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I love the Starwood Preferred Guest program. The points are valuable, the mid-range redemptions are a tremendous value, they have a bunch of great properties, and with the no blackout dates policy it is usually pretty easy to get a “standard” room for points as long as it is also for sale for cash. Technically the terms and conditions state that:
3.2 Rooms at SPG Participating Hotels. An SPG Member may redeem Starpoints for single or double occupancy rooms at SPG Participating Hotels including, without limitation, for Free Night Awards.
In the US, many “double occupancy rooms” that are available for award bookings will actually legally hold four people. Outside of the US, rooms are smaller, and many of the double occupancy rooms at some properties only hold 2, or at best 3 people (if one is a child). That stinks for families, but because of old buildings, limited space, and fire code regulations, it is what it is. These standard rooms outside the US just often can’t hold a whole family.
However, traditionally the standard rooms available for award redemption could hold at least two people. It’s obviously fine to have single rooms in your inventory, but those are smaller than average, and not standard (in my book). I don’t read the terms that state members may redeem for single or double occupancy rooms to mean that properties can make only single occupancy rooms available for award redemptions when they have double occupancy rooms in their inventory. To me, it means that a member can choose to redeem for a single or double occupancy room. However, making only single occupancy rooms available for redemption is exactly what has started to happen at a couple of SPG properties in The Netherlands.
The Hotel Pulitzer in Amsterdam and the Hotel Des Indes both quietly started offering only single occupancy rooms for award redemptions around December of 2013. Both of these are older and historic hotels with some small rooms that are only rated for one person. For example, the classic room at the Hotel Pulitzer starts at just 161 square feet – that is clearly very small. The “deluxe” rooms start at 194 square feet and are rated double occupancy. These rooms typically sell for about 10 Euros more than the classic rooms, which is clearly not a big financial difference. They used to be available for award redemptions as a double occupancy option, but now you must pay extra points or cash to secure these “non standard” rooms. They are no longer available for a standard points redemption. Your only choice for the basic rate of 16,000 points per night is the single occupancy classic room.
As a family traveler who loves SPG points, I think this is a totally unacceptable reading of the terms. Honestly I don’t really care if two historic hotels in The Netherlands want to be a bit stingy with rooms, but I do care that the SPG program believes this is an acceptable interpretation of the rules. It is a slippery slope, and if a larger number of SPG Hotels decided to make only their single occupancy rooms available as standard rooms for point redemptions, then that would be a huge hit to the program for those who travel outside the US. Traveling solo can be fun, but honestly how many people save up their SPG points to take vacations by themselves? Probably not a huge percentage of SPG customers.
Thus far there is no reason to panic or get overly upset, but I do think there is a reason to let SPG know this is a problem. I imagine there are a good number of beautiful older and historic SPG properties around the world that have single occupancy rooms in their inventory. I would hate to see more of them decide to only offer those rooms as standard point redemptions. I can’t imagine that is what SPG had in mind for their members who save up points to use on vacation, and I hope the situation either improves, or at least doesn’t spread beyond these two hotels.
You can read more about this development and some “official” statements from SPG on this Flyertalk thread.