Starwood Hotel Category Changes 2018 – Analysis In Detail


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Yesterday, following in the recent footsteps of IHG and Carlson Rezidor, Starwood announced its 2018 hotel category changes . I’ve taken a very close look at the moves Starwood has announced and pulled out the significant changes we’ll be seeing in each region as well as taking a look a the changes we will be seeing within the more popular Starwood brands like St Regis, W Hotels and the Luxury Collection.

As a basic point of reference here how much award nights cost across the Starwood categories:

Make sure you look out for any moves between Categories 5 and 6 as the difference in award night cost jumps (or drops, depending on which way you look at it) steeply between the two.

Starwood Hotel Category Changes – Overall

Per the latest figures provided by Starwood the chain has 2,094 properties in its portfolio and, in this set of Starwood Hotel category changes, 276 properties are either moving up or down in category – that’s a little over 13%.

All changes are taking effect from 6 March 2018.

Bookings made before 6 March 2018 will see award nights charged based on a property’s current category.

  • 145 properties are moving up 1 or more categories
  • 131 properties are moving down 1 or more categories
  • 1 property is moving from category 6 to top-tier category 7
  • 2 properties are moving down from top-tier category 7 to category 6

You can find a list of all the properties moving categories here.

Image Starwood


Starwood Hotel Category Changes – By Region

Africa & The Middle East

  • 31 properties are changing category representing approximately 22% of properties in the region
  • 24 properties are moving down 1 or more categories
  • 7 properties are going up 1 or more categories.

Notable Movers

The Aloft Dhahran in Saudi Arabia is one the two biggest movers here as it goes from a Category 4 property to Category 2 (award nights will cost 60% less from 6 March).

The other big mover is the Le Méridien Towers Makkah in Saudi Arabia which moves from Category 2 to Category 4.

Those may be the biggest movers but there are far more interesting changes in this region.

On the positive side:

  • The St Regis Dubai moves from Category 7 (top-tier) down to Category 6
  • Four major properties move from Category 6 to Category 5:
    • The Sheraton Grand Doha Resort
    • The Royal Méridien Beach Resort in Dubai
    • The Grosvenor House Luxury Collection Hotel in Dubai
    • W Dubai Al Habtoor City
  • W Doha Hotel & Residences moves from Category 5 to Category 4
  • The Le Méridien Abu Dhabi moves from Category 3 to Category 2

Grosvenor House Dubai – Image Starwood

On the negative side:

  • The Sheraton Tel Aviv Hotel moves up from Category 5 to Category 6
  • The W Amman (Jordan) moves from Category 4 to Category 5

Thoughts on Africa & The Middle East

If you’re a fan of visiting the UAE or Qatar this is very good news for you. It’s interesting to note that, just as Club Carlson moved some its UAE properties into cheaper categories just the other day, here we have SPG doing the same thing – clearly occupancy levels are not what they used to be in the region.

I stayed at the Grosvenor House Hotel a few years ago and enjoyed its location near the Dubai Marina so, now that award nights can be booked there for as little as 12,000 points per night, I can definitely see myself returning – that’;s pretty good value…especially if you have SPG Platinum status.


Asia Pacific

  • 64 properties are changing category representing approximately 10% of properties in the region
  • 28 properties are moving down 1 or more categories
  • 36 properties are moving up 1 or more categories.

Notable Movers

Just as with the Africa & Middle East region, there are two big movers here – the Four Points by Sheraton Srinagar (India) is moving down from Category 4 to Category 2 while the Four Points by Sheraton Hakodate is moving up from Category 2 to Category 4.

