Marriott has announced their full list of annual category changes for 2020, which will take effect for bookings made from 4 March 2020.
All in all, 29% of all properties will change categories. Of these, 7% of will decrease in price while 22% will increase. As a reminder, here’s Marriott’s current award chart:
|1||5,000 (-33%)||7,500||10,000 (+33%)|
|2||10,000 (-20%)||12,500||15,000 (+20%)|
|3||15,000 (-14%)||17,500||20,000 (+14%)|
|4||20,000 (-20%)||25,000||30,000 (+20%)|
|5||30,000 (-14%)||35,000||40,000 (+14%)|
|6||40,000 (-20%)||50,000||60,000 (+20%)|
|7||50,000 (-17%)||60,000||70,000 (+17%)|
|8||70,000 (-18%)||85,000||100,000 (+18%)|
It’s surprising that so many hotels are changing categories this year (during 2019’s category changes, only 6% of properties were affected), because Marriott’s introduction of peak pricing should have reduced the need for annual adjustments- the rationale being that properties can simply designate high occupancy dates as peak instead of moving categories altogether.
How can you avoid the price increases?
If your property is going up a category, you’ll be able to lock in the current price if you make a booking before 4 March 2020. However, any changes to the reservation (e.g date changes) made on/after 4 March 2020 will attract the new prices.
If your property is going down a category, then you can request a refund of the difference in points on/after 4 March 2020.
Remember: this has nothing to do with when you stay, this has all to do with when you book.
My take on the category changes
Although most of the US bloggers seem to be overwhelmingly negative about 2020’s category changes (and with 3 properties increasing for every 1 decreasing, it’s easy to see why), the impact on travellers within South East Asia is likely to be minimal, even good in some cases.
In Singapore, for example, the only changes are that two properties are moving down a category. The JW Marriott South Beach and the St Regis Singapore move from Cat 7 to Cat 6.
Elsewhere in the region, the changes are predominantly positive.
- Fairfield by Marriott Bali Legian (3→2)
- Four Points by Sheraton Bali, Ungasan (4→2)
- Bangkok Marriott Hotel The Surawongse (4→5)
- Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Towers (3→4)
Ho Chi Minh City
- Le Meridien Saigon (3→4)
- Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers (4→5)
- Aloft Jakarta Wahid Hasyim (2→1)
- Four Points by Sheraton Jakarta, Thamrin (2→1)
- JW Marriott Hotel Jakarta (4→3)
- Keraton at The Plaza, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Jakarta (6→5)
- Le Méridien Jakarta (4→3)
- Sheraton Grand Jakarta Gandaria City Hotel (4→3)
- The Hermitage, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, Jakarta (4→3)
- The Westin Jakarta (5→4)
- Hotel Stripes Kuala Lumpur, Autograph Collection (3→2)
- The St. Regis Kuala Lumpur (6→5)
- Phuket Marriott Resort and Spa, Nai Yang Beach (5→6)
- Renaissance Phuket Resort & Spa (5→6)
Other popular destinations for Singaporean travelers are mostly seeing price decreases too.
- Courtyard Hong Kong Sha Tin (2→3)
- W Hong Kong (8→7)
- Moxy Osaka Honmachi (5→4)
- The Ritz-Carlton, Perth (7→6)
- The Westin Perth (5→4)
- Four Points by Sheraton Seoul, Gangnam (3→4)
- Courtyard Taipei (3→4)
- Courtyard Taipei Downtown (3→4)
- Sheraton Grand Taipei Hotel (5→4)
- Taipei Marriott Hotel (5→4)
- Courtyard Tokyo Station (5→6)
- Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay Hotel (6→7)
- Sheraton Miyako Hotel Tokyo (6→5)
- The Westin Tokyo (6→7)
The majority of category changes (1,548 to be precise) are at properties in the United States, which may explain the angst from the blogging community there.
New policy on award inventory controls
Also announced was a change in policy regarding award inventory controls. To understand this, you first need to understand how things worked when Marriott and Starwood were separate entities:
- With Starwood brands, so long as there was a standard room available for sale, that room had to be offered for points redemptions
- With Marriott brands, hotels were allowed to restrict award redemptions to a subset of standard rooms during peak periods
The Starwood model is obviously a lot more customer-friendly, but with the merger there’s probably been some pressure from property owners to have uniformity across the entire Marriott brand. Therefore, former Starwood brands will now be allowed to declare up to 10 nights a year to be “high demand dates”, and limit award space accordingly.
In practice, I can’t say how much this will affect things for you. 10 out of 365 days isn’t a lot, but if your luck is rotten your stay may coincide with such a period (assuming the property chooses to adopt this policy at all, which isn’t a given). If you were always staying at Marriott brands, you won’t notice a difference, but if you’re still a Starwood holdout, you might see some periods with reduced award night space.
For a more comprehensive summary of this subject, have a read of Gary Leff’s post on View From The Wing.
If you intend to stay at Marriott properties for your upcoming travels, be sure to check the list to see what (if anything) is happening to your hotel. If it’s going up in price, lock it in before 4 March 2020. If it’s going down, request a refund of the difference on/after 4 March 2020.
With regards to award inventory controls, we’ll have to wait and see what happens in practice. This is really the kind of thing you’ll get a sense of (it feels like it’s harder to redeem my points now) rather than being able to prove objectively.