These are 6 of the hotel brands I wish would join or create loyalty programs
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One of the best things about collecting points and miles is that they provide the opportunity to stay in luxury hotels that would otherwise be laughably out of reach for the majority of people.
Thanks to points, I've had the chance to stay in some pretty amazing properties around the world: the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme, the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort in Puerto Rico, among others.
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However, there are so many hotels around the world that are just as -- if not more -- beautiful and exclusive -- but you can't use points to pay for them in the traditional sense.
When recent headlines began touting a new relationship between Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group and The Oberoi Group of India, my heart skipped a beat, thinking that perhaps these brands were joining forces and launching their own loyalty program -- or better yet joining one of the existing major loyalty programs.
However, upon further reading, I was disappointed to find out that -- as it stands now -- this partnership is little more than a symbolic one, and the only real change is that members of each chain's loyalty programs -- which extend their (limited) benefits to anyone who signs up -- will receive reciprocal benefits at all Mandarin Oriental and Oberoi properties.
This relatively minor news got me thinking, however, about which hotel chains I'd love to see launch their own loyalty programs (with the ability to earn and redeem points) or -- even better -- join existing programs. I'm practically drooling over the thought of using World of Hyatt points to stay at a Four Seasons property!
Related: What your hotel stay will look like after coronavirus
Of course, many of the chains I'll list below don't have or participate in points programs by design. Part of their allure is their exclusivity, which is all but ensured by the room rates charged at most of these chains' properties, not to mention the often far-flung locales of many of these high-end hotels.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but if 2020 somehow granted me three travel-industry-related wishes, these would be the brands I'd submit for further points proliferation.
With just 32 properties in 20 countries, Aman is considered by many to be the finest luxury hotel brand on earth. Each property is obsessively designed to draw on -- and then blend seamlessly with -- their natural setting. Aman has hotels in some of the world's most-incredible destinations, including Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Sveti Stefan, Montenegro; and Bhutan, among others.
While I haven't had the chance to stay at an Aman yet, it's very high on my list. I've heard wonderful things from TPG colleagues who have stayed with Aman before, and from the travel community at large by spending an almost-shocking amount of time reading Tripadvisor impressions. (Hey, it's 2020. What else is there to do?)
You can expect the best -- beautiful facilities, sublime service that focuses on the minute details of a stay and delicious food -- at Aman properties. But with base rooms often exceeding $1,000 per night (and going much higher at certain properties), you should have high expectations. Clearly, Amans aren't just for any traveler. The chain doesn't have a loyalty program, all but guaranteeing that only the most affluent guests can afford the price of entry.
Belmond hotels got its start in Italy with the acquisition of the Hotel Cipriani in Venice. Today, it's known as the Belmond Hotel Cipriani and is still one of the most famous hotels in Europe. Elsewhere, Belmond has expanded to North and South America, Asia and Africa, creating some of the world's most iconic hotels in the process.
The world cheered when Belmond reopened two of its properties in the Caribbean -- La Samanna in St. Maarten and Cap Juluca in Anguilla -- after they suffered extensive damage at the hands of hurricanes in the region. And, you'd be hard-pressed to find a traveler who hasn't at least heard of the Belmond Hotel Caruso in Italy's Amalfi Coast or the Belmond Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro.
This brand has luxury in its DNA -- it's owned by LVMH, a conglomerate that owns such brands as Moët & Chandon, Christian Dior, Bulgari and many more. Predictably, the entire range of Belmond hotels is exclusive, with prices to match. And it's not just hotels, either. Belmond owns and operates luxury train and cruise services including what's arguably the world's ultimate rail experience: the Venice Simplon Orient-Express.
The closest I've gotten to staying at a Belmond property was ordering a bellini at Hotel Caruso in Ravello, Italy, and as soon as I stepped foot inside the property, I understood what the hype was all about. While not every Belmond property is as expensive as, say, an Aman property, they're certainly not cheap and with no loyalty program, you can expect to dish out a serious amount of cash, especially if you plan to stay more than a single night.
Four Seasons is one of the more "accessible" chains on this list, thanks to the wide variety of destinations it operates in, from major cities to some of the most remote locales on the planet.
When we say "accessible," we mean that compared to some of its peers on this list, some Four Seasons properties feel downright affordable. For example, I've been lucky enough to stay at Four Seasons properties in Bogotá, Colombia and Johannesburg, South Africa. Room rates for both of my stays were in the $200-per-night range, which felt like a steal, especially considering the caliber of each of those hotels.