I doubt if either of those hotels is going to interest too many people…but there hotels which are moving categories may:

On the positive side:

  • The W Brisbane is moving down from Category 5 to Category 4
  • The Wanderlust, Singapore, a Member of Design Hotels is moving from Category 4 to Category 3

W Brisbane – Image Starwood

On the negative side:

  • The St Regis Osaka is moving up to top-tier Category 7 from Category 6
  • W Shanghai The Bund is moving up from Category 5 to Category 6
  • The Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Bangkok is moving from Category 4 to Category 5
  • The Le Méridien Phuket Beach Resort is going up one category from 4 to 5

Thoughts on Asia Pacific

There isn’t too much good news here except that a lot of the major properties in this region haven’t changed category so at least they’re not getting more expensive.

The move to downgrade the W Brisbane is both strange and amusing as the hotel isn’t slated to open until 15 March 2018!

I don’t understand the thinking behind moving up the Sheraton Grande in Bangkok to Category 5 as this makes it a poor award redemption – hotel prices in Bangkok are very competitive so you’ll be lucky to get more than 1.3 cents/point in value here.


The Caribbean

Starwood only has 16 properties in the Caribbean so it’s not all that surprising that only two properties are moving categories – both upwards.

The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa is moving from a Category 5 to a Category 6 property (so award nights will now cost at least 56% more going forward) and the Sheraton Puerto Rico is moving from Category 3 to Category 4.

Westin Grand Cayman – Image Starwood


Central & South America

Starwood has 69 properties in this region so the 10 properties changing categories on 6 March represent a little over 14% of this number.

There are no properties moving more than on category but….

  • 8 properties are moving down one category
  • 2 properties are moving up one category.

With such a small number of hotels involved in the category changes I can list them all out.

Properties moving up in category

Properties moving down in category

Thoughts on Central & South America

The only thing that strikes me as noteworthy here is the fact that the Sheraton Grand in Rio is moving down from Category 5 to 4. In park times this will see awards costing almost 38% less and, at 10,000 points/night year round, this could be a very good use of Starpoints for anyone visiting Rio….especially considering its good TripAdvisor ratings.


Europe

Unsurprisingly Europe is a pretty major area for Starwood with the chain boasting 304 hotels in the region at the time of writing.

  • 55 properties are moving categories
    • 17 properties are moving down 1 or more categories
    • 38 properties are moving up one category

Notable Movers

The biggest mover in this category shake up comes from the European region and its the Four Points by Sheraton Kolasin (Montenegro) which moves from Category 4 to Category 1 – that’s quite a demotion!

There are no other properties moving by more than one category in this region so I’ll move on to the other notable movers:

On the positive side:

  • Le Roch Hotel and Spa, Paris, a Member of Design Hotels is moving from top-tier Category 7 down to Category 6.
  • Provocateur, Berlin, a Member of Design Hotels is moving from Category 5 to Category 4
  • The Le Méridien Visconti Rome is moving from Category 5 to Category 4

Le Méridien Visconti Rome – Image Starwood

On the negative side:

  • Great Northern Hotel, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, London is moving from Category 5 to Category 6
  • Hotel Bristol, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Warsaw is moving up from Category 4 to Category 5

Thoughts on Europe

The increase in award cost at the Great Northern in London isn’t all that surprising as occupancy levels in the city have been strong. We’ve also already seen IHG and Carlson Rezidor increase the cost of award nights at some of their London properties so it’s almost surprising that SPG didn’t move up any of  its other hotels in the city.

Great Northern Hotel, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, London – Image Starwood

I don’t understand the increase at the Hotel Bristol in Warsaw. yes, this is a hotel with a pretty decent reputation but it’s also a hotel at which rates are not exactly high (at least not very often) so this had just become an even worse redemption than it was before.

It’s always good to see properties come down in price in major destinations like Paris, Berlin and Rome so to see three properties move from Category 5 (where they can cost up to 16,000 points/night) to Category 4 (where they cost 10,000 points all year round) is very good news.


North America

According to Starwood’s hotel directory there are 929 SPG properties in North American and, based on the list released yesterday, 114 of those properties will be changing category on 6 March.

