get Starwood’s Tribute band as the major noise of the week. I mean Tribute hotel brand. has a good read from Tara Lachapelle of Bloomberg –

Starwood Shareholders Agitate for a Merger or a Buyout as Growth Lags (April 17)

Bloomberg analysts see little upward momentum in Starwood Hotels stock for 2015. Analysts see Starwood as too high-end hotel heavy at a time when growth is in the mid-scale market. Hotel brands like Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express open several new hotels every week.

Analysts see Starwood Hotels future as either an acquisition of a mid-level market segment hotel brand or a buy out by an investment firm or a merger with a chain like Wyndham, or UK-based InterContinental Hotels Group for a tax inversion benefit.

Starwood Hotels was my hotel chain darling for years, but the past few years I find better value with other hotel chains. The promotions from SPG have been relatively weak, the benefits heavily favor top elites and the reward price has increased greatly for hotels over the past decade while the earning opportunities have declined from hotel stay promotions.

SPG Hot Escapes has nearly 140 hotels for booking this week of April 15, with 68 hotels in the USA and 15 in Canada. There are some discount vacation hotels in places during shoulder season like Colorado ski resorts and Virginia Beach beach resort hotels. Canada is on sale and British Columbia hotels are even on the list this week.

The Westin Nova Scotian in Halifax is under $100 USD per night every weekend.

Westin Riverfront Villas Beaver Creek in Avon, Colorado near Vail is $113 per night. I stayed there in May mud season two years ago for about the same price.

Loyalty Traveler – Westin Riverfront Mountain Villas Beaver Creek 

Westin Virginia Beach Town Center is $113 this weekend and $121 most Fridays and Sundays.

St. Regis Osaka Japan is probably one of the steepest discounts with room rates as low as $161 on four dates when many other dates price at over $700 per night. May 25 and 26 are two consecutive nights priced at $161.

St Regis Osaka 161 rate

Same basic rules every week for SPG Hot Escapes.

  • Book by Saturday midnight hotel local time.
  • Rates are prepaid and nonrefundable.
  • SPG Hot Escapes rates cover the next six weeks.

You may not have heard of The Park Central San Francisco before, but it is one of the best deals on this week’s SPG Hot Escapes with $122 rates this weekend for Friday through Sunday nights. The Park Central San Francisco was formerly known as Westin Market Street San Francisco.

The Westin Market Street, a 36 story, 681-room hotel was purchased by LaSalle Properties for $350 million in January 2015. The hotel changed names, yet for the time-being is still affiliated with Starwood Hotels. That may change. After the sale, SPG members were notified the hotel was leaving Starwood Hotels and guests were rebooked at other San Francisco Starwood Hotels. Then, the hotel has remained affiliated with Starwood Hotels since January.

FlyerTalk members report receiving all SPG benefits on recent stays and the hotel is bookable on Starwood Hotels websites through December 2015, but not for January 2016 dates.

Park Central San Francisco

San Francisco hotel rates rival New York City in 2015. This weekend’s $122 per night for The Park Central San Francisco  is probably one of the lowest rates you will find for a Starwood Hotel in the city.

There are fewer than 100 hotels on this week’s SPG Hot Escapes and only 21 hotels in the USA.

SPG Hot Escapes has over 100 properties this week with 45 in the USA. There are some low discount rates for this Easter weekend.

Westin San Diego $113 April 2-6

Westin Riverfront Mountain Villas Beaver Creek, Colorado is $113 for most dates after this Easter weekend when rates top $500 per night. April 12 to May 12 is $113 per night weeknights and $126 Fridays and Saturdays. It is mud and maintenance season at these ski resort hotels in the Rocky Mountains.

Westin Houston Downtown $103 April 3-5

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SPG Hot Escapes is a small list of Starwood hotels this week with only 37 hotels in Americas, 36 in Europe, 23 Asia-America and 11 hotels in Africa/Middle East for 107 hotels. Check this week’s list for SPG Hot Escapes Easter weekend rates April 3-5 holiday discounts, when many hotels anticipate low occupancy and offer low rates.

