Fall 2017 hotel promotions: Starwood Preferred Guest

With autumn's arrival, it's time for new hotel promotions. As usual, the major chains are offering incentives to lure you to their properties during your fall travels. None of these offers are particularly innovative but they can offer a solid return on your hotel spend. In a series of four posts, I will cover the promotions from Hilton, Starwood, Marriott and IHG. In today's second entry in the series, I discuss Starwood Preferred Guest's "Explore More."

Fall 2017 hotel promotions

The Offer

Earn up to 1,000 bonus Starpoints® per stay this fall at Starwood properties (click to enlarge)

"Explore More" offers up to 1,000 bonus Starpoints® per stay during the promotion period. If you stay 25 nights during that period, you will receive 10,000 additional Starpoints®. From the promotion email:

Between September 12, 2017, and January 15, 2018, you’ll earn at participating SPG hotels:
•    1,000 bonus Starpoints® per stay at St. Regis®, The Luxury Collection®, W®, Le Méridien®, Westin®, Sheraton®, Tribute Portfolio™ and Design Hotels™
•    500 bonus Starpoints per stay at Aloft®, ElementSM and Four Points®
•    10,000 bonus Starpoints when you stay 25 or more nights

Per the terms and conditions, you "must register online at spg.com/exploremore by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time (ET), November 30, 2017." Bonus Starpoints® will then be "earned on eligible stays from September 12, 2017, through January 15, 2018" at participating properties.

Stays matter more than nights for most guests

Before I offer my thoughts on "Explore More," let me say that Starpoints® are the most valuable hotel points currency available. This is largely due to the ability to transfer points to partner airline frequent flyer programs. I never scoff at a chance to accrue these points, but will I be taking advantage of Starwood's promotion this fall? That depends on return on spend. Let's take a look.

If you complete 25 single night stays, you would receive a total of 35,000 bonus points. That's a sizable bonus and more than the current sign-up offer for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. However, 25 nights is a lot for people who are not road warriors. While I typically travel more in the fall than other seasons, 25 nights won't happen for me, so I will focus on the per-stay bonus in assessing the promotion's value.

The per-stay part is key and that brings into play how long you typically stay at a property. For example, say you stay 10 nights throughout the fall at Sheraton hotels. If these stays are achieved with three stays, with "Explore More," you would earn 3,000 bonus Starpoints® (3 stays x 1,000 Starpoints®). However, the same ten nights, if completed with five stays, you would earn 5,000 bonus Starpoints®. You can clearly see, unless you can qualify for the 25-night kicker, the number of stays trumps your number of nights.

Is this an attractive promotion?

To determine the attractiveness of “Explore More”, we have to consider return on spend which requires knowing how much you actually spend for your stays. Let's assume a rate of $200 per night which comes to $2,000 for 10 nights. Under the three-stay scenario, the 3,000 Starpoints®, using a value of $0.027/point, would be worth $81 for a 4.05% return on spend. That's not bad, though it trails the 6% return on Hilton's fall promotion. In the five-stay scenario, the 5,000 points would be worth $135 so the return would increase to 6.75%. If the nightly rate were $150, the ten night cost would decrease to $1,500 and the return on each scenario would improve to 5.4% and 9%, respectively. In this case both scenarios would meet or exceed the Hilton promotion. Of course, if you stay at a property that offers 500 Starpoints® per stay, all of the returns above would be cut in half. In general, the shorter your stays and the lower your nightly rate, the higher your return.

If considering Starwood versus Hilton, it not possible to offer a single number of nights or nightly rate that would make "Explore More" the more attractive promotion because both of these variables ultimately determine the return on spend. You would need to make the quick calculation for your situation to decide. If the bonus is your sole or primary consideration, when return from "Explore More" exceeds 6.0%, you should lean toward SPG. For me personally, given my relatively short stays and my tendency to make reasonable concessions to achieve the lowest nightly rate, I consider "Explore More" to be an attractive promotion. I will certainly stay at Starwood properties where feasible to take advantage of the company's "Explore More" promotion!