Stronger economy means more points to get a free hotel room

Here’s another sign that the economy is stronger: Several major hotel chains are significantly raising the number of loyalty reward points needed to book a free room.

It’s a simple matter of supply and demand, said Joe Brancatelli, who writes an online column on business travel. An improving economy has spurred more travel, prompting hotels to raise rates.

“Demand is up so they can charge more,” he said of hotels that are adjusting their reward points.

Most of the hotel chains are adopting the point hikes by shifting hotels to a higher tier in the program. Each tier designates how many points are needed to stay in that hotel. The higher the tier, the more points needed.

For example, Starwood Preferred Guests, the program for the Westin, Sheraton and W hotels, among others, raised the rate by at least 25% on nearly 250 hotels. The changes took place March 5.
Wyndham Rewards, which includes Days Inn and Howard Johnson, is raising the points by as much as 66% on about 1,600 hotels around the world. At an additional 2,900 or so, hotels the rates are dropping and are staying the same at about 2,700 hotels. The changes take place March 14.
Hilton Hhonors, which covers Hampton, DoubleTree, Embassy Suites and Waldorf Astoria, among others, is hiking the points on many of its hotels by 14% to 50%. The changes start March 28.

The Marriott’s Reward program, which includes Fairfield, Courtyard, Ritz-Carlton and Townplace Suites, will raise the point requirement by at least 33% for more than 1,300 of its hotels. The program also created a new higher tier for its most expensive hotels. The changes take effect May 16.

Laurie Goldstein, a spokeswoman for Marriott, said hotels typically reevaluate their rewards program each year. “We make these changes every year based on market demand,” she said.
But Brancatelli says the latest changes are not typical. “Individually and taken together, the changes this year are really draconian,” he said.


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