While most hotel loyalty programs offer points to travellers, GHA's Discovery scheme favours 'local experiences' instead, with everything from behind-the-scenes tours through to dinner cruises, spa treatments and also free overnight hotel stays up for grabs.
Those local experiences are earned by reaching the Platinum and Black tiers when staying at Global Hotel Alliance’s long list of hotels including Pan Pacific, Parkroyal, QT, Rydges and Kempinski, along with lesser-known brands such as Anantara Hotels, Grace Hotels, Marco Polo Hotels and Tivoli.
Also on the list: Alila, Art Series, Atura, Avani, Corinthia, The Doyle Collection, First Hotels, GLO, Individual Collection, The Leela Palaces, Lungarno Collection, Meritage Collection, Meydan and Mokara.
Rounding out the collection is Niccolo by Marco Polo, Omni Hotels, Per Aquum, Rixos, Shaza, Tangram, Thon, Ultratravel Collection and Viceroy Hotels.
All up, the group has 550 individual hotels spanning 32 brands in 76 countries – including a number of properties in Australia – so here’s what you need to know about GHA's Discovery scheme.
Discovery is free to join on the GHA website, with all new members instantly assigned ‘Gold’ status: the program’s lowest tier.
Yet it’s certainly not ‘faux gold’ with noticeable benefits right from your very first stay such as free in-room Internet access, a choice of daily newspaper and complimentary bottled water across all of the GHA brands.
Then as you stay more, you'll move up to the Platinum and Black tiers for even more benefits.
But beyond the perks, you may be able to earn frequent flyer points on various room rates at various hotels within the GHA portfolio, but it’s rather inconsistent.
For example, Discovery as a whole has now axed all airline frequent flyer partnerships – yet some of the individual brands such as Parkroyal still give travellers a choice to earn points in other programs like Qantas Frequent Flyer and Virgin Australia Velocity.
Airline points or miles are typically awarded only on the more expensive rooms, so always check if a specific rate will earn points with your preferred airline when making your reservations and present your frequent flyer card as you check-in to the hotel.
Spend 10 nights or more in a calendar year at GHA’s range of hotels and you’ll be bumped up to Discovery Platinum status.
That’s when you’ll qualify for your first ‘local experience’ award – such as those behind-the-scenes tours – and can earn an additional ‘local experience’ award every time you stay with a new GHA hotel brand.
More traditional perks also apply such as a free 3pm late check-out and hotel room upgrade, both subject to availability, and a local amenity of the hotel’s choosing.
Platinum members can also reserve rooms for themselves at fully-booked hotels up until 48 hours prior to arrival (excluding during various blackout dates), so if you’re hard-pressed to find a hotel room at your destination, your Platinum card might be just the ticket.
The program’s top tier – Discovery Black – is yours after spending just 30 nights with the chain in a calendar year.
Your upgrade again comes with another ‘local experience’ award followed by extra awards every time you stay with a new brand: yet GHA reserves some of the better options exclusively for Black members, so take your pick on the GHA website.
In addition to the benefits afforded to Gold and Platinum members, Black-level cardholders may be able to check-in from 9am and depart at 6pm (subject to availability) and receive a double room upgrade wherever possible – that’s where your room type is bumped up to the second-next tier.
(For example, where a property has Standard, Deluxe, Club rooms and also suites, Black members would be upgraded from Standard to Club, or from Deluxe to a suite, depending on the room types at each individual hotel.)
Added to that is a choice of local amenity – often from items such as wine, cheese and chocolate – and a guaranteed room at sold-out hotels when booking at least 24 hours before arrival, subject to the same varying blackout dates as apply to Platinum members.
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