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You already know about hotel loyalty programs that let you earn points redeemable for stays. But did you know there’s a loyalty program that also gets you access to activities like a trip to the beach in Portugal, a Mayan cooking lesson in Mexico or the chance to drive a Lamborghini in Hungary?
This loyalty program — from the Global Hotel Alliance — is called Discovery, and it has a lot to offer. GHA has nearly three dozen brands in its portfolio, including well-known names like Anantara, Kempinski, Outrigger and Pan Pacific, along with less familiar names like Discovery Destinations and the Doyle Collection.
Here's what you need to know.
In the past, Discovery members did not earn a rewards currency. But now, members will earn Discovery Dollars (abbreviated to D$ by GHA) on all spending at GHA properties.
Earning rate is dependent on your status level, but you'll begin accruing on day one of joining the program. You can use D$ toward your stay at a GHA property or spend them on local experiences and hotel amenities.
Discovery elite status
Discovery has four membership levels. You join the program at the Silver level. Then, you can work your way up to Gold by staying two nights in participating hotels in a year or spending $1,000.
If you hit 10 nights in a year, spend $5,000 or stay at two different GHA brands, you earn Platinum level membership. And finally, staying 30 nights, spending $15,000 or staying at three different brands gets you Titanium status, the highest tier with the most enticing rewards.
Here's a closer look at the benefits that come with each tier.
In addition to the ability to purchase local experiences and enjoy local offers (more on both below), Silver members get basic perks, like free Wi-Fi, member-only access to hotel amenities, 4% back in D$ rewards currency on spending at GHA properties and a 10% discount on nightly rates.
Gold is more or less indistinguishable from Silver. The only difference is the increased 5% rewards earning rate on spending at GHA properties.
Platinum status is where the bigger benefits start to kick in. Members at this level get the same benefits as Silver and Gold status, plus:
A welcome gift.
3 p.m. late checkout.
A free room upgrade when available.
6% back in D$ on spending at the hotel.
In addition to the lower-tier benefits, Titanium-level members get:
11 a.m. early check-in.
4 p.m. checkout.
A double room upgrade and a guarantee that the room will be available up to 48 hours prior to the booking if needed.
7% rewards earning rate.
» Learn more: Travel loyalty program reviews
Local experience benefits
At all status levels, you can choose from a number of local experiences in your travel destination. You can browse experiences before you leave home with the search tool.
The options are constantly changing, which means repeat guests have a lot of choices every time they stay. Not every hotel has a local experience, but at some hotels, you can redeem local experiences even without staying at the property.
Depending on where you travel and when, local experiences could include options like a cooking class, an artist talk, a chef-guided local market tour or a private museum tour. Or your menu of choices could include truly once-in-a-lifetime experiences, like a guided snowshoe tour in Serbia.
In response to shifting travel trends brought on by the pandemic, Discovery members at all tiers can enjoy local offers that don't require staying at a GHA property. The idea is that you can still enjoy Discovery activities for a staycation.
Local offers come primarily in the form of discounts on dining and spa services, as well as beach and pool passes.
Hotel brands that participate in Discovery
Many of the more than 500 Discovery hotels include boutique or other one-of-a-kind properties. Found across 85 countries, here’s a closer look at a few notable brands where you can earn and redeem Discovery perks.
Anantara Hotels & Resorts
With most of its hotels and resorts in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Anantara is known for luxury properties that highlight the local culture. The brand has a growing presence in Europe, too, with hotels in Marbella, Spain, and the Algarve region of Portugal. Anantara The Marker Dublin is set to open in 2022.
These hotels are known for personalized service; for example, it's not uncommon for guest preferences to be remembered between visits — and even between properties. Its Dining by Design program, which allows guests to set up romantic meals anywhere on the hotel grounds, is a customer favorite.
Platinum and Black Discovery members staying at Anantara properties are treated to a wide range of welcome amenities that are often personalized to individual guests’ interests.
The Elewana Collection is a group of safari lodges and camps, plus several hotels and resorts, mostly in Africa. It's unique in the safari niche because of its participation in a loyalty program, and no two Elewana properties are the same. The Arusha Coffee Lodge in Tanzania and Elsa’s Kopje in Kenya are two examples.
These properties are known for their emphasis on sustainability, offering eco-friendly programs such as its Ban the Bottle initiative to reduce single-use plastic waste.
Across Hawaii, Thailand, Fiji and Mauritius, Outrigger resorts put travelers in the heart of paradise. The brand’s Hawaiian roots are notable in all of its properties. Outrigger Waikiki is home to two of Hawaii’s famous restaurants: Duke’s Waikiki and Hula Grill.
That same island spirit comes across in the welcome amenities for elite members, which can include anything from tropical fruit platters to locally made gifts like soap.
» Learn more: Where to stay in Waikiki on points
Tivoli Hotels & Resorts
With their distinctive Portuguese design, Tivoli properties are mostly found in Brazil, Qatar and Portugal. Many Tivoli hotels are in urban business destinations, and there are several resorts in the mix too.
The bottom line
The Discovery program is unlike many other hotel loyalty programs: It offers redemption options beyond the typical, including local excursions. Elite status is earned through hotel stays or spending, and the different tiers offer guests additional amenities.
This can be a great program to join if you find yourself regularly staying at Discovery properties around the world.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card