Small Luxury Hotels of the World Loyalty Program
UPDATED IN JULY 2019 - Over the years, Bunny has, perhaps unsurprisingly, joined a number of travel clubs and loyalty programs with high expectations of fabulous rewards. The reality, unfortunately, is often less glamorous than that.
As you know, Bunny is quite a savvy traveler but she hasn’t really found a perfect loyalty program yet. Bunny has used some of the travel clubs and loyalty programs rather consistently, some only sporadically and others not at all despite having joined.
There is only one club that she keeps returning to, over and over again: Small Luxury Hotels of the World (or SLH for short).
Bunny has been a happy member of SLH for a number of years. She originally found it by accident but has since understood that this is, indeed, a club for someone like her. After all, Bunny likes luxury, she likes boutique hotels, she is always on the lookout for good deals and she is not too keen on other people or big hotels, preferring small and cozy abodes instead… Enter SLH.
Invited by Small Luxury Hotels (SLH)
Joining SLH's INVITED loyalty program is totally free and easy and the perks start immediately. Room upgrades, complimentary breakfasts, late check-outs, early check-ins, and sometimes even special treats at selected hotels.
The INVITED programme has three tiers of membership, depending on how often you use the club’s services: Invited, Inspired and Indulged. Bunny has (naturally) achieved the Indulged status which offers the maximum benefits.
But you need only 5 qualifying stays per year to achieve the Indulged status. Bunny thinks this is quite generous (shhhh, don’t tell SLH in case they are tempted to change their rules!).
Some of Bunny's favourite SLH hotels: Lefay Resort in Italy, Ka'ana in Belize and Lilla Roberts in Finland
SLH Perks and Benefits
Bunny uses SLH for a number of purposes:
Inspiration – whenever traveling to new destinations, Bunny usually checks whether there are any SLH hotels. SLH’s website is quite handy and easy to use for that purpose. Even if she doesn’t end up booking an SLH hotel, perusing the site gives her an overview of the options and prices on offer.
Room Upgrades – SLH offers complimentary room upgrades for Inspired and Indulged members on every stay made via SLH. This is naturally subject to availability at the hotel on check-in.
Free Breakfast – Daily, complimentary breakfast for two is another perk Bunny (and particularly Mr. Bunny) is very fond of.
Complimentary breakfast is a great SLH perk
Early Check-in / Late Check-out - Sometimes Bunny chooses an SLH hotel because of the generous early check-in or late check-out policy.
Other Bonuses - Some hotels offer SLH-specific perks that are not even advertised (or maybe Bunny was just too lazy to read the small print…). For example, in Lefay Resort at Lake Garda, Bunny was pleasantly surprised by a free lunch and a lovely complimentary salt grotto treatment for SLH customers. Even Mr. Bunny stopped complaining about the room rate at that point.
Free Nights – As an Indulged of SLH, Bunny is entitled to a free night in any SLH property after five qualifying SLH stays. As a qualifying stay can be anything from a single night to a month’s stay you can maximize the free night offer by using SLH for a number of short (one night) stays to reap the best benefits. This is often what Bunny does.
Although it is not spelled out in the SLH rules, Bunny suspects that the free night offer applies only to similar cost-category hotels that you have previously stayed in. She is determined to test the theory by garnering 5 nights in “cheap” properties and then trying to get her free stay somewhere in the Maldives, where cheap is not part of the vocabulary. Stay tuned for the results of Bunny’s experiment!
*** JULY 2019 UPDATE - Bunny is sad to note that SLH rules have, indeed, changed. The free night is now valued at at a specific sum. If you use your free night at a property that costs more, you will have to pay the difference from your own pocket. ***
Special Offers - SLH often runs special offers such as ‘two nights for the price of one’, ‘three nights for the price of two’, ‘20% off the suite price’ etc., which are always excellent value.
