Feb232016

Analysis of SPG category changes March 1, 2016

Starwood Hotels announced 2016 hotel reward category changes last Friday, giving about 11 days before new category assignments take effect on Tuesday, March 1, 2016. You will want to check the list and make reservations by February 29 for hotels increasing in points cost for a free reward night. The spreadsheet on the SPG site allows users to sort hotels directly on the website.

General Trends in SPG Hotels Going Up

USA hotel rates peaked at record highs over the past year. The USA has the largest share of hotels worldwide going up in the cost for one free reward night using points.

SPG Category 1 Hotels

February 2016 = 69 SPG category 1 hotels.

March 2016 = 74 SPG category 1 hotels.

  • SPG Standard Reward Night = 3,000 points Sunday to Thursday; 2,000 points Friday and Saturday.
  • SPG Cash & Points = $30 + 1,500 points.
  • 5th Night Free = only available for category 3-7 hotels.

March 1 changes:

  • 12 hotels rise out of category 1 for higher category (Cat 2 = 11 hotels and Cat 5 = 1 hotel).
  • 17 hotels enter category 1 from category 2.
  • Net Change March 1, 2016 = +5 for 74 SPG Category 1 hotels.

There is a shake-up with several category 1 hotels rising to category 2, like Sheraton Athlone Ireland. I saw the Sheraton hotel building in November 2014 from my room at the Radisson Blu Athlone. The Sheraton was the better points deal, but the paid rate of $37 per night for Radisson Blu and a big points bonus for the stay made that the better value for my central Ireland trip.

Loyalty Traveler – A day in Athlone, Ireland (Nov 22, 2014)

Category 1 to category 2 shift = 11 hotels.

  • China 4
  • India 1
  • Europe 2
  • Americas 3

Category 1 to Category 5 shift = Four Points by Sheraton Penghu, Taiwan.

SPG Category 2 Hotels

February 2016 = 200 SPG Category 2 hotels.

March 2016 = 196 SPG category 2 hotels.

  • SPG Standard Reward Night = 4,000 points Sunday to Thursday; 3,000 points Friday and Saturday.
  • SPG Cash & Points = $35 + 2,000 points.
  • 5th Night Free = only available for category 3-7 hotels
  • 34 hotels rise from Category 2 to Category 3
  • 30 hotels enter category 2 from higher categories (cat 3= 29 hotels; cat 4 = 1 hotel).
  • Net Change March 1, 2016 = –4 hotels for 196 SPG category 2 hotels.

Category 2 Hotel Reward Deals as of March 1

Category 2 Hotels to Book Before March 1

  • Le Meridien Ile Maurice Mauritius rises to category 3 at 7,000 points per night. A five night stay increases from 18,000 to 20,000 points to 28,000 points as of March 1.
  • Four Points Barcelona Diagonal is one of the good deals in this city at category 2. The reward price is a big increase at category 3. I booked this hotel on points in 2012 when it was the best deal around.

Loyalty Traveler – Four Points Diagonal Barcelona on the Poblenou (Oct 3, 2012).

  • 15 hotels in China and India are rising from category 2 to category 3. Check these locations if your travel plans take you there.

Several airport hotels rise from category 2 to category 3:

SPG Category 3 Hotels

February 2016 = 325 SPG Category 3 hotels.

March 2016 = 324 SPG Category 3 hotels.

  • SPG Standard Reward Night = 7,000 points Monday to Sunday.
  • SPG Cash & Points = $55 + 3,500 points.
  • 5th Night Free = 28,000 points.
  • 34 hotels rise from Category 2 to Category 3
  • 33 hotels drop to category 3 from category 4
  • Net Change March 1, 2016 = –1 hotel for 324 SPG category 3 hotels.

Category 3 Hotel Reward Deals as of March 1

Several airport hotels drop from category 4 at 10,000 points to category 3 at 7,000 points. That is a significant savings when you need an unplanned room. Even better when you can book a category 3 hotel on Cash & Point.

