Leading Hotels of the World just unveiled a bunch of changes to its loyalty program, the Leaders Club, and they could prove handy for anyone who loves boutique luxury hotels. The big changes include pre-arrival upgrades, including one room upgrade on a member’s first paid stay, points accrual to earn free nights, and greater redemption flexibility. Now, members earn points toward free nights for every dollar they spend; before, a free night only came after four or five stays, depending on membership status. All that comes with a slightly higher annual membership fee—up from $150 per year to $175—but the hotel brand also overhauled how members hit elite status.
Joining Leaders Club brings a bevy of benefits, including continental breakfast for two throughout stays, complimentary Wi-Fi, and early check-in, late check-out, and room upgrade priority when available. Members earn one point per dollar spent on stays, and free nights begin at 4,000 points. All that sounds like what you get from the best hotel rewards programs, with the big difference being that $175 barrier to entry. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, either.
Given the consolidation of mega-brands like Marriott and Starwood, more people have elite status across big hotel chains, which makes upgrades harder to come by for less-frequent travelers. LHW could provide an antidote. The brand operates about 400 independent hotels in 80 different countries, including Readers’ Choice Awards favorites The Lodhi New Delhi and Fasano São Paulo. LHW sees its loyalty program more as a members-only club, hence the $175 fee, and its smaller footprint means a bit more exclusivity in who’s staying where.
Another big change for Leaders Club: Previously, members simply paid $1,200 per year for the higher of program’s two tiers of status. That’s gone. Replacing it is Leaders Club Sterling. Members pay the base $175 and achieve Sterling by spending $5,000 a year on qualifying stays. Sterling brings with it all the comps of regular Leaders Club, but adds four additional pre-arrival upgrades each year and an annual 5 percent renewal points bonus. In other words: If you stay frequently, you get more room upgrades and a retention bonus.
In addition, LHW has added an invite-only level of status beyond Sterling that comes with an associated fee, though the company wouldn’t divulge details on what that entails. Assume it’s swanky, and likely pricey. But again, the whole thrust of Leaders Club is exclusivity. These big changes put Leaders Club more in line with traditional hotel rewards programs—but they also make it easier to chip away at being elite.