Posted by Ric Garrido

GHA Discovery is the new hotel loyalty program representing 12 hotel brands in the Global Hotel Alliance. These hotel brands together have around 300 hotels in 48 countries primarily among the upper-upscale and luxury segments.

GHA Discovery is not a points-based loyalty program, although members may earn miles for hotels stays. GHA Discovery is a customer recognition loyalty program focused on the hotel stay experience. GHA Discovery is about local experience awards rather than free nights. The database of over 1,000 “local experience” aspirational awards is the primary loyalty program value-added feature.

GHA Discovery Hotel Brands:

  • Kempinski Hotels – 59 hotels (Europe, Middle East, Asia, Africa)
  • First Hotels – 47 hotels (Scandinavia)
  • Mirvac Hotels & Resorts – 43 hotels (Australia/New Zealand)
  • Omni Hotels and Resorts – 40 hotels (US, Mexico and Canada)
  • Pan Pacific Hotels – 16 hotels (Asia Pacific, Canada, USA)
  • Anantara Resorts – 14 hotels (Asia)
  • Tivoli Hotels and Resorts – 13 hotels (Portugal 11, Brazil 2)
  • The Doyle Collection – 11 hotels (UK, Ireland, US)
  • Marco Polo Hotels – 10 hotels (China, Asia)
  • Park Royal – 9 hotels (Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Australia)
  • The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts – 7 hotels (India)
  • Shaza Hotels – 1 hotel (new hotel brand in North Africa/Middle East with development plans for several more)

 

GHA Discovery Elite membership levels

Gold = initial and instant enrollment level.

  • Earn your first “local Experience” award after your first hotel member stay to be redeemed on a future hotel stay.
  • Earn one additional “local experience” award for each new hotel brand stayed as a Gold elite.
  • Complimentary internet
  • Complimentary one (1) bottle water at arrival
  • Complimentary newspaper

Platinum = 10 nights in a calendar year at member hotels.

  • Earn your first platinum-level “local Experience” award upon qualifying for Platinum elite.
  • Earn one additional “local experience” award for every new hotel brand you stay.
  • 48-hour guaranteed room availability
  • Upgrade to next room category (fine print states member must request upgrade at arrival)
  • Late check-out until 3pm (fine print states member must request late check-out  at arrival)
  • Local amenity

 

Black = 30 nights in a calendar year at member hotels.

  • Earn your first black-level “local Experience” award upon qualifying for Black elite.
  • Earn one additional “local experience” award for every new hotel brand you stay.
  • 24-hour guaranteed room availability
  • Double room category upgrade
  • Early check-in at 9am (must request two days before arrival)
  • Late check-out until 6pm (fine print states member must request late check-out  at arrival)

 

GHA Discovery Member Program Terms (web link)

Elite membership qualification is based on the calendar year. Once a member earns Platinum or Black elite in a calendar year, the member retains that elite level through the following calendar year.

For example, earn Black elite with 30 nights by September 2011 and the member retains Black elite membership through December 31, 2012.

  • GHA Discovery does not allow elite status match from other programs.
  • A member reaching the elite nights criteria for a higher level during a stay will receive the benefits assigned to the level at time of check-in. For example, a member with 9 nights who is on a 4-night hotel stay will only receive Gold elite benefits. Platinum elite benefits begin with next stay.
  • The additional local experience award for every new brand only applies to the first stay after program enrollment. This benefit is not an annual benefit, but rather a once in a program lifetime benefit.
  • GHA Local Experience Award credit may be received for up to two rooms per stay.

 

GHA Discovery Local Experience Awards

GHA Discovery’s website allows anyone to look at “Local Experience” award options for different membership levels. There is a database of more than 1,000 options. Here are samples of “Local Experiences”.

Local Experience awards are associated with specific hotels. Member must be a paying guest at the hotel to redeem a local experience award.

Gold Elite Local Experiences

Heritage Walk through Dubai – Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates

  • Led by an Emirati guide (2 to 4 hours) available 28 June-31 December 2011.
  • Up to 4 persons. Must book at least one week in advance. 

Thai Herbal Compress – Anantara Lawana Resort, Koh Samui, Thailand

  • 2 hour class in making traditional herbal compress. 

Segway Tour of Downtown Austin Texas – Omni Austin Hotel

  • 2 to 3 hour guided tour of downtown Austin.