Four Seasons is probably the most likely candidate to join a traditional loyalty program -- or create one of its own. The chain has a very loyal following of guests and it's large enough that it could likely profit handsomely by inking a deal with a credit card issuer to which it could sell points. And thanks to that loyal guest pool, it's not hard to imagine people clamoring to sign up for a branded credit card for the opportunity to earn and then redeem points at Four Seasons properties around the world. Here's hoping.
With a relatively small footprint of just over 30 properties worldwide, Mandarin Oriental is one of the planet's most luxurious and most exclusive hotel chains. It has properties in some of the most desirable locations on earth, across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
The chain got its start in Hong Kong and Bangkok, Thailand, and as it's grown globally, it's preserved its heritage not just in the design of its properties but also in its service culture and food-and-beverage options.
Mandarin Oriental could be an ideal candidate for a loyalty program in the future. It's already signaled it's open to doing more, as evidenced by its recent (largely symbolic) partnership with India's Oberoi Hotels -- another luxury brand. If these two brands deepened their relationship and created a more traditional loyalty program, it would surely be a boon for discerning travelers worldwide.
Another exclusive luxury chain with a relatively small footprint, some of Rosewood's most-known properties are individual hotels like The Carlyle in New York and The Mansion at Turtle Creek in Dallas, that have been brought into the Rosewood family.
Even though it's a chain, each Rosewood property feels like its own unique place, driven by a focus on environmental sustainability and a storied culture of service.
With no traditional loyalty program, Rosewood and its small -- but growing -- portfolio of 28 properties seem like a good fit to be a range-topping brand for an existing chain. Of course, we'd love to see the brand retain its identity and values, but joining an existing brand with a strong loyalty program could raise its profile on the world stage and open up a whole new realm of travel options for points collectors.
A relatively new brand, One&Only was established in 2002 and built a portfolio of stunning resorts in some of the world's most popular destinations. More recently, the chain has expanded into more unique, experience-driven properties like its Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley and the One&Only Gorilla's Nest in Rwanda.
I had the chance to stay at One&Only's hotel in Cape Town, South Africa and didn't want to leave. Since that stay, I've been dreaming of visiting more of these hotels, especially the aforementioned Gorilla's Nest.
Similar to Rosewood, this brand seems like it could be a great fit for an existing hotel loyalty program. Even if Marriott, for example, had to expand its award categories to nine -- or even 10 -- I'd still jump at the chance to burn points for trekking with gorillas in the lap of luxury.
Tips for booking non-points hotels
While none of the hotels in the above chains can be booked with points in the traditional sense, there are ways to reduce your costs, increase your benefits and, yes, even pay with your points.
You can book hotels through credit card travel portals -- such as American Express Travel or the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal -- but your points are worth a fixed amount (you'll do the best if you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve® that allows you to redeem points at 1.5 cents apiece) so if you're staying at a pricey property, you better have a lot of points saved up and ready to burn.
Here's another money-saving trick to employ: Take advantage of Citi's fourth night free perk that comes with the Citi Prestige® Card. This allows you to book four consecutive nights at a given property -- as long as it's bookable through Citi's travel portal -- and get the fourth night free, based on the average nightly rate for your stay and excluding taxes and fees.
Finally, if you're willing to pay cold hard cash, there's a great way to score elite-like perks at hotels that don't have traditional loyalty programs and benefits. If you hold The Platinum Card® from American Express (or its business version or the Centurion card), you have access to Amex's Fine Hotels and Resorts program, which affords such benefits as room upgrades, daily breakfast for two, early check-in when available, guaranteed late checkout and an on-property credit (typically to the spa or for food and beverages). There are often even more lucrative promotions available through FHR as well, like a free third or fourth night.
The information for the Citi Prestige card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
I acknowledge the entire premise of this story is something of a pipe dream, but crazier things have happened, right? (See: 2020.) With hotels across the world being forced to rethink just about everything, maybe now is the right time to take a closer look at the possibility of joining an existing loyalty program or starting from scratch on a new one.
Points have already opened up so much of the world -- and some of its most outstanding hotels -- to me and so many others. Unfortunately, many of the world's most exclusive accommodations remain off-limits. Yes, it's by design, but if we've learned anything from 2020, it's that anything is possible. If any part of this wishlist became reality, I'd be thrilled, and I know many others would share in that sentiment and rush to book one-of-a-kind experiences with their hard-earned points.