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A question of upgrading

„From late check-out to suite upgrade, Bleisure Traveller had become accustomed to many hotel bonus programmes before Covid-19. What can these programmes do now? An overview.” Ulf-Gunnar Switalski, Founder of Upgrade Guru and Deutschen Bonus Awards and Guest author of Bleisure Traveller

If you book directly with a hotel chain, you get points, status benefits and often the opportunity to get to know other brands for Bleisure and Remote Work. The opportunities for this are currently growing enormously.

Accor Hotels, for example, have increased their portfolio to over 40 brands in recent years. The classics Novotel, Mercure and Ibis meet Raffles, Mama Shelter and 25hours. With the ALL Accor bonus programme, the benefits unfold from Gold status with at least 30 nights a year – with a welcome drink, upgrades and the option to check in earlier and check out later. ALL is stingy with suite upgrades, however: only as a Platinum (60 nights) and depending on your points balance do you get up to twelve upgrades a year. Gold status can also be bought by including it in the Ibis Business Card.
ALL is easy to understand and innovative: 2,000 points are worth 40 euros, and you can also collect them in taxis and aeroplanes with double-dip partnerships, for example. If you are happy with the benefits of Gold status, the programme is good. Unfortunately, it has so far failed to offer competitive benefits to frequent sleepers as well. Others are more generous with the top clientele of 60 nights or more.

Ein Stück Côte d’Azur in Amsterdam im / A piece of the Côte d’Azur in Amsterdam in the Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam © Michael Graste

With Hilton Honors, things get interesting from Gold status onwards, with free breakfast, late check-out and upgrades to the next best category. For this, only 14 stays or 208 nights per year are required in 2022. Gold status in Germany is also automatic with the Hilton Honors credit card, which is also used to collect points. For the highest level, Diamond, you only need 48 nights or 24 stays in 2022. And with a status challenge, it goes even faster: Here, only twelve nights are needed in 90 days, and lounge access and suite upgrades theoretically beckon. But because the highest status is so easy to achieve at Hilton, the hotels are teeming with Diamond members. In my experience, getting a suite upgrade is a matter of luck. Many social media comments confirm this. And often I had to experience that as a guest I was in the unpleasant situation of having to vie for my benefits at the reception. Too bad, as a former Hilton Honors fan, I now give it a wide berth.

IHG has just relaunched the IHG 1 Rewards. This is worthwhile from Platinum status, which is available from 40 nights or 40,000 points a year with upgrades, early check-ins and late check-outs. As a Diamond with 70 nights, you also get a complimentary breakfast. Roll-over nights (nights carried over) make it easier to maintain status. For starters, there are just up to quadruple bonus points and a status match that is extremely generous: anyone becomes Platinum on demand. If they sleep five nights in 120 days, their status is extended. If one sleeps 15 nights in the 120 days, he becomes Diamond. Try it out.

Suite-Upgrade im Holiday-Inn-Resort-Acapulco? © IHG

Biggest programme, lesser known programme

Whether St. Regis, AC Hotel, Moxy, W or Homes & Villas – Marriott Bonvoy unites approx. 30 hotel brands in 122 countries. Starting at 5,000 points, there are many advantages. Recently, however, Bonvoy has changed the rewards to flexible values, making free nights about 10 to 20 percent more expensive. At the same time, additional collectible promotions are also increasingly offered. And there are partnerships with Emirates and United Airlines that offer further advantages. The possibility of converting points into experiences with Bonvoy Moments is a good addition. As a member, you can often enjoy VIP treatments at concerts, sports and events at very low prices.

And starting with Platinum (50 nights), members get late check-out until 4pm, complimentary breakfast, lounge access and suite upgrades. But Marriott has also recently made it very easy for guests to achieve high status through various promotions. This inevitably leads to fewer suite upgrades. Especially in Asia, it is advisable to upgrade to Titanium (75 nights) in order to have a high upgrade security. Then it (almost) always works out with the suite. www.upgradeguru.de/marriott-bonvoy-moments

Frisch renoviert auf Mauritius und bereit mit Marriott Bonvoy für Remote Work oder Bleisure entdeckt zu werden / Newly renovated in Mauritius and ready to be discovered for Remote Work or Bleisure with Marriott Bonvoy: Le Méridien Ile Maurice © Marriott

Wyndham Rewards still leads an unjustly shadowy existence in Germany. Here you get ten points per dollar spent or 1,000 points per stay. From the Platinum level onwards, early check-in and late check-out beckon. As a Diamond, there are suite upgrades.

In 2020, you become a Platinum member after just nine nights, or a Diamond member after 24 nights, instead of the usual 40. A top benefit: nights above the required status qualification in one year are carried over to the next. And finally, points can be redeemed at over 30,000 hotels, holiday club resorts and holiday homes – with three categories of homes with fixed reward values for 7,500, 15,000 and 30,000 points per night. The points can be converted into Payback points or paid out in cash. A test is worthwhile. Until 6 September 2022, you get up to two nights free when you complete two stays of at least one night at a Wyndham hotel.

Guaranteed Suite

At World of Hyatt, participants earn points for stays, food, beverages, etc., which can be redeemed for free nights, suite upgrades, restaurant or spa visits. Globalist, the highest status, is probably the most coveted status by frequent travellers. It requires 60 nights per year and offers early check-in and check-out, as well as access to the Club Lounge, complimentary breakfast and suite upgrades. On the way to becoming a Globalist, there are some rewards, so-called Milestone Awards, i.e. free nights, gift vouchers or even bonus points. Through a partnership with American Airlines, you get benefits in both programmes. In my experience, Hyatt really delivers 100 per cent of the time. If a suite is available at check-in, you get it. Often, the booking is even upgraded before you arrive at the hotel. No wonder Hyatt won the VIP award among hotel programmes at the German Bonus Awards.

The David Kempinski
Seit April offen und GHA-Discovery-Mitglied / Open since April and GHA Discovery Member: The David Kempinski, Tel Aviv © Kempinski

That leaves the loyalty programme of the hotel alliance GHA with 40 members: Discovery has been available for a few months and convinces me more and more as currently the most generous loyalty programme at elite status. Participants can earn the programme currency Discovery Dollars from day one, e.g. at Kempinski, Anantara and brand new NH Hotels, and the percentage credited on spend increases with membership level, starting at 4 to 7 per cent – whether you stay overnight or just eat at the hotel. Promotions give up to 14 per cent. It gets classy when the highest status Titanium is reached. For this, you need either 15,000 USD annual turnover in the GHA member hotels or 30 nights – or you stay in three brands. That means you can be Titanium with just three nights and get the status for two people, there is early check-in and late check-out and above all double upgrades two categories higher.
I’m curious to see if Discovery can maintain this low status threshold for long. I don’t think so.


Ulf-Gunnar Switalski …

is an absolute Guru when it comes to loyalty programmes and has given this topic wings once again with the launch of his Deutsche Bonus Awards. Voted for by customers, experts and media professionals, the BahnBonus programme won in the Move category at the 2021 premiere. The Privilege Club of Qatar Airways convinced as best customer service. Payback came out on top in all categories of the multi-partner programmes. And among the hotels? Best Western Rewards in the loyalty ranking and Marriott Bonvoy as best app.

Fotos: © iStock.com/M_a_y_a, © Accor, © Marriott, © Kempinski, © IHG

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