Many high-end hotels around the world are adorned with plaques promoting titles like “the Leading Hotels of the World”, “Preferred Hotels & Resorts” and “Relais & Chateaux”.
don’t mean much to travellers, but independent hotel owners join these groups
to increase their global visibility and compete with more recognizable brands like
Hilton, InterContinental or Starwood. Member hotels pay fees to be listed in
the organization’s directory or website and to participate in their loyalty
scheme. Like the seal of approval that typically comes with a chain affiliation,
member hotels are subject to secret inspections to ensure the organization’s
standards of quality are met. Otherwise, they get tossed out.
And the groups
offer guest recognition programs designed to promote loyalty to member hotels.
Though some of the perks on offer are similar to chain loyalty plans -- room
upgrades and free wi-fi, for example – they are not based on point
accumulation. Any traveller that joins the loyalty program and makes a reservation
through the group’s website is eligible for that plan’s perks.
example, members of Preferred Hotels i Prefer program (free) get extras like a cocktail in the hotel bar, discounts on spa
treatments, and early/late checkout privileges. Similarly, Leading Hotels’ Leaders Club ($100 per year) members get breakfast for two, in-room gifts such as
fruit plates or wine, plus one free night for every five stays.
of these hotel groups is best for you? It depends on what type of traveller you
are. We’ve detailed the most widely known groups below.
The Leading Hotels of the World offers nearly 450 properties, most
of which are located in or near large urban areas. Member hotels are frequently
iconic grand dames that attract upscale business travellers, such as the
recently renovated Pierre or the Mark hotels in New York City, the Ritz Paris or the Setai in Miami Beach. These hotels are best suited
to high-level executives and diplomats, or those who want to stay at “the best
hotel in town”.
than 800 properties in its portfolio, the Preferred Hotel Group has segmented them into categories like historic, boutique or the less expensive sterling, to
help travellers choose the accommodation that suits them best. In June it
created a Preferred Pride category of “gay welcoming”
hotels that cater to LGBT travellers. Standouts from the overall collection
include Montage Beverly Hills in Los Angeles, the Elysian in Chicago, and the Chancery Court in London. With such a broad
selection of members, Preferred Hotels appeals to a wide cross-section of
Relais & Chateaux hotels are typically on the smaller
side, located in rural areas near major cities (mostly US and Europe), very
upscale and have a renowned restaurant on site. The combination of lodging and
cuisine provides travellers a true sense of place. Think Meadowood or Auberge du Soleil in California’s Napa Valley,
the Inn at Little Washington in Virginia, or the Waterside Inn or Inverlochy Castle in the United Kingdom. These hotels
are best suited to business travellers hoping to combine work with culinary
Small Luxury Hotels of the World is a collection of 520
boutique-style hotels around the world, including the elegant Huntington Hotel atop Nob Hill in San Francisco, the
Shangri-La in Santa Monica, California, the Arch hotel in London and Lanson Place in Hong Kong. These hotels are best
suited for business travellers who prefer the personalized attention offered by
Design Hotels is a collection of about 200 properties exhibiting
cutting edge design qualities. Club members get access to special discount rates,
in-room movies and subscriptions to design magazines. Standout members of this
chic, primarily European group, include the popular Crosby Street Hotel and Standard Hotel in New York City, and the Eccleston Square Hotel and Haymarket Hotel in London. These hotels are
best for business travellers with a keen eye for design who like a busy social
scene in the lobby bar or restaurant.
Chris McGinnis is the business travel columnist for BBC Travel