Searching for good news in Marriott’s latest devaluation

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Marriott’s latest devaluation is coming March 4th 2020.  As Nick previously reported, Marriott is making its annual category adjustments and the news is mostly bad.  One thousand six hundred and eighty seven properties will increase in price vs. only five hundred and seven that will decrease.  That’s harsh.  If you plan to book a Marriott with points or certificates this year, there’s a good chance the award price will increase March 4th (you can search here to find out).  If so, book before March 4th to lock in the current pricing.  Sadly, due to changes in how Marriott handles Points Advance reservations, you can no longer lock in prices unless you already have the points or stay certificates in your account.

Enough of the bad news.  With change comes opportunity.  Let’s find it.

Category 1 Hotels

Category 1 hotels cost only 5,000 points per night when off-peak.  That’s crazy cheap.  They can actually go as low as 4,000 points per night if they are both PointSavers hotels and off-peak, but I’m guessing that’s rare.

At 5,000 points per night, these hotels are a reasonable shortcut to Marriott Bonvoy elite status.  Book 5 nights in a row in order to get the fifth night free and you’ll pay only 20,000 points for a 5 night stay.  That’s only 4,000 points per night.  If you’re trying to earn Marriott Platinum or Titanium status (the only status levels worth pursuing in my opinion), that’s not a bad price to pay to earn extra elite nights.

Here is the list of category 2 hotels in the United States that will drop to category 1 on March 4th:

  • Four Points by Sheraton Bakersfield (California)
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites Dallas Park Central (Texas)
  • TownePlace Suites Dallas Plano/Legacy (Texas)
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites Decatur at Decatur Conference Center (Texas)
  • Residence Inn Houston I-10 West/Park Row (Texas)
  • Four Points by Sheraton Houston Energy Corridor (Texas)
  • SpringHill Suites Houston I-10 West/Energy Corridor (Texas)
  • Courtyard Houston Sugar Land/Stafford (Texas)
  • TownePlace Suites Mobile (Alabama)

It’s interesting that four of the nine new-to-cat-1 hotels in the US are in Houston Texas.  Unfortunately, Houston will be losing 5 category 1 hotels.  Each of these are moving up to category 2:

  • Fairfield Inn & Suites Houston Channelview
  • Courtyard Houston Hobby Airport
  • Courtyard Houston Northwest
  • SpringHill Suites Houston Rosenberg
  • SpringHill Suites Houston Northwest

In Canada, we will gain 3 category 1 properties:

  • Four Points by Sheraton Edmonton South
  • Four Points by Sheraton Sherwood Park
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites Winnipeg

But we’ll lose 4:

  • Fairfield Inn & Suites Edmonton North
  • TownePlace Suites Red Deer
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites Lethbridge
  • Courtyard Calgary South

Bottom Line Regarding Category 1 Hotels

There isn’t really any particularly good news to report here.  If a new-to-cat-1 property works better for you than the one’s we’re losing then that’s good for you.  In general, though, it’s not good.  184 properties are leaving category 1 vs only 43 that are being moved from category 2 to 1.

35K Certificates (Category 5 Hotels)

Most Marriott branded credit cards (found here) give you a certificate each year that’s good for one night at any Bonvoy hotel costing 35,000 points or less.  This means that the highest award priced hotels you can book are category 5 at standard or off-peak pricing, or category 6 with a combination of off-peak and Point Savers pricing.  That latter combination is so rare that we won’t consider here.

The question I hope to answer is whether there are any exciting hotels that are currently higher than category 5, but will soon be category 5.  The high level numbers don’t look good.  There are 15 properties dropping from category 6 to 5, while 217 are going up from 5 to 6.

Still, lets find the gems in those 15 newbies…

New to Category 5, in the United States:

  • Renaissance Asheville Hotel (North Carolina).  Trip Advisor Rating 4.0.
  • Sheraton Princess Kaiulani (Honolulu, Hawaii).  Trip Advisor Rating 3.5.
  • The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites, Los Angeles.  Trip Advisor Rating 4.0.
  • The Westin San Diego Gaslamp Quarter (California).  Trip Advisor Rating 4.5.
  • The Westin San Diego (California). Trip Advisor Rating 4.5.
  • Hotel Republic San Diego, Autograph Collection (California).  Trip Advisor Rating 4.5.

Whoever controls that Marriott categories must be planning to use their own certs in San Diego because that’s where we find all three gems in the United States.  All three have excellent Trip Advisor ratings.  As an aside, Nick and I previously stayed in the Hotel Republic, Autograph Collection, and I don’t know about Nick, but I liked it a lot.

New to Category 5, outside the United States:

  • Park Tower, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Buenos Aires Argentina.  Trip Advisor Rating: 4.5.
  • Twelve at Hengshan, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Shanghai China.  Trip Advisor Rating: 4.5.
  • Roomers Munich, Autograph Collection Germany.  Trip Advisor Rating: 4.0
  • Keraton at The Plaza, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Jakarta Indonesia.  Trip Advisor Rating: 4.5.
  • Sheraton Miyako Hotel Tokyo Japan.  Trip Advisor Rating: 4.0.
  • Sheraton Kuwait, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Kuwait City Kuwait.  Trip Advisor Rating: 4.5.
  • The St. Regis Kuala Lumpur Malaysia.  Trip Advisor Rating: 4.5.
  • Sheraton Bijao Beach Resort All-Inclusive Panama.  Trip Advisor Rating: 3.5.
  • Jeju Shinhwa World Marriott Resort South Korea.  Trip Advisor Rating: 5.0.

