Hotels

Do you have a gameplan for Marriott’s upcoming August bonanza?

Some of Starwood's most expensive properties will be up for grabs for much less once they move to Marriott in August. Are you ready?

A couple days ago, Marriott announced the new categories that will be used in the combined SPG/Marriott Rewards program from August 2018. It’s probably an understatement to say that I (plus everyone else in the miles and points world) am excited beyond all reason at some of the (limited time) opportunities that have been created by this re-categorization.

Ads

As a reminder, here’s the chart that will take effect from August 2018 (Marriott hasn’t actually said when in August). Remember that the chart below is based on points in the new program. Existing SPG points will be multiplied by 3 in the new program, Marriott Rewards points will be transferred at a 1:1 ratio.

Category 8 and peak pricing will only be introduced from 2019. That means that between August 2018 and the end of this year, the most expensive property in the Marriott/Starwood collection will cost 60,000 points (20,000 SPG points) a night.

SPG’s collection of uberluxe properties. The prices here reflect a 35% discount for a promotion. Check out those regular prices!

Considering that Starwood’s top properties currently cost up to 90,000 SPG points a night, this is simply insane. I doubt we will ever see another opportunity like this, and it’s no wonder everyone’s licking their lips in anticipation of August

Somebody gonna get hurt real bad

Image result for st regis maldives
St Regis Maldives, which me and everyone else will be trying to book

Let’s be honest. August is going to be a blood bath. Members in the US, accounts flush with points from easy credit card bonuses and MS, will be jumping on the chance to get bucket list properties like the St Regis Maldives (~US$3,000 a night) for 20,000 SPG points (US$455 when you buy points under the current SPG points sale). I predict a riot, with phone lines jammed, websites down and the National Guard mobilized.

Keep in mind that Marriott Rewards actually allows members to make speculative bookings even if they don’t currently have sufficient points to pay for it– they simply need to fund the account with the requisite points at least one or two weeks (I forget which) before the stay. I’m not sure if this policy will carry over into the new program but if it does, well…

This means that when it goes all Mad Max Fury Road in August, you need to be prepared. Nothing could be worse than finally getting through to the CSO, finding your preferred date isn’t available and hemming and hawing about having to check with your travel companions whether they can do different dates and calling back.

Forget it. You need Plan A, Plan B, Plan C and quite likely Plan Z all lined up neatly in a spreadsheet, complete with dates and locations, ready to feed to the CSO (in the old Starwood program the top tier categories couldn’t be booked online; you’d have to call/chat with Customer service. I’m not sure if that quirk will carry over).

What’s my strategy?

Ads

I have accumulated ~250,000 SPG points to date, a combination of points purchases and five years of business travel. I will coerce The Milelioness to purchase a further 30,000 in the current SPG points sale. This gives me ~280,000 SPG points (840,000 new program points) to work with.

Here’s the list of properties that will be in the new Category 8 bucket from January 2019 (or Category 7 from August till the end of 2018). These are the ones that you should be trying to book between August and December 2018 (you can book rooms 350 days in advance).

