You aren't going to believe this sports fans, but Starwood just announced that they are 1) REDUCING points required for stays 2) downgraded the categories on many of their top properties and 3) instituted a true No Blackout days policy, which states that if a room is available for payment, it's available for points redemption.
These changes appear to be a direct assault on Marriott's recent changes and in the case of No Blackout dates, a demonstration of what the true meaning of a No Blackout policy is.
Search Google on the following URL and you will see how ecstatic Starwood members are as the program is actually placing points back into members accounts for stays already booked using points.
Thanks for the tip. I'm impressed, the Starwood Starpoint program offers several pleasant surprises. One feature I really like is the option to 'Book with Cash and Points.'
For example, you can book a room at the Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside Hotel on Market Street downtown overlooking the harbor for a mere $60 plus 4000 points. This is a much better deal than the Fairfield Inn Portsmouth Seacoast for $89 or 15,000 points located 2 miles from downtown on a backroad with no view.
One major setback is that Starwood properties are limited. The closest hotel to Newport, Rhode Island is 38 miles away in Providence. Similarly, Starwood lacks a presence in Lake Placid, NY, the Adirondack town that hosted the Winter Olympics in 1932 and 1980. The closest location is 40+ miles in Burlington, VT. This is not exactly a show-stopper, Starwood and Starpoints has my attention.
Of interest is the relative size of Starwood versus Marriott: Their web site ways that Starwood's hotel portfolio includes about 900 owned, leased, managed and franchised hotels comprising 275,000 rooms. While their brands are as diverse as Marriott their precence is much smaller.
So, consider that when making other comparisons since the place you want to stay might have several Marriott choices and no Starwood choices from which to choose.
I've stated before on this site that Starwood produced a pleasant experience to the traveler. I believe we can be appreciative of competing properties without dissing Marriott. It seems that any time someone suggests a competitor has a leg up in one regard, some insiders feel the need to attack that company on a totally different issue. I truly don't get it. Bottom line: I have primary choices in hotels (Marriott) airways (American) auto rental (avis) etc., but that doesnt mean that 1. I don't deviate from those primary choices when a specific property, deal, or past experience directs me toward a different choice. 2. I don't freely recognize that competitors of my primary choices also run good operations and may do something specific better. 3. experiencing the competition once in a while exposes one to whats out there.