Design Hotels has deepened its relationship with majority owner Starwood Hotels Resorts in a partnership that gives member hotels access to the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) loyalty program as well as Starwood’s consumer and corporate booking channels.

Today the first five members of the independent hotel group appeared on a new Starwood website that highlights the Design Hotels brand. Along with the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York, the other properties include C-Hotel in Lake Como, Italy, the Nira Montana in La Thuile, Italy, the Ten Bompas Hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa, and the Kruisherenhotel Maastricht Hotel in Maastricht, Netherlands.

Starwood expects 40 hotels to be listed by the end of the year, and a large portion of Design Hotels’ 288 properties to join in the coming months.

The loyalty program was announced to hotel owners and managers in September in Athens, Greece at Design Hotel’s annual conference, and alluded to in its third quarter earnings call as an “eleventh brand.” It’s also included in the list of brands on Starwood’s homepage.

Participating in the SPG program is optional for Design Hotels member properties. Guest will receive many of the same points earning and redemption benefits as they would in other Starwood properties.

“As the narrative between our two companies unfolded,” Design Hotels CEO Claus Sendinger said at the event, “We quickly saw that bringing the richest program for recognition and value in the industry to our member hotels would offer them tremendous advantages. Using smart, connected technology and intelligent programming, Starwood Preferred Guest program will open up a vast number of new opportunities, creating an unrivaled value proposition for our collection.”

The SPG relationship gives properties access to consumers through Starwood’s own booking channels, as well as corporate travel planners, using a pay-per-performance model. The will also have access to consumer insights into SPG’s 21 million members.

Most major chains, including Starwood, have heavily courted independent properties over the past two years. Marriott’s Autograph collection has more than 90 properties, Hilton’s Curio has 17, and Starwood’s own Tribute group has four, with eight planned openings in the next few months (one of which they snatched from Curio early this week).

Unlike these relationships, where participating hotels are required to meet brand standards handed down by the corporate parent, the Design Hotels/SPG relationship allows its properties to maintain whatever standards they see fit. And unlike other independent groups, Design Hotels’ members range from five-star properties to those with more character than bling.

Although Starwood owns a 74% equity interest in Design Hotels, it continues to operate independently and Starwood does not include its financials in quarterly reports.

Photo Credit: Starwood's new Design Hotels microsite. Starwood Hotels and Resorts