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Most travelers will be familiar with the major hotel loyalty programmes, like Hilton Honors, IHG Rewards, or Marriott Bonvoy. With these programmes, you earn points which you can then spend on free reward nights. The Discovery programme of the Global Hotel Alliance (GHA) works differently. You don’t collect points for free nights. Instead, the programme offers redemptions that may be much more special…
Global Hotel Alliance
The Global Hotel Alliance is a collection of more than 35 international chains. Among those are renowned (luxury) brands like Anantara, Kempinski, Omni Hotels & Resort, Marco Polo and Pan Pacific. Worldwide, more than 570 hotels in 85 countries are part of GHA. The benefits of the Discovery loyalty programme are valid at all brands. You can become a member directly with Discovery, or through any of the affiliated chains.
Discovery has three membership tiers: Gold (upon enrolment), Platinum and Black. Platinum status requires 10 nights per year, Black 30 nights. The benefits are as follows:
No free nights – ‘Local Experiences’ instead.
Because the brands (and the corresponding room rates) are so diverse, Discovery does not offer free reward nights in the hotels. Instead, you can redeem so called ‘Local Experiences‘ at every hotel. When qualifying for each new status level, one Local Experience is deposited in your account. Subsequently, each time you stay at a new brand you get another credit. The Experiences differ depending on the specific hotel, location and usually also on your status level. Black often has more generous offerings than Platinum.
So what may these Local Experiences be exactly? There are the more ‘standard’ offerings like lounge access during your stay, a transfer to/from the airport, a free massage, lunch or dinner in the hotel. But then there are also special experiences tailored to the location. Sometimes these include full-day excursions outside of the hotel. For instance, helicopter flights over Dubai for Black members staying at The Kempinski on the Palm. Or a trip through the rice paddies in Bali. In Oman, you can visit the valleys of Jabal Akhdar. Also in Europe, a helicopter flight is offered in Lisbon. And in Berlin you can do a balloon flight. In San Francisco, you can do a guided bike tour over the Golden Gate Bridge.
All in all, as well as some standard ‘freebies’ in the hotel, the Local Experiences can offer genuine, unique experiences that can provide a tremendous value. Sometimes, you do not even have to stay in the particular hotel to avail yourself of the experiences; you can redeem the experiences without a room reservation. Maybe these events are better than just a free night’s stay!
Fast track to Platinum
Discovery currently has a fast track whereby you only need two nights to qualify for Platinum status. When you utilise the fast track you do not immediately get the Local Experience credit though. After your first stay at a new brand, you will get a credit as usual.