Marriott quietly suspends category changes at mainland China hotels

Mar 13, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

The rapid spread of a novel coronavirus that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan has caused demand for travel to evaporate at an unprecedented rate. Airlines have canceled flights and grounded hundreds of planes worldwide, and travel providers are grappling with ways to keep their loyal customers coming back in these difficult times.

Related: Visit this page for TPG’s full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

One popular strategy so far has been for airlines and hotel chains to extend the elite status of customers who might not be able to travel as much this year, but Marriott Bonvoy has gone one step farther with a decision that will benefit all members, regardless of elite status. Marriott’s annual category changes were scheduled to go into effect on March 4, 2020, and this year was an especially brutal change with a whopping 22% of Marriott’s global portfolio moving up a category.

It now appears that Marriott has suspended category increases for properties in mainland China, though hotels that were slated to move down a category are now bookable at these cheaper prices.

One property that I had my eye on was the St. Regis Sanya Yalong Bay resort in Hainan, a stunning hotel that was supposed to move up from Category 6 to Category 7 on March 4. When you search for hotels in Hainan on the Marriott website, you’ll see the St. Regis is still listed as a Category 6 hotel. The property is currently available at off-peak rates, meaning you can book a free night here for only 40,000 points instead of the 50,000 that would be required for a standard award.

Related: Maximizing Marriott Bonvoy points

The same is true at the W Xi’an, a vibrant and psychedelic hotel that might be the most extreme iteration of the W brand I’ve ever stayed at. The property was supposed to move up to Category 5 during the recent round of category changes, but it’s still bookable as a Category 4 hotel:

The category changes weren’t suspended entirely though, as properties in China that were slated to move down a category are now bookable at these cheaper rates. The Westin Xi’an was a solid hotel with a decent location, and I loved using my Marriott Suite Night Awards here to upgrade to a three-bedroom duplex suite. The hotel was a Category 4 when I stayed there last summer, but as of March 4 it dropped as scheduled to a Category 3.

Related: How to choose the best Marriott credit card for you

Bottom line

The coronavirus has reshaped the travel landscape, and it will take a long time for demand to recover to previous highs. In the meantime, it’s nice to see companies doing what they can to take care of their loyal customers with low prices and attractive deals.

Featured photo of the JW Marriott Shanghai courtesy of the hotel.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
0% on purchases for 12 months
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.