Author Archives: Andy Shuman

Marriott Category Changes 2021 Are 2 Days Away — Any Real Values?

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Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre

The short answer is “yes, but” … First, here is the link:

Marriott Category Changes 2021

Our annual hotel category changes will take effect March 3, 2021. Review the list of changes below and decide how to maximize your points. If your favorite hotel is moving to a higher category, you can save points by booking at the current redemption rate before the changes go into effect. If it’s moving to a lower category, you might want to wait until the changes are made.

I’ve done a lot of digging around Marriott over the years. And I don’t remember a single year when Marriott’s “changes” wouldn’t mean a considerable devaluation. Well, I think there was one year when they rolled back some of the devaluating excesses of the preceding year, but that was it, I think.

The Marriott Category Changes 2021 are a bit different. They don’t totally suck. However, that doesn’t say much in the middle of the pandemic when most hotel rooms are sitting empty anyway. If anything, all redemptions should’ve been drastically slashed, but oh well!

Thank you for not going Delta on us, I guess.

Hotel Category Off Peak Standard Peak
1 5,000 7,500 10,000
2 10,000 12,500 15,000
3 15,000 17,500 20,000
4 20,000 25,000 30,000
5 30,000 35,000 40,000
6 40,000 50,000 60,000
7 50,000 60,000 70,000
8 70,000 85,000 100,000

It’s not always a good idea to use points, even in a low-category hotel

Keep a few things in mind.

1. Just like with most other hotel programs, you can benefit the most if you use your points at the cheapest or most expensive properties, but it’s not always the case.

2. I value Marriott points at 0.7-0.8 cents each, but your valuation may differ.

3. Always add taxes and resort fees to the cash price to look at the whole picture. You don’t usually pay taxes on an award stay, but you normally pay resort fees.

4. Consider the length of stay. With Marriott points you get the 5th night free!

5. I’ve done very cursory price checks, and some hotels that are going down in a category still don’t seem like a good deal, so I left them out. But things and prices can change on a whim, so do your own research. Hotels like Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort, JW Marriott Muscat, and others can all of a sudden become a great deal if their cash rates go up (and if you’re staying 5 nights).

6. If you have a choice of Marriott brand hotels in the area where you want to stay, the following Marriott brands offer free breakfast to everyone:

  • Residence Inn
  • Fairfield Inn and Suites
  • SpringHill Suites
  • TownePlace Suites (have kitchen facilities, too)
  • Element by Westin (SPG)

But Neither Courtyard by Marriott nor other SPG and Marriott brands that don’t list breakfast as a standard amenity provide free breakfast to anyone below Platinum elites.

Marriott Categories going up

Total: 51

  • 1->2: 7
  • 2->3: 12
  • 3->4: 12
  • 4->5: 10
  • 5->6: 6
  • 6->7: 3
  • 7->8: 1

Marriott Categories going down

Total: 150

  • 2->1: 9
  • 3->2: 37
  • 4->3: 68
  • 5->4: 23
  • 6->5: 11
  • 7->6: 2

So, 75% of the hotels are going down, while 25% are going up. The numbers are good, but we know it’s not just about the numbers, it’s about whether or not you want to go there in the first place.

Note: I’m mostly an international traveler, so I’m not that familiar with U.S. touristy locations. Here are some that stand out to me (in terms of location and relatively high cash rates).

Marriott Category Changes 2021

Canada

The Sheraton Vancouver is a great place to stay in Vancouver. I read good things about it when I did some research for a trip that never happened. Can’t say much about Fairfield Montreal, but the location seems central to me.

Fairfield by Marriott Montreal Downtown

 

Marriott Category Changes 2021 — Europe

United Kingdom (perhaps the best value for your points)

York was founded by Romans and it’s one of the most visited cities in the UK. It might also be one of the best uses of your Marriott points (depending on a cash price, of course). 15,000 to 20,000 points.

Moxy York

Germany

Berlin is my most favorite German city followed closely by Hamburg. OK, maybe that’s because these are the only two German cities I’ve been to, but, seriously, Hamburg is fantastic and totally worth a visit. I remember our Hamburg guide who couldn’t hide his disappointment as to why his city doesn’t have a “touristy” reputation. I totally share that sentiment. 15,000 to 20,000 points.

Latvia

Riga is a gorgeous medieval city with a lovingly-restored pedestrian Old Town (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and numerous Art Nouveau buildings, and churches. I remember Riga from its Soviet past, and it was beautiful then. I’ll bet it’s better now. 10,000 to 15,000 points.

AC Hotel Riga: the view from the 11th floor lounge

Poland

So, it’s Warsaw, not Prague. The artsy Praga neighborhood is located across the Vistula river from the Royal Castle and Copernicus museum. 10,000 to 15,000 points.

 

Belgium

Remember In Bruges where that sentimental mob boss sent Colin Farrell for a few days so he could enjoy that stunning city before he’d be offed by Brendan Gleeson? Well,  I’ve found that Ghent rivals Bruges in quite a few travelers lists and reviews. 15,000 to 20,000 points.

Turkey

A 5-star hotel in a central Istanbul location. 15,000 to 20,000 points.

Sheraton Istanbul City Center

Marriott Category Changes 2021 — Asia

Bali, Indonesia

I’m totally fascinated with Bali. Not for the beaches, because let’s face it, the beaches on Bali are not the best. But everything else — the culture, the nature, the history — is magnificent. And well, the beaches are there, too.

STHALA, A TRIBUTE PORTFOLIO HOTEL, UBUD BALI

The new category changes are 100% positive for Bali.

The two hotels in Ubud going down in category is especially nice because Ubud hotels tend to be slightly pricier than in other towns on the island, but Bali, sans some uber-luxurious properties, is quite cheap in general.

China

China will see over 10% of all Marriott Category Changes on March 3, but I’ve never been to China, and never heard of most of the cities where the changes will take place. Shanghai, however, sounds familiar. 🙂

Shanghai Marriott Hotel Pudong South


Japan

12 Marriott hotels in Japan will change their categories this year. 11 of them are going down, while only one (you guess it) Mesm Tokyo will go up. I have no idea about most of the cities where the changes will take place, but for Osaka, Kyoto, or Sapporo, 15,000-20,000 points a night is a great value, IMHO.

Moxy Osaka Shin Umeda

Malaysia

Three Marriott hotels are going down in Malaysia: one in Kuala Lumpur and two in Penang. Both cities offer a lot to see, but hotels in Malaysia are not expensive anyway, so do your math.

COURTYARD PENANG

Korea

Seoul is normally pricey. And this Moxy is in the heart of Seoul. 15,000 to 20,000 points.

To recap

You rarely stay at a hotel because of the hotel. I mean, there are destination hotels where you go just for the experience, but  the most important factor is the location. Most hotels that are going down in a category are Fairfield, Moxy, and Courtyard brands, not the Marriott’s luxury brands, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have a great experience. I value Marriott points at 0.7-0.8 each, but it’s not a religion. In fact, a point is worth what it’s worth to you. Still, when you consider whether to pay points, cash, or points plus cash, always count taxes and check if you would have to pay resort fees on award stays (you normally do, but it doesn’t hurt to double-check). And remember to count that 5th night, which is free on points — that can be a huge game-changer.

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