SPG Hot Escapes are Prepaid Nonrefundable Rates for dates over the next six weeks. These rates are available for reservations made by 11:59pm Saturday, March 28 hotel local time.

Sample Low Easter Weekend Rates

Sheraton Pittsburgh at Station Square drops rates to $121 Easter weekend.

Aloft Nashville Cool Springs $94 compared to regular rates around $140.

Westin Park Central San Francisco $129 is the former Westin Market Street. Hotel rates Easter weekend are about 50% of rates other dates.

Westin Stonebriar Hotel & Golf Club, Frisco Texas $113 next two weekends is $20 less than other weekends and half off weekday rates.

Le Meridien Parkhotel Frankfurt has low rates at $108 for next two weekends.

There are several Element Hotels on this week’s list in the USA. These are residential style hotels with a room kitchen and free breakfast in the morning. These hotels make a good family or couple getaway. There are usually plenty of games in the lobby for guests.

These are just some of the deeper discounts available from this week’s SPG Hot Escapes over the holiday periods in places where Easter weekend reduces hotel occupancy.

SPG Hot Escapes banner

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SPG Hot Escapes March 18 edition jumped out at me with USA deals. Boston, Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, New Orleans and Savannah are some of the cities with some of the lowest rates I recall seeing in quite some time. There are 76 hotels in the USA and 14 in Canada on this week’s list.

Westin Minneapolis $66 Friday, April 3 and Saturday, April 4. Most dates are in the $200 range. The BANK Restaurant and Bar is definitely a place to check out for Happy Hour.

Element Denver Park Meadows $57 – south of town, but offers a stylish room with kitchen.

W Chicago City Center $98 Friday, April 3 and Saturday, April 4.

Sheraton Denver Downtown $90 Friday, April 3 and Saturday, April 4.

I realize April 3 and April 4 with all these low rates are Easter weekend.

There are some low priced airport deals for the weekend.

Le Meridien New Orleans is newly open after ten years since Hurricane Katrina. The hotel used to be the W Hotel. April 1 and 2 are $113 per night.

W Seattle $136 to $151 druing week from March 29-April 4.

Sheraton Vancouver Guildford in British Columbia is $68 to $74 per night for nearly every date in April. That has me thinking about my free Alaska Airlines ticket I need to book for April by March 31.

Check out the deals this week with Starwood Hotels, especially if you need a hotel Easter weekend.

SPG Hot Escapes banner

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Several years ago a woman commented on my blog questioning why I obsess with changes in hotel reward categories? Perhaps it is my field of distance measured by personal history in loyalty programs, especially Starwood Preferred Guest where I was an elite member of Westin Hotels several years before Starwood purchased Westin and Sheraton brands in 1998. I have been a member of Starwood Preferred Guest since 1999 when the hotel loyalty program was created.

In 1999, I earned 7,000 bonus Starpoints after three hotel stays with an SPG promotion. In 2009, I earned several free nights at luxury hotels like St. Regis San Francisco and St. Regis Monarch Beach Dana Point through the SPG promotion for one free night after two Starwood stays, up to category 6 hotels.

Over the years I watched the change in SPG hotel reward category assignment and annual reassignment. Several hotels where I stayed when they were category 2 a decade ago for 3,000 or 4,000 points per reward night are now category 4 hotels at 10,000 points per night. The Westin San Francisco Airport has climbed from SPG category 2 in 2005 to SPG category 5 in 2015. The Palace Hotel, Luxury Collection in San Francisco has risen from SPG category 4 in 2007 to category 6 in 2015.

For several years I called out SPG for continually shifting hotels up from lower categories rather than creating a distributed category reassignment by ranking hotels against each other and maintaining a large low category supply for hotel reward nights using points. SPG has been reversing its trend over the past few years by repopulating category 1 hotels.

