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The hotel loyalty program ‘DISCOVERY’ explained

Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel conteststipsseries, or news.

Today (September 16, 2016): Travel Series: the hotel loyalty program ‘DISCOVERY’ explained.

Being a member of a hotel loyalty program is one of the easiest ways to get free nights, score upgrades, and receive free VIP experiences at luxury hotels. I previously published the details, with pros & cons, of the loyalty programs of the world’s most famous hotel brands, and how to take advantage of them:

Today, I have a look at a hotel loyalty program that you’ve probably never heard of but that is worth signing up for since it has some of the world’s most spectacular luxury hotels in its portfolio: DISCOVERY, the loyalty program of the Global Hotel Alliance (GHA), the world’s largest alliance of independent hotel brands.

With recognition across 34 luxury hotel brands – all with their own unique character – and more than 500 hotels spread around the globe, DISCOVERY members can experience a property that truly reflects the culture and traditions of its location, while enjoying all the benefits of loyalty, including room upgrades and comfort-enhancing perks. Some of the more famous hotel brands that are covered by the DISCOVERY loyalty program are Alila, Kempinski, Viceroy, and Anantara.

In this overview, I explain GHA’s DISCOVERY loyalty program:

  • Membership tiers & benefits
  • Pros & things I like about DISCOVERY
  • Cons & things I don’t like about DISCOVERY
  • My reviews of luxury hotels covered bt DISCOVERY
  • Key points
  • Poll: what’s the best hotel loyalty program?

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DISCOVERY has three membership levels. When you stay more frequently within the program’s hotel portfolio, you move up in status. You can mix and match brands and hotels as desired – each qualifying stay counts equally towards elite qualification.

  • Gold membership is the base level (reached upon joining th program for free) and has the following, complimentary, in-hotel benefits:
    • Complimentary bottle of water
    • Complimentary internet access
    • Choice of newspaper
    • Exclusive member-only offers
  • Platinum membership is awarded to members with 5 stays to 29 room nights in a calendar year. In addition to the benefits of Gold members, Premier members also receive the following benefits:
    • Local amenity upon check-in
    • One local experience per calendar year
    • One local experience when staying at a new DISCOVERY brand for the first time
    • Guaranteed room availability at least 48 hours prior to arrival
    • Upgrade to the next room category at check-in
    • Late check-out privileges until 3pm
  • Black membership, DISCOVERY’s highest level, is awarded to members with more than 30 room nights in a calendar year. In addition to the benefits of Gold members, Black members also receive the following benefits:
    • Local amenity upon check-in
    • One local experience per calendar year
    • One local experience when staying at a new DISCOVERY brand for the first time
    • Guaranteed room availability at least 24 hours prior to arrival
    • Double room upgrade at check-in
    • Late check-out privileges until 6pm
    • Early check-in privileges starting at 9am

Membership level is determined based upon a rolling year for new members, then on the calendar year thereafter. Once achieved, elite status remains in effect through February of the following calendar year.


  • As a DISCOVERY member, you can enjoy benefits across 34 independent luxury hotel brands, which include some of my favorite brands in the world, such as  AlilaKempinskiViceroy, Per Aquum, Avani, Corinthia, Grace Hotels, and Anantara. You can access the full list of 34 brands here. So when you consider a stay at one of the properties of these brands, it’s wort signing up for the program.
  • DISCOVERY guests can build status at a more than 500 destination-appropriate properties across 76 countries in its portfolio, from overwater villas in the Maldives and historic Turkish palaces on Istanbul’s Bosphorus, to city-chic properties in New York and design-heavy boutique hotels in London, Sydney, and beyond. Some of the DISCOVERY properties are among the best hotels in the world, such as Naladhu (Maldives), Kempinski Barbaros Bay (Turkey), Alila Jabal Akhdar (Oman), Alila Villas Uluwatu (Bali), and Grace Santorini (Greece).
  • DISCOVERY members receive a 10% discount on the Best Available Rate when they book participating hotels direct online. Simply search hotels and rates, then sign-in as a DISCOVERY member to book the 10% discounted rate.
  • DISCOVERY members have access to flash sales with 20% to 40% off of Best Available Rates, making stays at some ultraluxe properties affordable. Note that these rates are prepaid, non-refunable and non-cancelable.
  • DISCOVERY elite members receive a “complimentary, local experience awards” which are rewarded based upon membership level and activity in the DISCOVERY program. These awards vary by membership level – the higher the membership level, the more exciting and exclusive the experience. The type of experience depends on the hotel & location and you can look them up on the DISCOVERY website (click “search local experiences”). They vary from spa treatments, airport transfers and dinners, to sunset boat trips in the Maldives, helicopter rides in New York and an Opera House backstage tour in Sydney.
  • DISCOVERY is one of the very few programs that rewards loyalty for stays at luxury hotels. Brands using the program make efforts to reward their most loyal guests. For example, hotel chains such as Four Seasons, Rosewood, Aman, Banyan Tree, and Mandarin Oriental do not offer a loyalty program.
  • The program is uncomplicated and thus very easy to understand. You don’t collect points (as compared to the other, better known hotel loyalty programs) but you are rewarded with benefits based on your loyalty status.
  • The program has several partners that allow you to fast track your way to elite status:
    • All American Express (AMEX) Platinum members are offered an immediate upgrade to Platinum Level when joining DISCOVERY, while all AMEX Centurion members are offered an immediate upgrade to Black level when joining DISCOVERY.
    • All Business Traveller subscribers are offered an immediate upgrade to Platinum when joining DISCOVERY.
    • All Morgan Stanley Reserved members are offered an immediate upgrade to Platinum level when joining DISCOVERY.
    • First Class & More is a Travel Service Provider offering seminars and newsletters. Seminar attendees are now offered an immediate upgrade to Black Level when joining DISCOVERY. Newsletter subscribers are now offered an immediate upgrade to Platinum Level when joining DISCOVERY

  • Contrary to most hotel loyalty programs, DISCOVERY members do not earn hotel points for their expenses at hotels, and as such cannot save credits towards a free hotel night.
  • The benefits for the top-tier members are disappointing in comparison to other hotel programs. For example, complimentary breakfast is not offered.
  • DISCOVERY is one of the few hotel loyalty schemes that does not earn you frequent flyer miles.
  • DISCOVERY lacks a general best rate guarantee program. However, some of the brands it covers offer a best rate guarantee in addition to the DISCOVERY benefits:
    • When you find a lower rate than the one listed in the official Alila website, Alila will refund the difference as a credit to your room account during your stay.
    • Kempinksi has a very generous BRG program. Should you find a lower rate on another website, within 24 hours of completing a reservation at, Kempinski will match the lower rate found and will discount it even further by an additional 25%. In addition to that, you’ll be upgraded to the next higher room category, subject to availability at the time of check in at the hotel.


  • GHA is the world’s largest alliance of independent hotel brands, and has some terrific hotels in its portfolio, so be sure to subscribe (for free) to their DISCOVERY loyalty program when you stay at one of their hotels. It will get you access to a few complimentary benefits, such as free high-speed WiFi.
  • Is you subscribe to the newsletter of First Class & More (for free), you will get fast-track elite status, and enjoy additional benefits, such as room upgrade, late check-out, and a local experience.

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2 Comments on The hotel loyalty program ‘DISCOVERY’ explained

  1. Did you ever use the Kempinski Best Rate Guarantee? I worry about comparing the cancellation terms. Should they be exactly the same?


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