Shangri-La is a luxury hotel group with just over 100 properties around the globe. I don’t talk about Shangri-La that much, given the limited opportunities with the hotel’s loyalty program, plus the heavy focus on Asia (much of which continues to be off limits to international travelers, especially with China being Shangri-La’s biggest market).
In January 2022, Shangri-La revealed a major refresh to its loyalty program. This is a heads up that the new program goes live as of Thursday, April 28, 2022. Let’s take a look at all of the details.
Details of Shangri-La’s new loyalty program
As of April 28, 2022, Shangri-La’s loyalty program is getting a new name, a new rewards structure, and some new elite perks. As it’s described, the new program is intended to be flexible and simple, and to offer more recognition:
“Shangri-La Circle’s new elevated offerings was designed with our members in mind. We listened to their feedback, went back to the drawing board, combed through the knots, and enhanced the features they love.”
While flexibility and simplicity are good on the surface, in reality Shangri-La is fully moving to dynamic award pricing, which probably isn’t great for those looking to maximize value. Let’s look at various aspects of the new program.
Shangri-La Circle is no longer “Golden”
The first change is that Shangri-La’s loyalty program is rebranding. While the program was previously known as Shangri-La Golden Circle, it’ll now simply be known as Shangri-La Circle. I don’t really have strong feelings there one way or another, other than that I appreciate the simple name.
Earning points with Shangri-La Circle
Nothing is changing with how you earn Shangri-La points, as you continue to earn one point per dollar spent, excluding taxes and fees. So if your hotel stay costs $1,000, you would earn 1,000 points.
Redeeming points with Shangri-La Circle
The biggest changes coming to Shangri-La are on the redemption side. For context, previously free night redemptions followed an award chart with seven categories of hotels, costing anywhere from 1,000 to 20,000 points per night for a standard room.
In other words, you’d need to spend $1,000 to $20,000 in order to earn a free night. However, historically that hasn’t even been the best use of Shangri-La rewards, as you could also redeem points for vouchers toward dining and spa purchases at Shangri-La properties:
- You could redeem 500 Shangri-La points for a $50 voucher
- You could redeem 1,000 Shangri-La points for a $100 voucher
In other words, each Shangri-La point could get you 10 cents toward on-property spending, meaning the loyalty program offered the equivalent of 10% back.
The new program is much simpler, and that’s not a good thing. Going forward, Shangri-La is going full-on dynamic with award pricing:
- There will no longer be blackout dates, but rather you can redeem points toward any Shangri-La experience at the rate of 15 points per dollar
- In other words, each Shangri-La point will get you ~6.67 cents toward the cost of a hotel stay, or a dining or spa experience
- You can redeem points partly toward the cost of any experience, so you don’t need to have enough points for the entire experience
This is a significant devaluation. Previously each point could get you 10 cents toward a dining or spa experience, while now it can only get you 6.67 cents toward a dining or spa experience.
Shangri-La Circle elite status
With the new program, Shangri-La Circle will have four elite tiers:
- Shangri-La Circle Gold status
- Shangri-La Circle Jade status
- Shangri-La Circle Diamond status
- Shangri-La Circle Polaris status
In the past status could be earned based either on the number of nights or stays completed, while with the new program status can be earned based on the number of nights completed or the number of tier points earned (with members getting one tier point per dollar spent). Yep, the program is increasingly moving toward being revenue based.
Shangri-La Circle Gold is the tier you get just for registering, and it offers the ability to earn free nights, member exclusive offers, mobile check-in and check-out, and more.
Shangri-La Circle Jade is the entry-level elite tier, requiring 20 nights or 6,000 tier points. This includes incremental perks like daily breakfast, early check-in and late check-out, welcome amenities, room upgrades, bonus points, and more.
Shangri-La Circle Diamond is the highest published elite tier, requiring 50 nights or 15,000 tier points. This includes incremental perks like executive lounge access, complimentary pressing service, and more.
Shangri-La Circle Polaris is the group’s new invitation-only elite status. This includes incremental perks like executive lounge access even when not staying at a hotel, flexible check-in and check-out (as early as 12AM and as late as 6PM), complimentary airport meet & greet, four hours of complimentary car service per stay, and more.
Shangri-La Circle launch offer (for new & existing members)
To celebrate the launch of the new Shangri-La Circle program, there will be promotions for both new and existing members. Between April 28 and July 31, 2022:
- Existing members can receive up to 1,500 bonus points for qualifying transactions within the promotion period — this would be unlocked with five or more transactions
- New members can receive 300 bonus points upon their first qualifying transaction, and up to 1,500 bonus points for subsequent transactions, similar to the bonus for existing members
My take on the new Shangri-La Circle program
Shangri-La has some great hotels, though the loyalty program has never inspired me much. The program wasn’t exciting to me before these changes, and the program is even less exciting to me after these changes. A few general thoughts:
- For those maximizing value, Shangri-La’s loyalty program is becoming roughly one-third less rewarding; previously you could get up to 10 cents per point, and with the new program you can get up to 6.67 cents per point
- On some level you’d almost be better off booking through an online travel agency that offers 10% back toward a future stay, especially if you’re not a Shangri-La regular; in reality the biggest benefit of booking direct is being able to take advantage of additional perks through programs like Virtuoso, Shangri-La Luxury Circle, etc.
- Personally I always find it weird when luxury travel brands try to essentially turn their loyalty program into a revenue-based discount club; I think that’s a great concept for Allegiant’s loyalty program (where consumers are typically highly price sensitive, and offering redemptions with every trip keeps people engaged), but to me it just doesn’t seem as exciting for a luxury hotel group
- My biggest issue with Shangri-La’s loyalty program is how hard it is to engage with the program if you’re not in Asia; there aren’t many ways to earn points with Shangri-La efficiently outside of hotel stays, and many of Shangri-La properties are in countries that still have closed borders
The new Shangri-La Circle program will be launching this week, on April 28, 2022. With this, the biggest change will be to how points can be redeemed. Points will be redeemable at the rate of ~6.67 cents each toward virtually any Shangri-La experience. There will no longer be a free night award chart for Shangri-La stays, and you’ll also no longer be able to redeem points for 10 cents each toward dining & spa experiences.
Shangri-La is definitely following the direction the industry is headed, with a focus on flexibility rather than aspirational redemptions and outsized value.
What do you make of the new Shangri-La Circle program?