Shangri-La Hotels Launches Brand New Loyalty Program, Shangri-La Circle

Update April 27, 2022: Shangri-La’s new program goes live tomorrow. I interviewed their VP of Loyalty . Here’s 5 things I love about the new program.

They have a launch promotion, in addition to their new mobile app going live:



The loyalty program for Shangri-La Hotels, the luxury Hong Kong-based chain with over 100 properties, is among the first of the major chains doing an across-the-board refresh as we emerge from the global pandemic.

Shangri-La has locations across Asia; in Paris, London, and Istanbul; 9 properties in the Mideast as well as 3 in Australia. There are hotels in Canada as well.

They’re revamping both how elite status is earned along with its benefits, introducing consistent and flexible redemption value, and rebranding the program. Shangri-La Golden Circle becomes Shangri-La Circle next year, and:

  • All activity counts towards elite status. They’re keeping elite nights as a qualifying criteria for status, and introducing a way to earn status based on spend (while dropping stays as a qualifying criteria). The interesting thing here is that all spend activity counts, including food and beverage when you’re not a guest and even online shopping.

  • New benefits, including an invitation-only level. Their VIP level is more exclusive, and more rewarding, than any other hotel level I’m aware of including Marriott Cobalt status and Hyatt’s Courtesy Card.

  • Flexible redemption. Instead of award charts with blackout dates, they’re allowing points to be spent at a consistent rate of 15 points is worth one US dollar. That’s true whether redeeming for room nights or non-stay awards, and it’s true for new cash and points awards they’re introducing.


Credit: Shangri-La Circle

How Elite Status Is Earned In The New Shangri-La Circle

Shangri-La status is now earned based on nights or spend. “Stays” are no longer used. The interesting thing though is that all spend counts and that’s true whether you’re staying on property or not. Host a dinner in their restaurant, buy something from their online store, and that counts towards earning elite status.

  • Gold – Base member
  • Jade – 20 nights or 6000 elite tier points
  • Diamond – 50 nights or 15,000 elite tier points

Counting spend when you aren’t a guest makes all the sense in the world, but it’s something that’s hard for many chains to do. The restaurant may have a different system, or points-earning may be tied to a guest folio. Shangri-La owns most of their hotels so they can roll out the sort of uniform technology that makes this possible.

Elite Benefits In The New Shangri-La Circle

Owning their hotels makes a huge difference in delivering benefits, and Shangri-La owns 80% of their properties. They don’t have a panoply of owners to satisfy, and they aren’t just franchising out their brand. That makes it easier to deliver on exceptional benefits, and ensure consistent application of benefits at the property-level.

Key benefits of elite tiers:

  • Jade: 25% bonus points, daily breakfast, elite rollover nights, 11am check-in/4pm checkout, welcome amenity, upgrade

  • Diamond: Jade benefits plus 50% bonus points, 8am check-in/6pm checkout, suit pressing on arrival, club lounge access

It’s important to note that ‘club lounge access’ is separate from the hotel breakfast benefit offered at the Jade level. Shangri-La clubs aren’t what you might come to expect as a U.S. or European hotel guest. These are exclusive experiences that include sit-down dining, ordering from a menu.

Elites also receive a Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer status match as well as a status match with Taj Inner Circle, both of which are rare outside of this program.

The Best Invitation-Only Elite Level In The World?

God Save The Points calls Shangri-La’s Polaris invitation-only level “the most baller hotel status in the world.” While that’s not the way I’d phrase it myself, the sentiment seems correct.

Benefits at this level include access to hotel facilities including club lounge, fitness center, gym, swimming pool, business center and more at any Shangri-La property worldwide, even without a stay. If you’re in a city and want to visit and benefit from a property, you can do this, because Shangri-La understands that it’s most important customers are just as important on the days they aren’t staying on property as the days that they are.

Polaris members can check in from starting at midnight on the day of arrival and check out by 6 p.m. on the day of departure. If they’re arriving in the middle of the night, that’s fine. There’s no need to ‘book the night before’ or hope that a room is ready.

And naturally that room can be upgraded. Polaris members can upgrade their room for up to 14 nights per stay 10 times per year. Oh – how will they arrive on property? Six times a year they receive jet bridge meet-and-greet and complimentary airport transfers (Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore) as well as complimentary 4-hour luxury car service during stays in Shangri-La and Kerry hotels 6 times per year.

Polaris members can also nominate a family member for Diamond status. I’ve always thought that it can be more important to treat the people who are important to an important customer well, than it is how well you treat that customer. Nominating someone to the top public status level gets at this directly.

Finally, and at the risk of ‘burying the lede’, Polaris members (along with a guest) get to choose a Welcome Experience when they reach this level. There are currently 5 options to choose from. And to say they’re amazing and over the top would be an understatement.

