Independent luxury hotel marketing group Leading Hotels of the World (LHW) has removed the annual fee for its Leaders Club loyalty programme.

The $175 annual fee has been dropped, with the group stressing that membership benefits “have not been changed”.

Benefits of the programme when booking directly through LHW include one confirmed pre-arrival upgrade per year (after a completed first stay), daily continental breakfast for two, free wifi, and up to 20 per cent off best available room rates.

Members also receive one Leaders Club point per $1 spent, with free night stays starting from “around 4,000 points”.

The LHW portfolio currently consists of over 400 hotels in over 80 countries, including The Ritz, The Lanesborough, One Aldwych, The Landmark, Baglioni and Brown’s hotels in London.

Commenting on the news, Phil Koserowski, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at The Leading Hotels of the World, said:

“As signs of recovery emerge for the travel industry, we wanted to create a more seamless membership process, while continuing to deliver the benefits members have come to enjoy and expect from Leaders Club.

“By making the programme complimentary more of our community is recognized and rewarded for their loyalty. Our loyalty programme provides a club for curious travellers who value staying at independent luxury properties and connects them with like-minded individuals and hoteliers.

“It celebrates individuality and rewards guests for choosing the uncommon path. We look forward to welcoming more curious travellers to the club as travel demand returns.”

It’s not clear if members who paid the $175 fee shortly before it was removed are entitled to any sort of refund, although given the global travel restrictions over the last year these numbers are likely to be low. Business Traveller has contacted LHW and will post any response here.