Leading Hotels Of The World Leaders Club And Unlimited Status

Reader Beefeater left the following comment on the “Ask Lucky” page of the blog last week:

Now that you’re moving into hotels have you considered giving LHW a try for something a little different. It would be interesting to find your take on whether it’s worth it to go with their program given that you can have 4 or 5 one night stays at their more reasonable properties at a rate around $200 and then redeem a night at a higher end property like ritz london, hotel de paris, or presumably even the newer lacaula resort in Fiji which goes for a mind boggling $4000 a night.

To be honest I hadn’t ever considered the program. While I know the major hotel chains like the back of my hand, I actually kinda get a lot of the smaller chains mixed up. You have Leading Hotels Of The World, Global Hotel Alliance, etc., and I don’t really know which hotels belong to which chains.

But I had a look at the Leading Hotels Of The World program, and it’s intriguing if nothing else, so I figured I’d share what I’ve found out.

What is Leading Hotels Of The World?

For those of you not familiar with the group, they have 423 properties around the globe as of now. The group consists largely of independent high end hotels, though also has some chains among it, like Kempsinki, One&Only, Rocco Forte, Taj, and many more.

LHW-Locations

It’s worth noting that many of their properties belong to Virtuoso and American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts, which gets you benefits like complimentary breakfast, room upgrades, late check-out, and a property specific amenity, just for booking through them.

Leading Hotels Of The World status can be outright purchased

What makes Leading Hotels Of The World so interesting is that they have two status levels, and they can both be outright purchased. There are no qualification requirements and for that matter there’s no way to actually earn the status, no matter how many stays you make. It’s all about whether you’re willing to shell out the cash or not.

InterContinental does the same with their Ambassador status, which costs $200 per year ($150 to renew). Meanwhile their top tier Royal Ambassador status is invitation only.

The LHW status levels are as follows:

  • Leaders Club: $150 per year
  • Unlimited: $1,200 per year

Leaders-Club

 Leading Hotels Of The World Leaders Club status

Leaders Club is their entry level status, and as I mentioned above, can be purchased for $150 per year. It comes with the following major benefits:

  • Complimentary Continental Breakfast. Receive complimentary continental breakfast for two each day.
  • One-Category Room Upgrade. Enjoy even more luxurious accommodations with a one-category room upgrade at the time of check-in.
  • Earn Complimentary Nights. Earn one complimentary night at any Leading Hotels for every five stays completed before your anniversary date.
  • Complimentary Internet Access. With free Internet access, we enable you to be as far away or as linked in as you desire.
  • Exclusive Member & Hotel Privileges. Leaders Club Members enjoy access to special benefits and advantages.
    • Special rate privileges available only to Leaders Club Members
    • Early check-in, late check-out considerations**
    • Unique welcome gift for you at each Leading Hotel
    • Invitations to Leaders Club Events held near your hometown
    • Invitations to Leaders Club Events held at properties during your stay
    • View Members-Only Offers

Those are the major benefits, and then there are a few other partner perks, like Sixt Platinum status.

Leading Hotels Of The World Unlimited status

Unlimited is their top tier status, and can be purchased for $1,200 per year. It comes with the following major benefits:

