If you are a member of a loyalty program with Marriott or Starwood Hotels and Resorts, now is the time to check out which hotels were affected by the chains’ annual category changes which go into effect on March 6. For meeting planners who earn points through the Rewarding Events program and redeem them to fund hotel rooms for speakers or VIPs, the category changes could mean the maximum 50,000 earned points per event won’t cover as much as it once did.
Marriott grades hotels on a nine-tier scale. The higher the tier, the more rewards points are required for a free stay, and according to Marriott loyalty program spokesperson John Wolf, the category changes will impact anyone using points to redeem a stay, including meeting planners. He said, “A point is a point. It is just like currency.”
Wolf says 26 percent of Marriott properties and 17 percent of Starwood hotels changed categories this year, which is similar to the number of category changes made each year for the past three years.
The recently opened Renaissance Charleston Historic District, profiled on MeetingsNet, is moving up from tier 8 to tier 9, which means loyalty program members who book a night before March 6 will need 40,000 points, but nights booked after March 6 will require 45,000 points. The Residence Inn Charleston Downtown, however, is moving down a tier, from 7 to 6, and requiring 30,000 hotel points instead of 35,000 for a free night’s stay.
Planners can take advantage of some downward category changes. According to the list of properties moving down a category, five percent of hotels, many outside the United States, are being downgraded one tier and will require fewer points for a member reward.
If travelers anticipate a trip to Germany or China, it might pay to wait until after March 6 to make a booking; the five-star Ritz-Carlton Berlin is changing from a tier 3 to a tier 2 property, and the JW Marriott Shanghai is dropping one place to tier 5.