 

Platinum Elite Local Experiences

Seattle Sounders Ultimate Experience – Pan Pacific Seattle

  • Watch the Seattle Sounders soccer team from the stadium President’s Box and receive pre-game field access.

 Nobel Dinner – First Hotel Amaranten, Stockholm Sweden

  • 2 to 4 hours for dinner based on the official Nobel Dinner. (LT note: I had this experience in 1993 as a non-voting member of the Education International founding conference in Stockholm.)

 London Luxury Night in a Bentley – Kensington Hotel, London (Doyle Hotels)

  • 3 hour chauffer tour of London at night in a Bentley

 

Black Elite Local Experiences

High Flyer hot air balloon trip with champagne – Kempinski Atlantic Hamburg

  • Imagine a complimentary 2-hour hot air balloon ride over the countryside of Hamburg, Germany. This is an option for Black elite (30 nights in calendar year) GHA Discovery members when staying at Kempinski Hamburg.

Exclusive Access to Imperial Cuisine Restaurant – Marco Polo Parkside Hotel, Beijing

  • Dine in private rooms at the “Court Yard” in a restaurant normally only accessible to high ranking Chinese government officials.

 Private Dinner and Sunset Cruise in Arabian Sea – The Leela Kempinski Goa, India

 An evening at the Saigon River – Park Royal Saigon

 

Loyalty Traveler Analysis

My Loyalty Traveler initial analysis indicates there is high value for the member who earns Black elite with just one or two hotel brands and then maximizes local experience awards traveling to different hotel brands as a Black elite member.  

For example, a U.S. based traveler could stay 30 nights at Omni Hotels in places like San Francisco, Denver and Dallas in 2011 and earn GHA Discovery Black elite membership. In 2012 the Black elite member takes a world tour and stays at 5 to 11 other hotel brands and earns a high-value “local experience” award at each new brand. This could be thousands of dollars in added-value to your hotel stays.

Omni Interlocken Resort Colorado (between Denver and Boulder)

17 Responses

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  11. Unfortunately, GHA Discovery has a lot of preoblems and is interpreting the conditions not to the favor of the customer.

    I was Black member last year, after my Kempinski Private Concierge membership card had been exchanged into it. The validity of the new card is about 1 year less then the Private Concierge card was. This is the first thing which is absolutely unfair to the customer.

    Furthermore some benefits of the Private Concierge card have been discontinued, e.g. the lounge access. This is a further disadvantage for the customer.

    Kempinski customer service as well as their management board is completely ignoring any kind of complaint in this regard. Although the benefits had been earned with several stays before. So I can only warn every one to trust this brand, as they are changing the rules as they want and treat their customers as worse as I have never ever seen it from a hotel or airline brand before.

    The next thing is that during all our stays during the validity period the most important benefits have been denied, or one had to discuss sometimes for hours at the reception desk. E.g. the Kempinski Sofia completely denied any benefit, including the room upgrade. It took nearly 3 hours to have this solved. Other hotel brands completely denied the upgrade.

    A further disadvantage is that hotel stays do not get credited and you have to ask several times for it. For one stay, it took us about 6 month (really!!) to have it credited and nearly 10 emails with the customer service. After this we stopped most of the stays.
    We had a last stay in Kempinski Sofia before the status expired. However, even now this stay is still not credited and Kempinski is still telling us “we had no stay”… It is really a bad joke and it seems strange how such a brand treats its previously best customers.

    At the top of all this, Kempinski is advertising to give a Black status to Lufthansa HON Circle members. However, even this “status match” is being denied by Kempinski: They find funny reasons not to do it, even if you fully qualify for it as HON member. One of the reasons is that they are telling that one can only receive the status from them once – so they argue that previously qualified members (with stay in the Private concierge program!) are not eligible. This is even worse, as the Private Concierge status would still be valid.

    Honestly, I can only suggest everyone to be extremely carefully with this brand. What they do with their customers is as bad as I would never ever before have imagined.

    Comment by Sebastian on March 27th, 2012 at 8:03 am
  12. @Sebastian – Thanks for the detailed anecdote. It seems to me that hotel alliance loyalty programs still have a way to go coordinating benefits in the way customers have seen with airline alliances.

    Kempinski is probably the leading hotel brand in the GHA system.

    Omni Hotels is discontinuing the option to earn airline miles from hotel stays as of April 30, 2012.

    http://www.webflyer.com/programs/notiflyer/comments.php?art=1877

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