Fast-Track Your Hotel Elite Status: Inside GHA Discovery’s Exclusive Perks and Secret Red Level

GHA Discovery is a really interesting hotel loyalty program. Instead of serving as the frequent guest program for a single hotel chain, it is the loyalty program for many (smaller) chains. It’s an interesting solution for hotels that don’t really have the scale for their own compelling program. It’s a way for guests to earn rebates on their stays and spend those rebates broadly, as well as gain recognition at hundreds of properties even if they earn their status at only a few.

GHA has one of the boldest earning promotions I’ve seen in a long time with the possibility of rebating 94% of spending (excluding taxes and fees) over a 5 month period. They’ve been adding elite benefits like breakfast at several brands since the program’s relaunch two and a half years ago and they are generous offering status matches as long as you’ve had a single stay credited to the program in the past 24 months.

When they relaunched at the end of 2021, GHA Discovery moved from a ‘recognition and experiences-only’ program to offering rebates on stays in the form of up to 7% back in ‘Discovery Dollars’ that can be used like cash to cover hotel bills at check-out. In addition, across 39 brands and over 800 hotels like Viceroy, Pan Pacific, Outrigger, Kempinski, NH Hotels, Marco Polo, Anantara and Capella,

  • Status became much easier to earn
  • Many benefits became less guaranteed

First, it’s super interesting how easy it is to earn top published status with GHA Discovery. Titanium status is earned after 30 nights or $15,000 spend or… 3 brands. It’s possible to earn Titanium status in as little as 3 nights, staying one night each at 3 different brands, and there are cities where they have more than 3 brands.

Titanium comes with 7% rebates; 11 a.m. early check-in and 4 p.m. late check-out subject to availability; double room category upgrades subject to availability, and a welcome amenity plus brand-specific benefits. It does not come with breakfast at all brands, and does not include lounge access.

Rebates replaced local experiences, which not all members valued or used but certainly had higher headline retail values than what guests earn now.

What I don’t like – but maybe is inevitable given the even more decentralized nature of the relationship between GHA and hotels – is the move to making benefits ‘subject to availability’. Nowhere can this be seen more than in their invitation-only Red level which used to include 9 p.m. late check-out and “personalized chef services.”

The level used to be secretive but now benefits are published on GHA’s website. Here’s also the list of additional brand-specific benefits which in a few cases include club lounge access, but can also be just:

  • 20% off laundry service (Doyle Collection)
  • complimentary “glass of house wine or non-alcoholic beverage at the bar” (Leela Hotels)
  • Priority check-in (NH Hotels)

In fact, published Red benefits are now 10 a.m. early check-in, 6 p.m. late check-out, and suite upgrades as differentiators from Titanium (all subject to availability) along with VIP customer service (an email address). Recall that 6 p.m. used to be 9 p.m.

According to one presentation the criteria for Red is,

RED Invite only. Usually,100 nights or US$25,000 eligible spend or 5 brand stays (per calendar year).

However this does not make sense to me. 5 brands in a calendar year would be too easy to achieve, considering I don’t think I’ve ever heard from any readers invited to the Red level.

Hotel unpublished levels often make modest promises, with some properties massively over-delivering. Marriott Cobalt will generally mean better upgrades as well as a local amenity. Hyatt’s Courtesy Card should deliver best-available suite though members report it often does not (Courtesy Card customers are prioritized for upgrades ahead of Lifetime Globalists and Globalists).

The decentralized nature of GHA Discovery can be challenging, and individual hotels can offer confusing answers over what constitutes a qualifying rate for benefits as well. But it unlocks better experiences across a variety of hotels where you’d otherwise likely be just a one-off guest – if you ever gave them a shot at all. And once you’ve earned Discovery Dollars, since those do expire, you’ll want to use them which helps keep you inside the ecosystem.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. The 5 brands for Red? I think that could have been noted relative to number of nights and/or amount of spend, as the invite-only level qualification may have been sort of holistically determined and maybe they merely shortlist for periodic (and previously manual) review those customers who met one or more of those 3 mentioned criteria and then decided.

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