  • Complimentary Airport Transfers. Leaders Club Unlimited Members enjoy free one-way airport transfers to thirty cities. Valid at the following thirty cities: Amsterdam, Bangkok, Barcelona, Berlin, Boston, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Honolulu, Houston, Las Vegas, London, Madrid, Miami, Milan, Montreal, Moscow, Munich, New York, Paris, Philadelphia, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, San Francisco, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore, Toronto, Vienna, Washington D.C., and Zurich.
  • Complimentary Continental Breakfast. Receive complimentary continental breakfast for two each day.
  • One-Category Room Upgrade. Enjoy even more luxurious accommodations with a one-category room upgrade confirmed at the time of booking.
  • Earn Complimentary Nights. Earn one complimentary night at any Leading Hotels for every four stays completed before your anniversary date.
  • Complimentary Internet Access. With free Internet access, we enable you to be as far away or as linked in as you desire.
  • The Unlimited Advantage.
    • Complimentary gift memberships for your family – up to three complimentary Leaders Club memberships to share with your family
    • A PriorityPass card which provides access to over 600 VIP airport lounges in over 100 countries
    • Access to one-of-a-kind specially-created experiences
    • Guaranteed 4:00 PM late check-out
  • Exclusive Member & Hotel Privileges. Leaders Club Members enjoy access to special benefits and advantages.
    • Special rate privileges available only to Leaders Club Members
    • Early check-in, late check-out considerations**
    • Unique welcome gift for you at each Leading Hotel
    • Invitations to Leaders Club Events held near your hometown
    • Invitations to Leaders Club Events held at properties during your stay
    • View Members-Only Offers

Those are the major benefits, and then there are a few other partner perks, like Sixt Platinum status.

Major differences between Leaders Club and Unlimited status

Big picture, why would you pay eight times more for Unlimited status vs. Leaders Club status?

  • Your upgrade is confirmed at the time of booking and not based on availability at the time you check-in
  • You earn free nights faster — instead of getting a free night after every five stays, you get a free night after every four stays
  • You get complimentary one-way airport transfers in 30 cities, which is potentially an awesome perk
  • You get guaranteed 4PM check-out
  • You get three Leaders Club memberships to gift to family or friends
  • You get a PriorityPass membership

Is that worth a premium of $1,050? If you make a couple dozen stays in a year, I would guess absolutely. If you’re just making a few stays you’ll have to crunch the numbers for yourself.

Free night redemptions through Leaders Club

So there are a few “catches” when it comes to redeeming free nights through the Leaders Club program:

  • Leaders Club members can only redeem one free night at a time, while Unlimited members can redeem for up to three consecutive nights
  • When you earn a free night you have one year from the date of issue to redeem it
  • There are a “limited number” of blackout dates for award redemption which vary by hotel

But in terms of the earnings rates, it can actually work out pretty well if you make lots of short stays. For example, say you book the Sukhothai Bangkok (which I’ve always wanted to stay at) for ~$161 per night.

Sukhothai-1

If you book through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts you get complimentary breakfast, 4PM check-out, a room upgrade, and a complimentary lunch or dinner once during your stay.

Sukhothai-2

If you were a Leaders Club Unlimited member you’d receive a complimentary one-way airport transfer, a guaranteed upgrade, complimentary internet, etc.

Furthermore, you’d receive a complimentary night after four stays. So ~$640 worth of stays gets you a complimentary night.

LHW has tons of really expensive properties, like Le Bristol Paris. Rates there are consistently 1,000EUR+ per night.

Le-Bristol-LHW

So you could spend $640 for four stays and then redeem that award certificate at a property which retails for double what you paid for your four stays.

Leading Hotels Of The World Leaders Club Bottom Line

I’m writing about Leaders Club not necessarily because it’s the most lucrative program out there, but rather because it’s really unique. It’s one of the few programs where you can’t earn free nights just from staying as a regular member, but at the same time it’s one of the only programs where you can exclusively “earn” status by purchasing it.

Many LHW properties belong to Virtuoso and American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts, which gets you many of the same benefits you would receive as a Leaders Club member. So the program definitely isn’t worth it for everyone.

However, if you’re a frequent guest the opportunity to earn free nights and the perks for being an Unlimited member are really rewarding. For the average traveler this won’t be a great program given how expensive most of their hotels are. But if you “play” the game right with LHW and value luxury hotels, you can come out way ahead.

Does anyone have any experience with LHW properties or the Leaders Club? If so, what has been your experience?

Comments

  1. I’ve stayed at several of their properties over the years in Europe, Asia, and Australia, and all have been excellent experiences. I cannot think of any stay that I would consider disappointing.

    That said, I don’t stay at their locations enough to really consider either of their programs.

