Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts has entered into an “industry-first” alliance with Mumbai-based luxury hotel group Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces. The partnership will see the integration of Shangri-La’s Golden Circle (GC) loyalty scheme with Taj’s Inner Circle (TIC) programme.

Launching in March 2017 as the “Warmer Welcomes” programme, the alliance will include automatic tier-matching status for all six million (and future) members:

Tier-matching equivalents

Shangri-La Golden Circle Taj Hotels Inner Circle
Gold Copper, Silver
Jade Gold
Diamond Platinum

Members will be able to earn reward points in their preferred “currency” while staying at any of the two groups’ combined portfolio. For example, a Taj member living and travelling frequently in India will still be able to collect Taj reward points while staying at the Island Shangri-La in Hong Kong.

To redeem stays, on the other hand, members can convert their points at the following rates:

Converting GC award points to TIC points: 100 GC award points to 67 TIC points.

Converting TIC points to GC award points: 100 TIC points to 38 GC award points.

“We want to give the member a choice of what is relevant to them in earning, at the same time we want to ensure there is no arbitrage,” explained Ng Wee-kee, vice-president loyalty and partner marketing for Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts. “So if you have earned everything in TIC, you should continue to earn in TIC and redeem in TIC and not convert to GC, or the value will be diminished.

“The main advantage is, I can stay in a destination where Taj doesn’t have a hotel, but I will still be recognised because of my tier status and I can also earn points in the Taj programme.”

The geographical and physical boost in choices is a major benefit for the hotel groups and guests alike.

“We’ve extended ourselves from 100 to 200 hotels, 27 countries and 131 destinations – and that’s overnight, and I think that’s a big story,” Ng added.“It became clear to us that we really need to be in more places where our guests and our members would like to go. So we looked for opportunities where our members can expand their footprint, but still stay loyal to the brand”.

Taj was a natural fit: “We looked for like-minded hotel groups with the same brand values, as well as service-based philosophies. Taj – number one, it is a very established luxury hotel company, over 100 years old, with a very strong brand and a group of devoted members like ourselves, and more importantly the locations of the properties do not overlap with us.”

The home bases of both groups have also proved a strong attraction for the partnership: “India and China are the fastest growing outbound travel markets, which we feel makes the Taj and Shangri-La partnership so strategic and so complimentary. With outbound from China to India, and outbound from India to China we can increase the market share of both hotels.”

Ng describes the announcement as a continuation of a long-term strategy to maximise benefits to guests – Golden Circle recently announced a number of upgrades including the launch of The Table F&B loyalty programme and the Infinite Journey’s partnership with Singapore Airlines.

Taj also revamped its loyalty programme in 2015.;