HOTELCOUNTRYCURRENTNEW (TILL END 2018)DIFFNightly Rate
The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli ResortMaldives9000060000-300003400
Phoenician Residences, a Luxury Collection Residence Club, ScottsdaleUSA9000060000-300001676
Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, DubaiUnited Arab Emirates9000060000-300001633
The St. Regis Deer ValleyUSA9000060000-300001621
The St. Regis Aspen ResortUSA9000060000-300001567
The Canyon Suites at The Phoenician, a Luxury Collection Resort, ScottsdaleUSA9000060000-300001509
The St. Regis Bal Harbour ResortUSA9000060000-300001177
Suiran, a Luxury Collection Hotel, KyotoJapan9000060000-300001172
Hôtel de Berri, a Luxury Collection Hotel, ParisFrance9000060000-300001047
The St. Regis Bora Bora ResortFrench Polynesia9000060000-300001010
Prince de Galles, a Luxury Collection Hotel, ParisFrance9000060000-300001000
The St. Regis Punta Mita ResortMexico9000060000-30000980
The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Puerto RicoPuerto Rico9000060000-30000953
W MaldivesMaldives9000060000-30000906
The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor GulchUSA7000060000-10000887
The St. Regis OsakaJapan9000060000-30000861
Hotel Pitrizza, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Costa SmeraldaItaly9000060000-30000847
The St. Regis New YorkUSA9000060000-30000844
W South BeachUSA9000060000-30000828
W Koh SamuiThailand9000060000-30000812
Hotel Romazzino, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Costa SmeraldaItaly9000060000-30000792
The Ritz-Carlton, KyotoJapan7000060000-10000779
Gramercy Park Hotel, New York, a Member of Design Hotels™USA9000060000-30000748
The St. Regis FlorenceItaly9000060000-30000742
The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central ParkUSA7000060000-10000740
The Chatwal, a Luxury Collection Hotel, New York CityUSA9000060000-30000725
The St. Regis RomeItaly60000600000712
W VerbierSwitzerland9000060000-30000711
The Ritz-Carlton, Hong KongChina7000060000-10000676
Mystique, A Luxury Collection Resort, SantoriniGreece9000060000-30000648
The St. Regis Princeville ResortUSA9000060000-30000647
The Ritz-Carlton, Grand CaymanCayman Islands7000060000-10000646
The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour, MiamiUSA7000060000-10000608
Kenoa Exclusive Beach Spa & Resort, Barra de Sao Miguel, a Member of Design HotelsBrazil9000060000-30000579
Vana Belle, a Luxury Collection Resort, Koh SamuiThailand9000060000-30000553
The Ritz-Carlton, TokyoJapan7000060000-10000532
Domes of Elounda, Autograph CollectionGreece450006000015000525
The St. Regis Bali ResortIndonesia9000060000-30000520
Santa Marina, a Luxury Collection Resort, MykonosGreece9000060000-30000511
G-Rough, Rome, a Member of Design HotelsItaly9000060000-30000492
Blue Palace, a Luxury Collection Resort and Spa, CreteGreece60000600000483
The Westin Golf Resort & Spa, Playa ConchalCosta Rica9000060000-30000474
The Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho, a Luxury Collection HotelJapan9000060000-30000451
Le Méridien Bora BoraFrench Polynesia9000060000-30000450
The Gritti Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel, VeniceItaly9000060000-30000445
Giardino Ascona, A Member Of Design HotelsSwitzerland9000060000-30000441
The Ritz-Carlton, Lake TahoeUSA7000060000-10000440
Hotel Danieli, a Luxury Collection Hotel, VeniceItaly9000060000-30000391
The Wellesley Knightsbridge, a Luxury Collection Hotel, LondonUnited Kingdom9000060000-30000390
Cristallo, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Cortina d'AmpezzoItaly9000060000-30000383
The Ritz-Carlton, NaplesUSA7000060000-10000380
Hotel Cala di Volpe, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Costa SmeraldaItaly9000060000-30000379
PalazzinaG, Venice, a Member of Design HotelsItaly9000060000-30000376
The Miami Beach EDITIONUSA7000060000-10000367
Giardino Mountain, a Member of Design HotelsSwitzerland9000060000-30000359
Hotel President Wilson, a Luxury Collection Hotel, GenevaSwitzerland9000060000-30000353
The St. Regis Mardavall Mallorca ResortSpain9000060000-30000338
Schloss Fuschl, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Fuschlsee-SalzburgAustria9000060000-30000302
Sir Joan Hotel, Ibiza City, a Member of Design HotelsSpain9000060000-30000169
Parklane, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, LimassolCyprus9000060000-300000
The Ritz-Carlton, St. ThomasVirgin Islands (US)7000060000-100000

That’s a long list, even after removing places I don’t particularly fancy traveling to, so I’ve developed two heuristics to decide how to prioritize my targets.

Criteria 1: Hotels with completely unaffordable revenue room rates

I’ve added the room rates to the Category 8 hotels to give you a sense of where they stand. Fair warning- I took dates at random to get a snapshot view. I’m well aware that there may be peak seasons for some properties (eg winter at a ski resort) which could cause the prices to change dramatically, but I’m not about to do that kind of research. Use these numbers as a dipstick, nothing more.

Image result for blue palace crete
Blue Palace Crete

I could burn 20,000 SPG points on a room at the Blue Palace Crete, a property where rooms go at around US$500 a night. That would net me 2.5 cents per point, a completely respectable amount. But given the context, I’d be dumb to do so. US$500 is a lot, but with the Citibank Prestige card’s fourth night free offer, I could just about justify spending that amount of money for a special trip.