  2. While I totally understand the idea of a “free night”, in practice, wouldn’t that be a pain? In other words, if I’m visiting Paris, I’m likely not staying for one night, which means I would have to come to the hotel, check in and check out in 24 hours and go to another hotel. It just seems like more of a headache than it’s worth. Granted, yes, if you’re staying at the hotel for more than one night then you get a free night, but how many people are doing that if you’re looking for the most expensive hotel out there? And if you’re looking for something cheaper, then the perks don’t seem to make financial sense.

  3. @ Daniel — Totally agree. That being said, if as an Unlimited member you can redeem for three consecutive nights (which I’m trying to verify), that seems much more useful.

  4. I recently stayed at the Taj Exotica in the Maldives: http://www.tajexoticabrochure.com An outstanding property, and would be a great place to burn 3 nights as an unlimited member. If your living in hotels and have a time in India, it’s only about 2 hours from India to Male and a 20 minute speedboat ride to the hotel.

  5. Another nice thing is that the program continues to try to improve its benefits, rather than remaining static — until recently the free airport transfer was offered in only 10 cities and that has now tripled.

  6. BTW, when do we get your annual post pointing out great summer hotel deals in the desert destinations? I’m looking at a few days in June hopping around Palm Springs at places with $100 rates which include $100 resort credits.

  7. Some of their European properties are available via auction at LuxuryLink. These are typically multi-night packages with additional amenities such as dinner and/or spa. I don’t belong to this Club but would be curious as to whether the benefits are stackable, or LuxuryLink is shut out as a third party booking like so many hotel programs.

  8. Have stayed in several in the US, as well as the Bayerischer Hof in Munich and Hotel Oro Verde in Guayaquil, Ecuador. My stays at the Oro Verde were not particularly special and I have stayed there twice. They need to work on issues of mold and mildew. That being said, it is the best place to stay in the city…Have had dinner at Emiliano’s in Sao Paulo and it is a beautiful place in a great part of the city. I forget about this program and appreciate all of the terrific info in this post!

  9. Have been intrigued by this program but don’t travel enough to be tempted to jump onboard. However, if one stays at their hotels often enough, Unlimited looks good due to free transfers from the airport (would be even better if it was both ways).

  10. You should probably do some research on how easy those free nights are to use at the high-end properties; I suspect there may be some serious capacity restrictions. I know from having briefly had status in the Fairmont program (which is structured similarly, though less generously), their free night certificates would theoretically be awesome at the Plaza in New York or the Savoy in London, but in practice those hotels only offer free night availability a handful of nights per year, and must be booked very far in advance. I could easily see LHW being the same.

  11. I’ve stayed at the Sukhothai a couple of times. It is a very nice hotel. The bathrooms are enormous. But for me the location is less than ideal for getting around and that part of Sathorn is pretty much devoid of anything like restaurants. It’s about a 10 mins. walk to the subway. Of course getting a taxi is easy though. Personally I prefer a place with easier BTS access and more life around the hotel. All of which is easy to find with plenty of luxury in Bangkok.

  12. Intrigued enough to look further on hotel website. FYI – LHW site specifically states that Unlimited members can use up to 3 awards at once. Will consider joining in the future when I know I will have several stays booked at their hotels over a period of several months. Question-Am I reading correctly that the one-way airport transfer can ONLY be booked FROM airport TO hotel and not in reverse order?

  13. What the hell, I stayed at 4 LHW – hotels last year and did not even know a thing called Leaders Club even existed…

    Damn i’m annoyed with myself!

  14. A real question is – do they have a credit card and an affiliate program?
    Explains why no blogger ever talks about it… Hyatt, Hyatt, Hyatt!!!

  15. @ Andrew — They don’t have a co-branded credit card. And for what it’s worth, the Hyatt Card isn’t part of affiliate network either.