  •  54 properties are moving down one category
  • 59 properties are moving up on category
  • 1 property is moving up two categories
  • There are no properties moving up to or down from Category 7

Notable Movers

The only property moving more than one category is the Four Points by Sheraton Niagara Falls Fallsview which moves from being a Category 2 property to Category 4 – at a minimum, an award night at this property will now cost 150% more…and that’s painful!

On the positive side:

  • The W Miami and The W New York both move from being Category 6 properties down to Category 5.
  • The Sheraton Chicago O’Hare Airport (great when the weather screws up your travel plans) moves from a Category 4 to a Category 3 property.

W New York – Image Starwood

On the negative side:

  • The Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler moves from Category 5 to Category 6
  • Walt Disney World Dolphin at Lake Buena Vista moves from Category 4 to Category 5

Thoughts on North America

When you look down the list of properties changing categories there aren’t all that many that stick out as being particularly notable.

I’m please to see the W Miami come down a Category as, ever since I wrote about its opening in June of 2016, I’ve been wanting to see if it’s as nice as the pictures make it look – 20,000 points/night was way to rich for my blood but, if I can find availability at the 12,000 point level I’ll definitely be interested.

W Hotel Miami DowntownW Miami – Image Starwood

The W New York isn’t a good hotel by any measure so, even at Category 5 levels it’s overpriced (as are a lot of US W properties) .

I’m not entirely sure why the Westin Whistler has gone up to Category 6 (presumably based on projected occupancy rates) because it certainly isn’t anything special and, now that an award night will cost at least 20,000 points, there are a lot of better places to spend your Starpoints.


A Quick Look At The Brands

Here a quick look at what moves are happening within some of the more desirable brands that Starwood offers.

W Hotels

  • 11 properties changing category worldwide
  • 7 properties moving down one category
  • 4 properties moving up one category

The Luxury Collection

  • 15 properties changing category worldwide
  • 3 properties moving down one category
  • 12 properties moving up one category

St Regis

  • 5 properties changing category worldwide
  • 2 properties moving down one category
  • 3 properties moving up one category

Tribute Portfolio

  • 9 properties changing category worldwide
  • 8 properties moving down one category
  • 1 properties moving up one category

It’s quite incredible that 8 out of the 9 Tribute Hotels in this list are moving down a category…and the fact that most are moving from Category 5 to Category 4 will be good news fro bookings in peak season (when Cat. 5 properties can cost 16,000 points but Cat. properties top-out at 10,000).


Overall

There are a lot of positives in here and I suspect that European readers will be delighted to see the cost of an award night at a number of pretty good Middle Eastern properties coming down.

The Asia Pacific region is seeing some significant moves in the wrong direction (from a redeemer’s point of view) and I can’t imagine why many people would choose to redeem 12,000 – 16,000 Starpoints in  Bangkok when room rates are almost always incredibly reasonable.

Overall I’m actually net happy with the changes SPG is putting through. There are a number of properties that I’m interested in staying at that have come down in award cost and I don’t get to say that all too often 🙂

Note: Marriott has also released its hotel category moves for 2018 and I’ll be working through all the numbers over the weekend to bring you a similarly comprehensive rundown of the changes on Monday.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Please note that the Le Meridien Visconti in Rome has NOT changed from category 5 to 4. According to SPG, they have no record of such an announcement being made.

    • I can see on SPG.com that the property is still listed as a Cat. 5 property but, unfortunately, SPG/Starwood are lying to you…..and very conveniently SPG has removed its original list of category changes from the website.

      Unfortunately for SPG I’m not the only blogger who wrote about this so, if you use the link to Loyalty Lobby I’ve posted below, you’ll find the whole list of SPG category changes as a screenshot from SPG.com and, if you look closely, you’ll see the Le Meridien Visconti listed as moving from Cat 5 to Cat 4.

      https://loyaltylobby.com/2018/03/05/last-call-spg-award-category-changes-march-6-2018/

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