Other hotels dropping down to category 3 are several hotels in Canada and Latin America like Sheraton Bogota, Sheraton Libertador Buenos Aires and Sheraton Quito. Westin Prince Toronto and Element Summerlin Las Vegas are other properties where reward rates can offer a good deal.

Category 3 Hotels to Book Before March 1

Several hotels in Thailand are rising from Category 3 to category 4:

  1. Le Méridien Bangkok
  2. The Westin Grande Sukhumvit, Bangkok
  3. Sheraton Hua Hin Resort & Spa
  4. Sheraton Samui Resort

There are many hotels in the USA rising from SPG 3 to SPG 4:

  1. Four Points by Sheraton Los Angeles International Airport
  2. Four Points by Sheraton San Jose Airport
  3. Sheraton Denver West Hotel
  4. Sheraton Chicago O’Hare Airport Hotel
  5. Aloft Portland Airport at Cascade Station

 

SPG Category 4 Hotels

February 2016 = 352 SPG Category 4 hotels

March 2016 = 361 SPG Category 4 hotels.

  • SPG Standard Reward Night = 10,000 points.
  • SPG Cash & Points = $75 + 5,000 points.
  • 5th Night Free = 40,000 points.
  • 1 hotel rises from Category 2 to Category 4
  • 49 hotels rise from category 3 to Category 4
  • 34 hotels rise from category 4 to category 5
  • 33 hotels drop from category 4 to category 3
  • 26 hotels drop from category 5 to category 4
  • Net Change March 1, 2016 = +9 with 361 hotels after 76 hotels enter category 4 and 67 hotels leave category 4. 

Much of the reward category pain comes with 49 hotels currently in SPG category 3 rising to SPG category 4. This is a crucial level when hotels at 7,000 points per night increase by 43% in points cost for a free night. These are the hotels where an affordable night’s sleep is more out of reach and the lower value of points redemptions is harder to justify. In a pinch, I might not feel too bad about redeeming 7,000 points for a $140 room night. But 10,000 points is a poor redemption value. The room rate has to get pretty high to make 10,000 points a rate I’m willing to pay.

1 hotel rises from category 2 to category 4. Element Hanover-Lebanon New Hampshire happens to be a hotel I booked for July 2015 at 6,000 points for a Friday-Saturday stay at this category 2 hotel when the published rate was $250 per night after tax. Dartmouth College probably makes it a popular location fetching high rates much of the time. This is definitely a hotel to book this week if you want bargain reward nights before the category increase.

49 hotels rise from SPG category 3 to SPG category 4. I look at several of these hotels where I stayed in the past few years and remember them as SPG category 2 hotels. These are the hotels you should check for increases and book before they rise to category 4.

Category 4 Hotel Reward Deals as of March 1

I prefer to look at the Category 5 hotels dropping to Category 4. These are hotels that will no longer have peak season rates of 16,000 points per night.

Westin Jekyll Island is a newly opened hotel I visited last May in the historic resort area of the Georgia Barrier Islands. This might be a good vacation destination to plan for 2016 as the seafront location will likely mean it rises again in SPG category before too long.

 

SPG Category 5 Hotels

February 2016 = 249 Category 5 hotels

March 2016 = 226 Category 5 hotels.

  • SPG Standard Reward Night = 12,000 points; 16,000 in peak season.
  • SPG Cash & Points = $110 + 6,000 points.
  • 5th Night Free = 48,000 points to 64,000 points (peak season).
  • 34 hotels rise from category 4 to category 5.
  • 26 hotels drop from category 5 to category 4.
  • 36 hotels rise from category 5 to category 6. Ouch!!!
  • 4 hotels drop from SPG category 6 to SPG category 5.
  • 1 hotel rises from SPG category 1 to SPG Category 5. Four Points by Sheraton Penghu, Magong, Taiwan is the place to book if you have any opportunity of being there. I sampled room rates for April 2016 to find $200USD starting rates for harborside rooms.
  • 39 hotels enter SPG Category 5 and 62 hotels leave SPG category 5.
  • Net Change March 1 = –23 hotels for 226 SPG category 5 hotels.