  • Tokyo – A Day with a Sushi Master Visit Tsukiji Market with Sushi Master Yoshi, a 4th generation renowned Sushi chef, as guide “the same Master who once represented Japan in front of the British Royal Family during the Royal Windsor Cup and the First Ladies during the G20 Osaka Summit.” You then visit his 100-year-old restaurant for lunch.

    This comes with a night in a Premier Suite ​at Shangri-La Tokyo, spa treatment, Italian dinner in your suite and includes a photographer to accompany you on the Tsukiji Market visit.

  • Hong Kong – Escape to the Sea Victoria Harbour cruise out to the Ninepin Group of islands and enjoy a meal on board by Michelin-starred chef Uwe. This includes a night in a Premier Harbour View Suite at Island Shangri-La Hong Kong along with dinner and wine pairing and in-suite spa treatment.

  • Hangzhou – Caviar Enchantment Visit a sturgeon farm in the middle of Qiandao (“Thousand Island”) Lake and “interact with the sturgeons, and indulge in an extravagant Caviar tasting session paired with a Champagne afternoon tea.”

    This includes a night in an Executive Lakeview Suite at Midtown Shangri-La, Hangzhou, spa treatment, and private dining in a dedicated room or in your suite.

  • Beijing Helicopter tour of the Great Wall followed by picnic lunch, including a night in a Luxury Premier Suite at the China World Summit Wing, ‘Dining through the Decades’ menu, and a photographer to accompany the Great Wall visit.

  • Singapore – Fast and Furious Hotel pickup by a race driver and test drive at the F1 Auto showroom, includes a night in The Grand Suite at​ Shangri-La Singapore, Shang Palace menu served on the suite’s terrace, in-room massage, and 4 course ‘Diner des Fleurs’, presented by their executive chef and served in-suite or restaurant.

Polaris members also get all of the following four, for themselves or to gift to someone else

  • Family Experience Package 2 nights in a kids themed room with kids welcome amenities; daily breakfast for 2 adults and up to a maximum of 2 children who are 6 years old and under; complimentary parking.


    Credit: Shangri-La Circle

  • Aromatherapy Treatment at Chi, The Spa 90 minute treatment for 2 at any Chi, The Spa worldwide.
     
  • Signature Chef Tasting Menu & Wine Pairing at choice of Shangri-La restaurant: Shang Palace at Shangri-La Singapore; Summer Palace at Island Shangri-La, Hong Kong; The Horizon Chinese Restaurant at Kerry Hotel, Beijing; Gui Hua Lou at Pudong Shangri-La, Shanghai; Canton Road at Shangri-La, The Fort Manila; Piacere at Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo; TING at Shangri-La The Shard, London; Shang Palace at Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur; Shang Palace at Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi; Summer Palace at Shangri-La Hotel Guangzhou; Shang Garden at Futian Shangri-La, Shenzhen

  • Buffet Experience for 4 at choice of Shangri-La, Kerry, JEN or Traders hotel with buffet dining

 
This is simply way beyond anything else I’m aware of from other chains, like Marriott Cobalt or GHA Red Level. I understand that the number of members in this program is starting quite small, which makes sense to ensure that they deliver on its exceptional promises, but hopefully this will be broadened out.

These invitation-only levels are important, not just to take care of the best and most influential customers of the chain, but also to set a standard for excellence that properties can then draw on to care for other valued guests. There can be a halo effect throughout the loyalty tiers.

Shangri-La Circle’s New Revenue-Based Redemption

Shangri-La has moved to revenue-based earning and redemption. For an occasional guest at most, coming from North America, this means I can get value out of the program without frequent stays.

Here’s how earning works, it’s based on US dollar spend:

  • Gold: Earn 1 point per USD$1 spent
  • Jade: Earn 1.25 points per USD$1 spent
  • Diamond: Earn 1.5 points earned per USD$1 spent

Then members spend 15 points per dollar to redeem. That’s around a 7% rebate on spend before adding in elite bonuses, which is similar value to other top programs who don’t offer nearly the exceptional treatment, and that don’t award points for all spend when not staying as a guest.

They’re in the process of introducing cash and points redemptions (already available in China properties, with other hotels joining in April).

I’ve written for years about my love of award charts. But Shangri-La Circle presents an interesting case for fixed-value redemption.

  • It’s completely transparent. Revenue-based redemptions are often opaque. Here you have a clear value proposition where you know exactly what your points buy.

  • For a North American audience, it’s great because it lets you use a small number of points. You may not stay or dine with Shangri-La as often as someone might in Asia. Here, with cash and points and fixed value, you can redeem the points you accumulate through occasional stays.

  • Asian members may dine or have banquets with Shangri-La more than they stay, or even buy holiday treats online from them. Earning points from all of these activities may yield more award nights than under the old program with an award chart and blackout dates.