At first I was excited by the fact that there was an all-inclusive property in the list.  Unfortunately, the Sheraton Bijao Beach Resort in Panama gets poor reviews.  Next I was excited by the 5.0 rating given to the Jeju Shinhwa World Marriott Resort in South Korea until I skimmed recent reviews.  Some reviews were poor.  Most liked the resort, but not the location.

Ultimately, the only properties on this list that really look exciting to me are the Park Tower Luxury Collection Hotel in Buenos Aires and the St. Regis Kuala Lumpur.  Unfortunately, while they’re probably great hotels, both showed up as costing just a bit over $200 on a few dates I tried.  That means that the value you’ll get from your 35K certificates vs paying cash is limited.

Park Tower Luxury Collection Hotel in Buenos Aires

50K Certificates (Category 6 Hotels)

Ultra-Premium Marriott branded credit cards (Bonvoy Brilliant and Ritz Carlton) give you a certificate each year that’s good for one night at any Bonvoy hotel costing 50,000 points or less.  This means that the highest award priced hotels you can book are category 6 at standard or off-peak pricing, or category 7 off-peak.

In this section we’ll look at the hotels that will be dropping down to category 6.  Note that this is useful also for those with 40K free night certificates (which you can get as a Choice Benefit when you reach 75 nights within a year) since category 6 hotels cost 40,000 points off-peak.

New to Category 6, in the United States:

  • W Washington D.C.  Trip Advisor Rating: 4.5.

Yep, there’s only one hotel in all of the United States that dropped from category 7 to 6.

New to Category 6, outside the United States:

  • Sheraton Addis, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Addis Ababa Ethiopia.  Trip Advisor Rating: 4.5.
  • ITC Grand Bharat, a Luxury Collection Retreat, Gurgaon, New Delhi Capital Region India.  Trip Advisor Rating: 4.5.
  • The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina United Arab Emirates.  Trip Advisor Rating: 4.5.
  • Le Méridien Ile des Pins New Caledonia.  Trip Advisor Rating: 4.5.
  • The Ritz-Carlton, Perth Australia.  Trip Advisor Rating: 4.0.
  • Castillo Hotel Son Vida, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Mallorca Spain.  Trip Advisor Rating: 4.5.
  • JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach Singapore.  Trip Advisor Rating: 4.5.
  • The St. Regis Singapore.  Trip Advisor Rating: 4.5.

This is a nice collection of hotels to use your 50K certificates with.  To me, the most appealing is the Castillo Hotel Son Vida Luxury Collection Hotel in Mallorca Spain.

Castillo Hotel Son Vida, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Mallorca Spain. This hotel will drop from category 7 to 6.

50K Certificates (Category 7 Off-Peak)

The 50K certificates that come with the Bonvoy Brilliant and Ritz Carlton cards can be used at category 7 hotels during off-peak pricing.  So, let’s look at the hotels that will drop from category 8 to 7 to see which ones we’ll have off-peak access to…

New to Category 7, in the United States:

  • W Aspen (Colorado).  Trip Advisor Rating: 4.5.

New to Category 7, outside the United States:

  • W Hong Kong.  Trip Advisor Rating: 5.0.
  • Cristallo, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Cortina d’Ampezzo Italy.  Trip Advisor Rating: 4.5.
  • Hotel President Wilson, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Geneva Switzerland.  Trip Advisor Rating: 4.5.

All of these look great to me.  I took a look at the current award pricing of some of these to see how often these hotels are currently available off-peak.  The W Aspen was only available off-peak in the shoulder seasons (Spring and Fall), but the Cristallo, in Italy, was often off-peak, even in the middle of the summer (70K is off-peak while the hotel is still category 8):

There’s no guarantee that these hotels will still have as much off-peak pricing once they drop a category, but at least the current results are hopeful.  I don’t know about you, but I think that the Cristallo Luxury Collection Resort & Spa in Cortina d’Ampezzo Italy looks awesome.  Here are a couple of pics from their website:

Cristallo, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Cortina d’Ampezzo Italy. Currently category 8, but soon to be a category 7 hotel.
Cristallo, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Cortina d’Ampezzo Italy. View from a Junior Suite balcony.

Bottom Line

I had hoped to find more, but the truth is that there isn’t much to look forward to in Marriott’s March 2020 category changes.  But there are a few nuggets:

  • Those with 35K certificates planning to visit San Diego will find three excellent new choices.
  • Those with 35K certificates planning to visit Buenos Aires may like using the certs at the Park Tower Luxury Collection; and those planning to visit Kuala Lumpur may like the new ability to use the certs at the St. Regis.
  • Those with 50K certificates have several interesting new category 6 options (unfortunately 94 other properties will go up from category 6 to 7).
  • And those with 50K certificates may find off-peak opportunities at one of the four category 8 properties that will drop to category 7.  Personally I find the Luxury Collection hotel in Italy the most appealing, but I expect that the others are good too.

Hat Tip: Thanks to Gary at View from the Wing for providing a downloadable spreadsheet of hotel changes (here)

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