The pressing concern with this group are the 36 hotels leaving SPG category 5 for Category 6. This is a 67% jump from 12,000 points per night to 20,000- points per night. Many of these are properties where you will want to stay five nights for 48,000 points. As of March 1 these hotels become 80,000 points for five nights.

  1. W Doha Hotel & Residences, Qatar
  2. Sheraton Riyadh Hotel & Towers
  3. The St. Regis Macao, Cotai Central, Macau, China
  4. ITC Grand Bharat, a Luxury Collection Resort, Gurgaon, New Delhi Capital Region
  5. Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay Hotel
  6. The St. Regis Osaka
  7. The Westin Tokyo
  8. W Seoul – Walkerhill
  9. The Westin Singapore
  10. Hotel Grande Bretagne, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Athens
  11. The Westin Palace, Milan
  12. Le Méridien Barcelona
  13. Sheraton Zurich Neues Schloss Hotel
  14. The Park Lane Hotel, London
  15. Great Northern Hotel, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, London
  16. The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa
  17. Hacienda Uayamon, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Uayamon
  18. Las Alcobas, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Mexico City
  19. W Mexico City
  20. The Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort Villas & Spa, Cancun
  21. W Hollywood
  22. The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites, Los Angeles
  23. Le Méridien San Francisco
  24. The Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square
  25. The Park Central San Francisco
  26. The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain
  27. W Washington D.C
  28. Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa
  29. The Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Ka’anapali
  30. W New Orleans – French Quarter
  31. The Westin Copley Place, Boston
  32. W Hoboken
  33. The Westin New York Grand Central
  34. The Westin Austin Downtown
  35. The Equinox, a Luxury Collection Golf Resort & Spa, Vermont
  36. The Westin St. John Villas

This is a list of hotels to study carefully and see if you can get a booking before the big increase.

Category 6 Hotels dropping to Category 5 on March 1

Or forget the hotels rising in points cost and focus on the four category 6 hotels dropping to category 5 for your 2016 redemptions.

  1. Le Méridien Fisherman’s Cove, Mahé, Seychelles
  2. The St. Regis Lhasa Resort, Nepal
  3. The St. Regis Bangkok
  4. The Westin Athens Astir Palace Beach Resort, Greece

SPG Category 6 Hotels

February 2016 = 89 Category 6 hotels

March 2016 = 125 Category 6 hotels

  • SPG Standard Reward Night = 20,000 points; 25,000 in peak season.
  • SPG Cash & Points = $180 + 10,000 points.
  • 5th Night Free = 80,000 points to 100,000 points (peak season).
  • 36 hotels rise from category 5 to category 6.
  • 0 hotels drop from category 6 to category 5.
  • 3 hotels drop from category 7 to category 6.
  • 3 hotels rise from Category 6 to category 7.
  • Net change March 1 is +36 hotels for 125 SPG category 6 hotels.

Category 6 hotels rising to category 7

  1. W Retreat & Spa Bali – Seminyak
  2. Suiran, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Kyoto
  3. Schloss Fuschl, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Fuschlsee-Salzburg

Category 7 hotels dropping to category 6

  1. Le Méridien Bora Bora
  2. Caresse, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Bodrum, Turkey
  3. The St. Regis Istanbul

SPG Category 7 Hotels

February 2016 = 36 hotels.

March 2016 = 36 hotels.

The upward march of hotels in reward categories continues. The list of hotels moving from category 5 to 6 is the most painful shift in my opinion.

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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Comments

  1. Completely agree with how disappointing the shift of so many cat 5s moved up to 6. That shift is easily the most damaging to the value of the spg program. I had just booked the Westin Tokyo and Saint Regis Osaka at the end of February without even realizing the redemption rates were going up. Had I booked after March 1 I would have definitely been forced to lower categories.

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