2009 to 2015 SPG Hotel Reward Category Reassignment

In 2010, I made a five year analysis of SPG reward night category changes for Starwood Hotels showing only 22 specific hotels dropped in SPG category from 2006 to 2010. In 2010, 389 specific Starwood Hotels from 2006 out of about 1,000 Starwood Hotels worldwide had gone up at least one category level. SPG category changes over five years increased the points cost for a reward night at nearly 40% of Starwood Hotels around the globe, while only 2% went down in category. The good news I guess is a majority of Starwood Hotels maintained the same category from 2006 to 2010.

SPG Hotel Reward Category Reassignment 2010 to 2015

  • 2007: 291 up and 17 down.
  • 2008: 219 up and 14 down.
  • 2009: 82 up and 156 down. SPG eliminated SPG peak season dates for category 5 to 7 hotels. These changes occurred during the heart of the global financial recession.
  • 2010: no hotel reassignment.
  • 2011: 84 up and 93 down.
  • 2012: 183 up and 138 down.
  • 2013: 218 up and 48 down.
  • 2014: 110 up and 140 down.
  • 2015: 130 up and 138 down

Since 2007 there have been 1,317 SPG hotel reward category increases and 744 hotel category decreases. In four of eight years with category reassignment, there were more hotels going down than up.

The main concern is SPG category reassignment in 2007, 2008 and 2013 resulted in 728 hotels rising in category when only 79 hotels dropped in category. Only in the last two years has SPG made an effort to move hotels down in category in relative proportion to those hotels rising in category.

The table below shows the distribution of Starwood Hotels among the SPG category 1-7 from 2009 to 2015. There are a few data points of note.

SPG category 2009-2015 change

Loyalty Traveler – SPG Reward Category Hotel Distribution 2009-2015


[click on image for full screen]

Starwood Hotels in category 1 have increased from 28 hotels in 2009 to 62 hotels in 2015. Category 1 was dying out until the 2009 shift, the year of the largest downgrade in hotel category in SPG history.

SPG category 2 hotels gained from 2009 to 2012, but have declined again in the last few years. There were 169 SPG category hotels in 2009 and that grew to 231 in 2012, but declined to 200 this year. The third column for each year is the cumulative proportion of Starwood Hotels by categories.

In 2009, fewer than 20% of Starwood hotels were in SPG category 1 and category 2. That proportion grew by 2012 to 25% of Starwood hotels worldwide listed as category 1 and 2 hotel rewards. In 2015 that number has dropped again to 2009 levels. It is important to remember that 2007 and 2008 saw a huge proportion of Starwood Hotels rise in category with almost half of all properties worldwide rising one category. The decline of Starwood Hotels in category 1 and 2 hotel rewards in 2015 falling back to 2009 levels is not a good sign. Many of the category 1 and 2 hotels were moved out of the low tiers from 2005 and 2008.

Category 3 has become a smaller proportion of Starwood Hotels in the past five years dropping from 31.6% of all hotels in SPG category 3 in 2009 down to 25% in 2015. With 317 SPG category 3 hotels in 2015, there is only one fewer category 3 hotel than in 2009.

Looking at categories 1-3 cumulatively shows that the proportion of hotels worldwide in the bottom three tiers has dropped from a majority of hotels at 51.2% in 2009 to 46% in 2015. There are 579 hotels in categories 1-3 in 2015. In 2009 the number of hotels was 515 hotels. There are 64 more Starwood Hotels in the low tier categories today than there were in 2009. More choice is a good thing.

While Starwood Hotels has grown by about 250 hotels since 2009, apparently most of these hotels are ending up in higher categories from 4-7.

