These days the savvy traveller knows that they deserve more out of everywhere they stay, play and visit. Gone are the days where hotel loyalty programs could offer a free night and a continental breakfast and expect long-time loyalists to be satisfied. Instead, hotels are overhauling their rewards systems, with many opting to offer one-of-a-kind experiences in a bid to stand out.
We're talking concert tickets, private tours of museums, meet and greets with famous faces, the hotel loyalty landscape is changing, and the increased competition is win-win for members. But who is offering what, and where should you begin?
Well, we've rounded up the three loyalty programs that are taking things to the next level.
What is it: Marriott Bonvoy is Marriott International's loyalty program, but they prefer to call it a travel program. The program only launched in early 2019, and essentially rolls the Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest into one program.
Members can earn rewards points at more than 6700 properties across 30 brands in 129 countries including W Hotels, Edition, Sheraton and St Regis.
What's on offer: The Marriott Bonvoy specialises in curating once-in-a-lifetime experiences for members which they can then purchase with their points.
Already this year Marriott Bonvoy members have been trackside at the Australian Grand Prix or treated to a meet-and-greet with Manchester United during the team's tour Down Under. The more points you earn, the more access you have to "money can't buy" moments across food, lifestyle, sports and entertainment.
You'll have access to exclusive experiences like private swimming lessons with Olympic Gold medallist Stephanie Rice – that'll set you back 60,000 points, or backstage tickets to Jimmy Kimmel – 50,000 points, or meet and greet with pop star Troye Sivan – 30,000 points.
Meanwhile, partnerships with Madison Square Garden, The O2 arena, Staples Centre ensure access to VIP concerts and shows around the world.
Cost to join: Free.
What is it: Discovery is another program that focuses on unmatchable moments as opposed to added extras. Discovery combines the Global Hotel Alliance and Priority Guest Rewards programs under the one name, offering benefits across more than 30 hotel brands in 75 countries based on the number of nights stayed.
The program offers three levels – Gold, Platinum and Black –.across hotels such as Anantara, Atura, Parkroyal, QT and Rydges.
What's on offer: Members are offered diverse and city-specific experiences. Open to Platinum and Black members; the experiences are varied – cooking classes, camel riding, guided tours, helicopter trips – but perhaps not as niche as the Bonvoy offerings.
Cost to join: Free.
What is it: Leaders club is the loyalty program for the luxury independent hotel collection, Leading Hotels of the World, which includes more than 400 hotels.
What's on offer: Leaders Club has all your usual benefits on offer - room upgrades, breakfast, early check-in - but it's the Insider Experiences that catch the eye. Each was created to inspire a unique perspective on its respective locale.
Whether that's a culinary evening in Cape Town, a guided tour of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem or a private after-hours tour of Portgual's famous Pena Palace, you can take the unattainable of every town.
Cost: US$175 to join. After paying the membership fee, a member earns 1 Leaders Club point per dollar spent.
The writer was a guest on the Manchester United Marriott Bonvoy VIP member experiences.