In Style + Design

The Only Two Hotel Loyalty Programs You Should Know About

Whether at home or aboard, travel is an opportunity to see new places, try new things, and perhaps even learn a bit about ourselves in the process. When we travel for work however, that opportunity can feel just like Groundhog Day. Yet, there is a way to bring back the fun.

Thanks to traveller demand, loyalty programs are now the latest battleground for hotels.

Although dining discounts and the occasional free night were once the best we could hope for, programs are now offering tangible rewards that travellers can actually achieve – from scenic helicopter flights to dinners at some of the hottest restaurants around the world.

Two names that are leading this loyalty programs revolution? Marriott Bonvoy and DISCOVERY. And here are three things to know about what’s happening within that space:

Rewards can now be redeemed for experiences

Hotel Loyalty Programs

Image: Marriott Hotels / supplied

Combining Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest into one super program, the newly re-launched Marriott Bonvoy allows guests to earn rewards points at more than 6,700 properties across 30 brands in 129 countries.

There are six loyalty tiers currently on offer: Member, Silver Elite, Gold Elite, Platinum Elite, Titanium Elite and Ambassador Elite. Though the upper tiers are a little out of reach for your average traveller, Platinum Elite offers many of the higher tier perks in just 50 nights.

Marriott Bonvoy Points can be redeemed for free nights, room upgrades and more. The higher your tier, the more bonus rewards you can receive. Plus, you don’t have to stay to earn points.

The real kicker, however, is the new Marriott Bonvoy Moments – an exclusive collection of 8,000 experiences across sports, entertainment, lifestyle and food.

High tea with Nigella Lawson, dinner with Australian chef Curtis Stone in L.A., F1 Melbourne insider access, and a meet and greet with Maroon 5 are just some of the exclusive perks offered by Marriott Bonvoy.

Smaller programs are offering big perks

Hotel Loyalty Programs

Image: Marriott Hotels / supplied

Another lesser-known but surprisingly rewarding option is DISCOVERY, which combines the Global Hotel Alliance and Priority Guest Rewards programs under one umbrella.

With 30 hotel brands including Pan Pacific, Rydges and QT Hotels, and more than 500 hotels in 75 countries, it’s a smaller program yet boasts a key difference. Unlike Marriott Bonvoy, DISCOVERY isn’t points-based, with earnings instead tied to the number of nights stayed.

With only three tiers – Gold, Platinum and Black – each qualifying night gets you closer to achieving impressive discounts on food and beverage, free nights, room upgrades and more. Black status, the highest tier, can be achieved with just 30 nights over a calendar year.

As an added perk, Local Experiences can also be earned by Platinum and Black members, first by reaching the status level and again each time that status is renewed. You can also receive an additional Local Experience each time you stay at a new DISCOVERY brand.

Platinum Experiences include guided sightseeing tours, chef cooking classes, and high teas for two, while Black Experiences include scenic helicopter flights over Sydney, a tantalising nine-course degustation dinner for two in Prague, and even a desert camel safari in Dubai.

Local Experiences are incredibly diverse, and many can even be redeemed without a stay.

Flexibility and simplicity are key

Hotel Loyalty Programs

Image: Marriott Hotels / supplied

Daniel Sciberras,Point Hacks spokesperson and frequent flyer expert, says the Marriott Bonvoy, World of Hyatt and Hilton Honors programs represent the best value for Australian travellers right now.

“Marriott has the largest footprint of any hotel brand in the world, now that it has merged with Starwood and Ritz-Carlton,” he says. “Its 6700+ hotels are therefore able to be booked using Marriott Bonvoy points, which are also the most flexible points currency out there.

“They are able to be converted into most airline’s frequent flyer points, including Qantas and Velocity Frequent Flyer, and should be a staple in any serious frequent flyer’s points wallet.”

Sciberras praises Hilton Honors for its easy to understand award chart and elite status benefits, including automatic Gold Status for American Express Platinum Charge holders, while noting World of Hyatt’s simplified redemption rules and high-quality properties.

“Hyatt points are best accessed by buying them during points promotions, especially when the bonus is 40% or above, which occurs every four months or so,” he says.

When it comes to maximising your returns, Sciberras believes the key is to focus on one or two programs, taking time to research both their earning and redeeming opportunities.

“The value you can get for your point can vary greatly,” he adds.

As the name suggests, loyalty is essential if you want to get the most out of your travels.

Be selective in the programs you join and then prioritise staying at those properties, even if they’re slightly out of your way. The more you stay the better the experience will become.

(Lead image: Hotel Arts Barcelona – The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company / Facebook)  

Published 03 May, 2019