- Elite status (Tiers, ease of earning, lifetime)
- Room upgrades (suites!)
- Breakfast and lounge access
- Late checkout
- Miscellaneous (Customer service, Tech/IT, BRG, promos, airline, dining, partnerships)
- Points earning rates and redemption values
- Global footprint analysis
Most hotel loyalty programs’ reviews originate from writers based in USA or UK and deal with one chain at a time. As a result, most of the reviews have a very heavy North American focus, with a lot of importance given to credit card points, credit card status and other avenues that are not available or irrelevant to an international audience. This review will be the most comprehensive and in depth comparison on the internet and will aim to address the blind spots of existing reviews by focusing on places other than US/UK, such as the big aviation hubs in the Middle East (UAE- Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Qatar -Doha), as well as other large tourist destinations not generally covered in-depth by points and miles bloggers such as India, France, Thailand, and Australia.
We will take a look at:
Geographic Spread: Very dense in some regions, big gaps in other major regions
Segment/Price Spread: Primarily midscale and lower end (though not budget/economy range). High end/boutique/lifestyle/millennial and independent portfolio is very weak relative to competitors
Brands: Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Hilton, Curio Collection, DoubleTree, Garden Inn, Hampton Inn, Canopy, Tru, Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites, Home2 Suites
Starwood Preferred Guest – merging soon with Marriott Rewards
Geographic Spread: Evenly distributed across the world, highly urban and metro footprint.
Segment/Price Spread: Strong in luxury, independent, boutique, millennial/lifestyle and upscale segments. Very limited low end
Brands: St Regis, Luxury Collection, W, Westin, Le Meridien/Royal Meridien, Sheraton/Grand Sheraton, Tribute Portfolio, Aloft, Four Points, Design Hotels, Element
Caeser’s Total Rewards partnership includes several participating Caeser’s properties in Vegas and Atlantic city.
Marriott Rewards – merging soon with Starwood
Geographical Spread: Evenly distributed around the world
Segment/Price Spread: Evenly distributed with strong high, mid and low end. Good representation in independent category
Brands: Ritz Carlton, Edition, Autograph Collection, JW Marriott, Marriott, Renaissance, Courtyard, Fairfield Inn, Residence Inn, SpringHill Suites, TownePlace Suites, Gaylord Hotels, AC Hotels, Moxy, Protea, Delta
Bvlgari brand does not participate in Marriott Rewards.
Hyatt Gold Passport
Geographical Spread: Big gaps, difficult to find properties, especially difficult to find reasonably priced properties
Price/Segment Spread: Primarily high-end and upscale, very limited boutique/independent and low-end representation
Brands: Park Hyatt, Grand Hyatt, Andaz, Hyatt Centric, Unbound Collection, Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Hyatt House, Hyatt Place, Hyatt Ziva/Zilara
Partnership with MGM M-Life includes all participating M-life properties in Vegas. Non M-life MGM properties excluded.
Also included are programs that offer unique propositions but are not usually covered such as:
Accor Le Club (Fairmont Group to be integrated in a year)
Properties: ~3700 but only 2700 participating
Geographical Spread: Exceptionally strong in Australia. Strong in Middle East, South East Asia, South America and North Africa. Virtually non-existent in North America
Price/Segment spread: Evenly distributed
Brands: Sofitel (SO/Legend), Thalassa Spa Resorts, Pullman, MGallery by Sofitel, Grand Mercure, Novotel, Mercure, Ibis, Ibis Styles, Sebel, Adagio, Adagio Access.
Ibis Budget, Ibis hotels in China, HotelF1 and several others brands do not participate in the program. Several exceptions among the brands listed above as well.
This will be a painful review for Le Club and it is only being included for its very large footprint in Middle East, Asia and especially Australia (where it is dominant and bigger than everyone else combined!), yet is rarely covered by other bloggers.
Geographical spread: All over the world but lots of gaps due to low total number of properties. Very very strong in Scandinavian/Nordic countries unlike everyone else. Very strong in Middle East.
Price/Segment spread: Largely luxury, upscale, boutique and independent
(Some) Brands: Kempinski, Anantara, Viceroy, Scandinavian First group and Thon Group (!), Leela, Alila, Corinthia, Doyle Collection, Marco Polo, Omni, Pan Pacific, QT, Rixos, ART hotels and many more
Full list available at https://www.gha.com/Hotel-Brands
Discovery is included for its unique, boutique and luxury properties as well as strong benefits relative to the programs that are not considered. Since this is an independent alliance, hotels in this program can also be part of other programs as well. It is also special because it is stronger than everyone else combined in Scandinavian/Nordic countries (the big global players have next to no presence there).
Other chains will not be covered because their benefits are generally much weaker than the main contenders, such as:
IHG/Intercontinental Priority Club
Shangri La’s Golden Circle
SLH – Small Luxury Hotels
LHW – Leading Hotels of the World
And/or programs that lack a large upscale/aspirational footprint:
Carlson-Rezidor/Radisson’s Club Carlson
Preferred Hotels iPrefer
I intend to make this the most in-depth review available on the internet with a lot of data and numbers. We shall see some interesting inferences from the data that are sure to surprise such as:
- SPG coming out on top for earning rate for stays and some redemption opportunities!
- Hilton being dinged for lack of geographical footprint and price spread vs SPG in several important countries despite being 3.5 times larger overall!
- Marriott beating SPG for airline transfer value in certain instances!
- SPG and Marriott’s high end being 12-15x bigger than Hiltons! with Hilton being less than half the size of the next smallest competitor at the top end (Hyatt)!
- SPG and Marriott’s Lifestyle/Boutique segment being 35x bigger than Hilton!
Due to the scope of the review, we are going to break it into several articles (I will update the post with links when the respective pages go live):
Since the focus of the review is extracting maximum value, we will look at ease of earning elite status, lifetime status and avenues available for international guests to reach top-tier status without stays (promos, credit cards etc)
Customer Service (inc. social media), Tech/IT (Account Maintenance,Websites, Apps), Best Rate Guarantees, Promotions/Discount programs, Dining, Airline points transfers, Experience Events (concerts, sports, social, premieres), Partnerships (Airlines, taxis, credit cards).
Separate charts for earning and redeeming during stays and events organised by chain and tier of membership. I will then go city by city to pick out the outstanding redemption opportunities. This in itself will be a spin-off series consisting of several parts covering cities in UAE, Qatar, France, India, Thailand and Australia.
In depth data that no review on the internet has analysed so far. We look at the chains’ global footprints and classify them by geographical location, price range/positioning and brand, with some interesting insights such as Hilton’s upscale, luxury, boutique and independent portfolio (Waldorf Astoria+Conrad+Curio Collection) being the smallest of all major chains; less than half the size of just IHG’s Intercontinental and Accor’s Sofitel brands let alone SPG/Marriott’s gigantic portfolios in the same segment which will soon be combined and will be 12-15x bigger. I will then go city by city to compare portfolios and pick out the outstanding redemption opportunities. This in itself will be a spin-off series consisting of several parts covering cities in UAE, Qatar, France, India, Thailand and Australia.