You could be forgiven for not having heard very much about Accor Hotels before, but they are actually one of the largest hotel groups in the world and operate a wide range of well-known hotel brands.
If you have ever stayed at a Sofitel, Novotel, Mercure or Ibis (or Thalassa Sea & Spa, Pullman, MGallery, Grand Mercure, Suite Novotel, The Sebel, Mama Shelter, Adagio, Adagio Access, Ibis Styles, Ibis Budget, Hotel F1…) you have stayed at an Accor hotel. The various brands cover everything from luxurious 5* resorts, to basic budget hotels.
The Hilton HHonors loyalty scheme covers over 4,000 hotels and 10 brands globally, namely Hilton, Waldorf-Astoria, Conrad, Hilton Grand Vacation, Embassy Suites, Doubletree, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites, Hampton Inn and Home2Suites.
Hilton HHonors is free to join, and given the basic benefits of the Blue tier (see below), is well worth signing up to if you are making a Hilton stay. However, more aspirational travellers are well advised to aim for the Gold tier, which is both eminently achievable and extremely rewarding.
You can sign up for Hilton HHonors here.
International Hotel Group (IHG) is a true giant of the hotel industry, operating nearly 5,000 hotels all over the world. They cover everything from 5* ultra-luxury in Tahiti to budget hotels on the outskirts of Birmingham. Brands include: Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Hotel Indigo, Staybridge Suites, Candlewood Suites, Even Hotels, and HUALUXE.
IHG hotels can be found pretty much anywhere in the world, but have a particular strength in the UK and the USA.
If you are relatively new to the miles and points world in the UK, you might not even have heard of Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) before. Starwood hotels are hugely popular in the (mainly US-based) travel blogosphere, but have a much lower profile in Europe. Most likely, this is simply because they do not have all that many hotels this side of the pond.
You will probably be familiar with at least some of their brands though, even if you didn’t realise they were owned by Starwood. There are currently ten different brands under the Starwood umbrella: Sheraton, Westin, Le Meridien, W, St. Regis, Four Points, Luxury Collection, Aloft, Element, and Tribute.
Hyatt is not one of the largest hotel chains in the world, but have a loyal following amongst frequent travellers. This is because Hyatt has some aspirational properties and that they are great at delivering elite benefits. Their customer service standards are high and their staff offer high levels of service.
You can sign up for Hyatt Gold Passport here.
Marriott Rewards is the loyalty program (sign up here) for Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott, Marriott, Renaissance, Courtyard, AC Hotels, and 13 other smaller brands under the Marriott umbrella. Because of its diversity, ease of use, consistent service and solid elite benefits, Marriott Rewards represents an excellent option for accommodating both business and leisure travellers at 4,000 lodging properties worldwide. Over the next few pages, I’ll go over the basis of rewards, elite status and redemption with the Marriott Rewards program.