Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts will join forces with Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces next year as part of a new ‘loyalty alliance’, promising business travellers both loyalty points and status recognition whenever staying with either hotel chain.
The ‘Warmer Welcomes’ program kicks off in March 2017, but unlike the recent tie-up between Starwood Hotels and Resorts and Marriott International, each chain will retain its own unique identity and ownership, being more so a strategic partnership than a takeover or merger.
But what does it mean for international jetsetters? Australian Business Traveller navigates the fine print to find out.
Shangri-La, Taj Hotels alliance: the basics
At its heart, Warmer Welcomes integrates the Shangri-La Golden Circle and Taj InnerCircle loyalty programs but stops short of completely merging the two.
For starters, members holding tier status with one program can have that status matched to a comparable level in the other program, as follows:
- Shangri-La Golden Circle Diamond = Taj Hotels InnerCircle Platinum (and vice versa)
- Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade = Taj Hotels InnerCircle Gold (and vice versa)
- Taj Hotels InnerCircle Silver & Copper = Shangri-La Golden Circle Gold (not vice versa)
- Shangri-La Golden Circle Gold = Taj Hotels InnerCircle Copper only
As Shangri-La Golden Circle has only three membership tiers while Taj Hotels InnerCircle has four, Shangri-La will recognise both InnerCircle Silver (elite) and Copper (entry-level) members in the same way: with Shangri-La’s entry-level Golden Circle Gold status.
When staying with a Shangri-La hotel – including related brands Kerry Hotels, Hotel Jen and Traders Hotels – benefits for all travellers will be based on their Golden Circle tier status, either earned or matched.
Similarly, when staying with Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces, including Taj’s Vivanta and Gateway brands and the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai (pictured), benefits during each stay will be determined by your Taj Hotels InnerCircle status.
Shangri-La, Taj Hotels alliance: earning points
Wherever you stay, you’ll be able to earn loyalty points directly with your program of choice as part of this tie-up, even when drawing on the benefits of the other scheme.
For instance, Shangri-La Golden Circle members will be able to earn Golden Circle points at all Taj, Vivanta and Gateway properties, while Taj InnerCircle cardholders can collect InnerCircle points at Shangri-La, Kerry Hotels, Hotel Jen and Traders Hotels from March 2017.
A Shangri-La spokesperson told Australian Business Traveller that the specific earn rates in these circumstances will be made known when the alliance commences next year.
Shangri-La, Taj Hotels alliance: converting points
As part of the alliance, members will be able to convert their loyalty points from one program to the other at the following rates:
- 100 Shangri-La Golden Circle points = 67 Taj InnerCircle points
- 100 Taj InnerCircle points = 38 Shangri-La Golden Circle points
Each conversion rate applies in one specific direction only, making it unwise to move your points backwards and forwards between the programs as the overall value of your balance drops with each conversion.
For example, if you started with 1,000 Shangri-La Golden Circle points and converted them to Taj InnerCircle on a 100:67 basis, you’d wind up with 670 InnerCircle points.
If you later converted those 670 Taj InnerCircle points back into Shangri-La Golden Circle points, your bounty would equal just 254 Golden Circle points, due to the 100:38 ratio which applies when converting from InnerCircle to Golden Circle.
In any case, members can convert a maximum of 250,000 hotel loyalty points per calendar year between the programs with a minimum conversion of 100 loyalty points at a time from either scheme.
Shangri-La, Taj Hotels alliance: spending points
At the beginning, travellers will only be able to use their loyalty points to book hotel stays within each program’s original network – that is, Shangri-La Golden Circle members can book Shangri-La, Kerry Hotels, Hotel Jen and Traders Hotels using Golden Circle points, but not Taj hotels.
Shangri-La Golden Circle members can use points to stay at the Jing An Shangri-La hotel in East Shanghai, China
The same applies in reverse for Taj InnerCircle members, although travellers wishing to use points from one program to book a hotel from the other have the option of converting their points to that program at the rates above, and then making their booking via that program.
A spokesperson for the alliance told Australian Business Traveller that “a secondary phase after the initial launch will look at broader digital integration, (including) deeper redemption opportunities”, but that “no timeline has been set at this time.”
Members will be able to link their loyalty accounts and begin enjoying reciprocal benefits once a dedicated website for the Warmer Welcomes program has been launched.
Shangri-La Golden Circle currently has 4.6 million members with nearly 50% of all guests staying at Shangri-La hotels being or registering as Golden Circle cardholders, while Taj InnerCircle currently has 850,000 members as the largest hotel loyalty program in India.
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