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Boutique hotel operator Leading Hotels of the World just overhauled its loyalty program to work on a more modern, points-based system — and along the way, it increased its annual fee from $150 to $175.
The new system, which Skift Senior Hospitality Editor Deanna Ting covered in depth last week, allows Leaders Club members to earn one point per dollar spent in the program. In return, members can spend points on free hotel rooms and enjoy typical perks like day-of upgrades and free Wi-Fi. Those who spend $5,000 with the program each year earn Sterling status, which effectively yields extra points and upgrades.
That system and its rewards, of course, sound like every other hotel loyalty program on the planet — albeit with an annual fee. But the fee is intentional. Leading Hotels sees its program as more of a members club than an everyday loyalty program, perhaps like joining a country club versus earning free gas station points. And by setting a $175 barrier to entry, membership ends up being only for the true enthusiasts.
That pay-to-play model may not be the greatest fit for all of the mainstream travel operators like Marriott and Hilton, but for a boutique operation like Leading Hotels, which only has about 400 properties in its portfolio, it’s the calculated price of privilege. And without thousands of elites clamoring for space upgrades every night (see Marriott), many may find that the $175 investment could pay off in some very nice upgrades.
— Grant Martin, Business of Loyalty Editor
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Skift Business of Loyalty Editor Grant Martin [firstname.lastname@example.org] curates the Skift Business of Loyalty newsletter. Skift emails the newsletter every Monday.