Shangri-La Circle Has A Clear Mission

A consistent theme of my writing is that it’s important to have a mission statement, a clear objective and sense for who your customers are. That way you employees can understand the product they’re supposed to deliver, and management has a guidepost against which to make decisions. Clearly Shangri-La is a luxury brand, and I love this statement,

Everything we do, we do with the warmth and craft that’s intrinsic to Asian hospitality; welcoming every member in like one of the family. We create experiences, cultivate community and do all we can to make every moment a Shangri-La. We help each and every member to discover their Shangri-La through attentive service, tailored privileges and recommendations to their taste. This is the good life as curated by us and completed by you.


Credit: Shangri-La Circle

Loyalty marketing is a combination of recognition and reward. Shangri-La Circle offers a transparent, fixed value proposition for reward (redemption). Members don’t give up rebates choosing Shangri-La. But where they’re really going to shine is recognition, the elite experience they’re crafting for members.

I think the Shangri-La Circle program refresh gets a lot of things right. At the entry level, less frequent guests still get value out of the program by earning points that can be used in small amounts, and all spending (even online spend) earns. Even the first elite tier gets 11 a.m. check-in and breakfast while upper-tier elites get more special benefits. And the program’s treatment of the very top customers is just extraordinary.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »

Comments

  1. Eat your heart out I’m Marriott Silver 😉
    Seriously a lifetime Titanium paying resort fees and scrounging for my corn flakes breakfast at their luxury hotels
    On my last Autograph stay the front desk agent said to leave the hotel by 1 PM
    Added insult to injury the damn stay never posted from 2 weeks ago
    They suck bonvoyed again
    Sad

  2. They’re redemption/earn is very similar to Accor. Everything counts there toward points earning as well, and they also have a fixed value redemption system. And some epic properties.

  3. Out of all of my Hotel stays, I have loved Shangri-La the most – the most memorable brand experiences. I never quite made it to Diamond, but even as a lowly Jade, I frequented the Shangri-:a in Manila – they appointed my own personal concierge – who always knew when I was coming, was always at the door when I arrived (via their airport meet and greet and car service) and whisked me past check-in as she had my room in accordance with my preferences all ready. Shangri-La knows how to do customer services and how to earn customer loyalty.

  4. The challenge is, of course, getting GC points to begin with. They are not transfer partners with any of the major bank currencies. The only option is to transfer to KrisFlyer miles at 12 KF = 1 GC into Shangri-La, but even that is capped at 180,000 miles per year (15,000 GC points), which is barely enough for one night stay at their European flagships. The Shangri-La Paris is currently 20,000 GC points per night. They do run attractive promotions from time to time — for example, they are running 50% off redemptions through April 2022. But even so, the 180,000 miles cap is a doosey. Let’s say all the stars line up — a 20% Amex-to-KF transfer promo and a 50% redemption promo at Shangri-La GC. So you transfer 150,000 Amex MR to 180,000 KF miles, which you then transfer to 15,000 GC points. Assuming a 50% redemption promo, this gets you 1.5 nights at the Shangri-La Paris, which is roughly $1,350 of value (assuming about $900/night), valuing your Amex MR points at less than $0.01 per point. Would be far better to redeem points directly via Amex Travel for an FHR stay at $0.01 per point + elevated FHR benefits.

  5. The Shangri-La Chain of hotels while not large have always been spectacular. I’ve never become elite in their program, yet I get a birthday card from them every year. Their level of service is rarely matched elsewhere.

  6. I learned of the KrisFlyer Gold status match to Shangri-La Jade after our recent stay at Shangri-La Singapore. The status match requires one stay after registration so it will need to wait till our next stay. Booking again with FHR so not .issuing out on much from what I can tell. The terms says the status match is one time and good for one year, so if actually enforced as written, I don’t mind the delay.

    Shangri-La Singapore was two experiences for us. The garden rooms and lobby were superb and the elegance we expected. Even the speakerphone discussion of an ASEAN food Staples producer with those European lawyer on how to supply Myanmar and not fall afoul of UN and EU sanctions was spot on. The lower level breakfast restaurant and pool area felt like an Orlando Holiday Inn Resort, with screaming kids and high volume service. Front desk manager said starting several years pre-pandemic, the founder’s daughter started a big push into making Shangri-La family friendly leisure appeal. Our last day we got them to give us our FHR breakfast at the lobby cafe, exquisite setting, so we didn’t have to go down to the circus. Booked again for March.

  7. Any mention of points expiration? I used to spend several weeks at Shangri-La hotels in Asia each year. I hit Jade a couple of times but always fell short of Diamond. Nevertheless, I was treated well and it was pretty amazing that many staff at all levels knew my name. The problem (first world, yes) was that I was always on the company dime and at the time (pre-2012) they had few properties outside of Asia so the points weren’t all that useful. The on-property redemption offerings weren’t that great so I was tempted to save the points for a free night for that big “family trip”. Inevitably, I’d have some portion of points expire each year. A few years after my business travel ended, I was finally able to take that Asian family vacation but then had no meaningful balance. Still had a great stay during our trip.

  8. I would love to know the criteria of achieving Polaris status, does anyone know or has this?

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