On the other hand, the St Regis Maldives is an eye-popping US$3,400 a night. Fourth night free or not, there’s no way I’m going to be able to spend that kind of dough. This goes back to our classic “value versus access” argument that I often cite when teaching people about miles. Sure, I could take my entire SPG stash and cash it out for many, many nights at the Four Points Bangkok (67 nights, to be exact), but I’d much rather use them to access an experience that I could never afford normally.

Image result for w maldives reef
W Maldives House Reef

The problem is, the “book the highest value hotel” approach may cause you to do some irrational things. I’m in the midst of planning my honeymoon to the Maldives now, and have been religiously researching the W Maldives vs the St Regis. From what I’ve read, the W Maldives seems to have a better beach and much, much nicer house reef, whereas the St Regis can overall be a bit hit and miss.

And yet, I feel obliged to go with the St Regis because the W is “only” US$906 a night. That’s still a buttload of money, and not something I could normally afford, but if the W is unaffordable, the St Regis is extra extra unaffordable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the St Regis will still be amazing, but if I’m honest I’d say I’m going more for the hype than the actual reviews.

Image result for vana belle koh samui
Vana Belle Koh Samui

You might be in this situation too if you’re eyeing a city that has multiple Category 8 hotels, like New York City, Miami, Paris, Bora Bora, Venice, Tokyo or Koh Samui. There are those who say “the best redemption is one that makes you happy” and to a certain extent I agree. For example, it would make very little sense to force yourself to pick the St Regis New York over the Gramercy Park Hotel, Ritz Carlton or Chatwal just because it’s more expensive if you genuinely prefer the location/style/reviews of the other properties.

Ads

But then again, those properties price within ~US$100 of each other. When the price difference is more than 3X, as is the case in the Maldives, well…

Criteria 2: The hotel should be in a place where I could see myself spending 5 nights

Image result for ritz carlton koh samui
Ritz Carlton Koh Samui

The combined program will retain the 5th night free policy that Starwood has on award stays. This means a 4 and 5 night stay cost the same. If I wanted to maximise this, I should be looking at a place I could see myself staying 5 nights without getting bored. You’re going to have to take this call based on your circumstances and what you value.

What’s next?

The first step is to analyze how many points you’ll have post August, when your Starwood points are multiplied by 3 and combined with whatever Marriott Rewards points you have. Decide whether you want to buy points in anticipation of the changes.

The second is to identify the properties you want to stay at, based on the rules above or whatever other criteria you’ve identified.

Third, I’d think of at least three sets of dates per property, based on when you can take leave. Here’s 2019’s public holiday schedule in case you need ideas. Remember that hotels can be booked 350 days in advance.

Fourth, just before the bookings go live in August, camp out on the site and on the chat/phone lines. Platinum members have access to live online chat, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to open a window for that as well just so you have an additional avenue of reaching someone.

Fifth, once the floodgates open, act fast! Assuming these awards can be booked online, I’d focus on locking in my “Plan A” online while giving “Plan B” to the CSO (no, not that Plan B) to search in the background. I’d probably also rope in at least one family member to search for Plan C etc online in a separate browser logged into my SPG account. Be sure to give them idiot-proof instructions and brief them properly! The more eyeballs you have looking for rooms, the better.

Will this work? Your guess is as good as mine. But the more you prepare, the more research you do now, the better placed you’ll be come August.

One final point- some people may want to try and beat the crowd by making a booking now, and getting the additional points refunded come August 2018. That can work, but the points will not be refunded automatically. This implies a risk- when you do rebook, you’ll need to cancel your original booking and there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to get it back, what with the positive deluge of people clamoring for rooms.

If you go down this path, my advice would be to rebook over the phone with a CSO, instead of handling it yourself online. It seems more conceivable that a CSO could do a points adjustment without having to return that room to inventory, versus doing it online where you’re for all intents and purposes cancelling your original booking, defeating the purpose of choping a room.

Ads

So, what’s your plan?

25
Leave a Reply

avatar
11 Comment threads
14 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
14 Comment authors
JKgl0betrekkaAaron WongGaryJaslyn Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
Notify of
Jon Lee
Member

busy days ahead

stacey
Guest
stacey

i’m sure other marriott loyalists like me find it irritating when you guys talk about the bonanza coming in august. it’s a bonanza only for SPG folks. for us marriott guys it’s a huge devaluation – we could stay at hotels like the park lane london and bristol vienna for 45K points a night … all gone down the tube

Kevin
Guest
Kevin

Hi, wanted to clarify something:
I am planning on buying enough SPG points to have 4 days +1 free in Cat 7 hotels,
I currently have 0, and was going to buy some using my flatmates account.