  16. It would probably be more interesting if the free nights were issued after staying X amount of nights rather than stays. That benefit only really works if you stay one night only. That said some of the prices are more than reasonable. I compared a fictional stay in Sydney and the price for LHW was the same as the Westin with no argument over benefits. Kahala Hotel in Honolulu is pricing the same as the Sheraton Waikiki which is nothing special. Add in the free one way transportation and if one was clever could probably do well out of this program.

  17. If you are looking at a program like this it is worth looking into Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Really a nice program with very good and often less extremely priced hotel options than LHW. That is what I mainly book.

  18. I have also stayed recently in the Taj Exotica Maldives at a Virtuoso Rate and it was amazing, the only turndown is the lack of a housereef but service was superb.

    For me the program currently does not work, but it is very interesting. Thanks for the post.

  19. PH! Yes, the lack of a reef was too bad, but I certainly agree that the service was terrific. If I might ask what type of rate were you able to get thru Virtuoso and what was included in the rate?

  20. Is the $1200 for unlimited an annual fee or is it lifetime? That would make a big difference.

    And the free night accumulation, do they wipe out partial credits at the end of every year? Let’s say you stayed 9 nights as a Leader, or 7 as unlimited, do you lose the extra at the end of each year, or is it just that you have to stay 4 or 5 nights within 12 months to earn a night?

    One problem with a collection of independent hotels is that it can be more difficult to enforce the benefits than in more structured chain like SPG or Hyatt. Do you have any experience on how consistently they are delivered?

  21. I’m somewhat intrigued because it is sometimes more authentic to stay at a locally run hotel than one that belongs to a western chain. But the majority of these hotels are very pricey in their own right. So it can be pretty difficult to make the redemption really work out. The earning is based on 4 or 5 stays, so unless you hop around it might be a lot more than 4 or 5 nights – and the number of inexpensive hotels to collect those stays is limited. And then the redemption is only for 1-3 nights, and must be earned in the 12 months before. That takes a pretty dedicated effort.

    That makes me think of this more for the benefits during the stays than for the awards.

    Unlimited’s main incremental benefit seems to be the airport transfers, guaranteed upgrades, and Priority Pass membership. Seems to me that you need around 10 stays for that to pencil out, or maybe 7 stays if you put a $300 value on Priority Pass – I’m assuming this is the unlimited Priority Pass, though only for the holder, guests (including family) are still $27 per person per visit.

    But it seems most of the benefits come with Virtuoso or Amex Fine, so why not just book with them. Okay LHW has some properties that aren’t part of Virtuoso or Fine, so sign up for Leaders at the $150 level when you are staying in one of the smaller cities where there is no SPG or Hyatt or Fine or Virtuoso that has LHW? for the once in a lifetime trip to Zermatt or Baden-Baden?

  22. For what it’s worth, I joined at club level a few years ago when joining included a 5000 Amex Membership Rewards points bonus. I never renewed, but they’ve comped me Club status for the last few years. They DO have some nice properties.

  23. LHW & Accor Advantage are my main loyalty programs for hotels. I find LHW or more local prestige rather than American chain which in business out side of USA can bsedetremental to local business. They are both are both prepay LWH if you try to maximise your awards then your are a “trolley dolley” and as such changeiung hotels every night is not an issue. For me it’s worth it and the invitation only events have been a surprise especially those in “town” for your stay. Some fantastic, local locations and properties like the Russell in Sydney this one gets me every time. The redemption you have to read the fine print of the hotel some include meals, some are per suite and it sleeps 4. Never used the limo service as this is normally provided by the airline or client.

  24. I’ve found LHW Leaders Club to be pretty darned good before they turned to a revenue model; in the early days one had to stay at five or seven properties or something within a year, and that got you Leaders Club. The benefits were nowhere as good as they are now, but even in those days I found the LHW properties to be great across the board/globally, but oddly they seem to have dropped some of the high end chains (Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons, Peninsula, for example). But always responsive/service oriented.

    Small Luxury Hotels (SLH) is another group with which I’ve been pleased, and has included The Stafford in London – I switched to The Stafford after Starwood took over The Lanesborough in London from Rosewood ~11 years ago.

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