Category 4 is the tipping point for SPG reward nights. 10,000 points per reward night eats up Starpoints much more quickly than low cost category 1 and 2 hotel reward nights or category 3 Cash & Points nights. The best attribute of SPG Category 4 is no peak season dates. Take a look at SPG category 4 hotels after the 2015 SPG category changes took effect. The website simply pasted the old category 5 peak season dates for each downgraded hotel’s category 4 listing. I made a note yesterday as I was deleting peak season dates from my SPG category changes spreadsheet. There were more than 3,000 lines with a Starwood Hotel peak season date, each designating a higher reward night cost for a period from six days to more than 3 months in length for the specific hotel. Take a look at the list before Starwood deletes all the peak season dates and you will see what good value there is for points at hotels that would have been 16,000 points per night and are now 10,000 points for 2015.

My advice for SPG members with points to spend is look over the category 4 hotels and see if there is a property where you want to vacation. Some of these hotels will be SPG category 5 again next year.

The data point that sticks out for me from my table for SPG category 4 changes since 2009 is 82% of all Starwood Hotels worldwide were in SPG categories 1-4 in 2009 and that has declined proportionally to 72% in 2015.

SPG category 5 is where much of the growth and SPG points devaluation has come. Earlier in this post I mentioned a couple of hotels where I used to frequently stay when they were SPG category 3 and now they are category 5 hotels. There are one hundred more hotels in SPG category 5 than in 2009. Some of these are probably new build Starwood Hotels. The change in proportion for SPG category 5 hotels increased from less than 12% of all Starwood properties in 2009 to 18% in 2015.

The higher rates for peak season dates are the major drawback of hotels in SPG categories 5 to 7. Check out Brazil, China, Singapore, Paris and Amsterdam for the impact of peak season dates, which means about four months of the year are higher rates at many of these higher category hotels.

Category 6 and 7 are for the high rollers of SPG. A normal middle class person who does not work manufactured spend on credit cards or have business account expenditures to accrue tens of thousands of Starpoints is unlikely to book many reward nights in the upper stratosphere of Starwood Hotels. These are the hotel categories where reassignment is common from year-to-year.

My advice is spend points when the category is low to get the category 6 hotel for 50% fewer points this year before it climbs to SPG 7 or wait for the SPG 7 to drop to SPG 6. Hotels in these two categories frequently change between SPG 6 and 7.

I have redeemed hundreds of thousands of Starpoints and never redeemed Starpoints for a category 6 or 7 hotel. Three years of SPG free night promotions and one year as an SPG Amex Star blogger is when I got my taste of category 6 and 7 hotels. The SPG Amex experience is the one that reaffirmed I don’t find real value in uber-luxury. I’d rather stretch my Starpoints out for many more nights when I need a hotel room in a place I am visiting.

Related posts:

Loyalty Traveler – 139 hotels down in Starwood Hotels award category reassignment March 4, 2014 For those of us in the USA, only 21 hotels dropped while 73 hotels went up in SPG award cost.

Loyalty Traveler – SPG award category reassignments March 5, 2013 (includes 266 hotels list)

Loyalty Traveler – Analysis of SPG Hotel Category Changes March 1, 2012

Loyalty Traveler – Starwood Hotels Category Adjustments for 2011 Effective March 1

Loyalty Traveler – The Grand Illusion: Why Starpoints are worth less despite no category changes in 2010

Loyalty Traveler – SPG Annual Hotel Category Shift: Yearn to Burn (Feb 28, 2008) – this post shares my thoughts on the big rise of points cost for free nights at Starwood Hotels where I stayed in previous five years. published an interesting story today: Is Miami’s Royal Palm the first in a new brand for independents from Starwood?

The article picks up on a statement from Chesapeake Lodging Trust, recent buyers of The Royal Palm Miami Beach for $278 million. The James Royal Palm was a James Hotel until yesterday. Their web address for the James Miami now reads:

James Royal Palm

The Royal Palm South Beach is now listed on the Starwood Hotels site under the Luxury Collection brand tab as an SPG category 6 hotel property:

Royal Palm South Beach Starwood

The announcement of a new management contract with Starwood Hotels for the Royal Palm South Beach hotel indicates a new Starwood brand is coming.