However I saw this :
A maximum of 30,000 Starpoints may be purchased or received as a gift into your account per calendar year.

Could you guys confirm that it is indeed not possible to buy/receive more than a total of 30K points? Meaning the Milelion, you would not be able to use Milelioness account to buy more for you either?

Kevin
Guest
Kevin

For clarification about the source: https://buy.points.com/marketing/spg/faq_page/buy/#/en-US first paragraph : How do I purchase Starwood Preferred Guest® StarpointsSM? To buy Starpoints for your Starwood Preferred Guest account, you must enter your account number at time of purchase. The recipient of a Starpoint purchase must be a member of Starwood Preferred Guest for a minimum of fourteen days before being able to purchase Starpoints for himself/herself. Your order can be charged to a valid Visa®, MasterCard, Discover, Diners Club, JCB or American Express credit card. Members may purchase a minimum of 500 Starpoints and then in any increment of 500. Purchased Starpoints… Read more »

freedom
Guest
freedom

What you can do is to gift each of your flat mates 30k Star points and 30 days later, transfer all points to you.

I have done it and bought myself a travel package this way.

Jason
Guest
Jason

noob question: Do I call SPG CSO or Marriott CSO to make the redemption?

ANA
Guest
ANA

Since St Regis Vommuli is an all-Suite/Villa resort, you might end up having to fork out more points per night than 60k tho right? Or is this just an SPG rule?

Gweegin
Guest

Any idea if we can redeem the points for a stay in 2019 at the reduced rate? I.e. I wanna stay at, say, W Maldives but can only travel in April 2019. Can I book this stay in August 2018 at 60k Starpoints?

gl0betrekka
Guest
gl0betrekka

Yeah. I also want to know this. It’s not entirely clear in the article Aaron.
Would be great if you could clarify.
Thanks

JK
Guest
JK

From what I understand from Aaron article and other bloggers, the answer to Gweegin is a Yes.

From Aug’18 to early 2019, you can book 20k spg points per night for stays 350 days in advance. Meaning April 2019 is possible and till somewhere mid July 2019 you can reserve, assuming you call the CSO on 1st Aug 2018.

So assuming till early 2019 the new category kicks off, we can essentially plan the whole 2019 stays using 20k spg points per night. Hope my understanding is correct.

Sumscion
Guest
Sumscion

Sorry I am a little confused. 90,000 Starpoints for St Regis Maldives now right? But in your table, it’s not indicated what currency? So I see 90,000 for this hotel, which will be 60,000. But is that SPG currency or Marriott currency? Not sure where the 20,000 figure is coming from?

Jaslyn
Guest
Jaslyn

Hi Aaron! Thanks for this article!

I’m a little confused as well, are we saying that we need 30K SPG points for one night at St. Regis Maldives? & for non all-suite properties it would be 20K SPG points a night? Adding on to the 5th night free policy, we will require 120K and 80K SPG points respectively for the two property types.

Appreciate the confirmation!

Best,
Jaslyn

Gary
Guest
Gary

oh no, the award tiers seem to have changed?! hardly any 30K difference? Have they rationalised?

https://points-redemption.marriott.com/category-change

JK
Guest
JK

hi Aaron, Can I confirm that no points will be deducted when we call up the CSO for resorts’ redemption from Aug onwards right? (apology as I have never done a resort redemption before, only a C+P or full P via online) If we have insufficient points at the point of calling, will they hold the booking till the unconfirmed 1-2 weeks before the actual dates for the points deduction? So a 5 nights stay in St Regis Maldives will cost us a cool 80,000 spg points am I right in terms of Maths? Will the CSO even allow us… Read more »

trackback

[…] on what’s available, you may well be disappointed. I’ve laid out in this article my gameplan for Category 8 properties, which you may find useful. There’s more to the world than just the […]

trackback

[…] 2018 when SPG and Marriott merged and a new, eight-tiered award chart was put into place. This created an amazing limited time redemption opportunity, because Category 8 and peak pricing only get introduced in […]