“The Trust entered into a new management agreement with HEI Hotels & Resorts to operate the hotel, as well as a new franchise agreement with Starwood Hotels & Resorts where the hotel will be affiliated with Starwood’s new brand for independent hotels.”

Apparently the interim management agreement for the hotel is under Starwood Hotels Luxury Collection brand with the intent to affiliate with a new Starwood Hotels brand for independent hotels.

All the other cool hotel kids are into the independent hotel branding game. Marriott’s Autograph Collection is probably the fastest growing brand for independent hotels. Hilton launched Curio Collection in the past year with SLS Las Vegas as one of the initial hotel members. Choice Hotels has Ascend Collection and IHG has InterContinental Alliance Resorts with The Palazzo and the Venetian in Las Vegas.

Will Starwood soon have a 10th brand for independent hotels?

When hotels rebrand within the same chain, the new brand is generally a lower tier. Hilton rebranded the Waldorf Astoria London Syon Park to Hilton London Syon Park in 2013 after the hotel spent two years in the luxury segment brand. Starwood goes the other direction with the recent rebrand of Westin Sunset Key Cottages in Key West, Florida to Luxury Collection Sunset Key Cottages.

Sunset Key is a private 27-acre island, ten minutes boat ride from Key West. Cars are not permitted on the island. There is 24-hour shuttle boat service.  The hotel features Latitudes Key West for restaurant dining.

Sunset Key Cottages offer 40 units from one bedroom to four bedroom cottages. The smallest cottage is 900 square feet. A four bedroom cottage offer a private patio and plunge pool.

Sunset Key Cottages Luxury Collection is one of the most expensive Starwood properties worldwide as SPG category-7 cottages. Think 120,000 points per night in low season.

Good luck finding availability for a one bedroom cottage with points. I was able to find only one date in March 2015 for a 2-bedroom cottage at 140,000 points per night.

Peak Season dates: 1/1/2015 – 1/7/2015; 2/13/2015 – 4/4/2015; 12/25/2015 – 12/31/2015.

Paid rates for a one bedroom on March 16-18 are as low as $850 per night for a prepaid rate and tops out at $956 per night after tax. Rates are far higher for March 17 in a two bedroom cottage at $1,250. Shift the dates to March 17-19 and the rate rises to $1,750 per night for a two-bedroom cottage. November rates are as low as $705 for a two-bedroom at $793 after tax.

Sunset Key Cottages

Paying cash rather than paying points is probably a far better value for a stay at Luxury Collection Sunset Key Cottages.

Rebranding Sunset Key Cottages as a Luxury Collection resort perhaps lessens the blow of account depletion for SPG reward stays.

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Today is the last day to book hotel rewards at Starwood Hotels before category changes tomorrow on March 10. Starwood’s list of changes are ordered by hotel brand. I created regional tables a couple of weeks ago and organized hotels geographically. Here are links to my articles where I looked more closely at Starwood Preferred Guest hotel reward category changes by region.

Loyalty TravelerOverview of SPG category changes March 10, 2015

About 275 hotels, 22% of Starwood’s global portfoilio are changing category. Around 140 hotels go down and 135 hotels go up in SPG category. The USA is hardest hit with 2 of 3 hotels worldwide rising in SPG category for 2015 located in the USA.

Loyalty TravelerList of USA 94 Starwood Hotels with SPG category increase March 10, 2015 (94 hotels go up in USA, 22 hotels drop).

Loyalty Traveler22 Starwood Hotels in USA drop category March 10, 2015. Is 2015 the year to take advantage of lower priced rewards?

Loyalty Traveler  – SPG 2015 category changes Asia Pacific Region Starwood Hotels (34 hotels down, 23 hotels up).

W Retreat Koh Samui rising from 6 to 7 is a 50% increase and a hotel to book today if it is in your sights.

Loyalty TravelerSPG Europe 2015 hotel category changes are all down (46 hotels down, 0 up). Probably the best news to me is seeing Europe drop.

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