Although these offers are not always exclusive to SLH, Bunny usually finds information about the opportunities through SLH. Who has time to regularly go through dozens and dozens of hotel websites in the hope of discovering some random offer? When you are a member of SLH and subscribe to their newsletter, these offers conveniently land in your inbox.
SLH is also quite good about not spamming you with constant emails. When you get something from the club, it is usually worth a look.
Bunny enjoying SLH hotels in Mexico, Finland, Italy and the Czech Republic
Cons of the SLH Invited
No travel club is perfect and SLH is no exception. There are a few cons you should be aware of.
Upgrades are Not Guaranteed
Unfortunately, participating SLH hotels don’t always upgrade you, even if (you think) they have availability to do so. Strictly speaking, this is against the club rules but your remedies are limited. You have no easy way of verifying whether the hotel is full or not.
While staying in an SLH hotel in Singapore, Bunny was not offered a free upgrade. After checking-in and on the way up to the room with a porter in tow, Mr. Bunny cheekily asked him whether the hotel was full and he readily admitted it was not.
In theory, you could complain to SLH in such cases, but Bunny has never done so. After all, she is upgraded much more often than not, so this has been rare and never a major setback. Just do not assume that you will always automatically get the coveted upgrade….
SLH Rates are Not Always the Cheapest
SLH claims, like most similar companies, to have the lowest rates out there. They even have a best rate promise on their website, claming you won’t find a better publicly available rate for their hotels anywhere else.
Bunny has once tested this promise with SLH. She had her eyes set for a certain hotel (Lilla Roberts in Helsinki) and found a lower rate on the hotel’s own website. Instead of making the booking directly with the hotel, she contacted SLH and asked whether they would offer the same rate. SLH agreed, Bunny made the booking through them and collected yet another valuable SLH stay for future benefits. So it pays to always quickly double-check the price elsewhere before booking with SLH.
"Double-check the price before booking with SLH"
SLH’s Hotel Selection is Not the Largest
SLH currently has properties in more than 80 countries. They are very strong in some markets (for example: Italy and the UK) while non-existent in other countries that Bunny has visited (for example: Hungary, Slovakia or Romania). This can be a bit disappointing if you are a true globetrotter and counting on collecting a lot of stays with a single travel club.
SLH’s overall presence is strongest in Europe but all six continents are represented in their portfolio, including some tiny obscure places such as Bunny’s adopted homeland Grenada (population 100,000).
The good news is that SLH is constantly introducing new hotels to their collection and improving the choice around the world. For example, a year ago when Bunny spent a week in Iceland, there were no SLH hotels in the country. Today, there are two; reason enough to return to Iceland sometime soon again.
More of Bunny's SLH favourites: Das Posthotel in Austria, La Peschiera in Italy and Ampersand in the UK
Best SHL Alternatives
The travel industry is a very competitive business and SLH naturally has many rivals. However, through trial and error, Bunny has found SLH best-suited for her particular travel needs.
But, there are at least two other travel clubs she can also happily recommend to others:
Mr. & Mrs. Smith
As with SLH, Mr & Mrs Smith is easy and free to join. However, Bunny doesn’t find the perks quite as good as compared to SLH.
The truly good bargains on Mr & Mrs Smith are few and far between but their collection of luxury and boutique hotels is very good. The quality of the Mr. & Mrs. Smith hotels seems to be constant, even more so than with SLH.
What Bunny likes most is the Smith website with descriptions and reviews of the properties. She often uses it for travel inspiration and has encountered a number of excellent hotels she probably wouldn’t otherwise have come across. Check out Sri Lankan tea trails, Sanara Tulum or the Thief for some great examples.
Bunny's favourite Smith hotels: Como Shambhala Estate, Sanara Tulum, the Cambrian and Como Uma Ubud
This is Bunny’s newest find. She has used Classic Travel only a couple of times, but so far the results have been very encouraging!
Classic Travel is a New York -based luxury travel agency that is part of the Virtuoso network. They boast an impressive collection of hand-picked luxury hotels, many of which have long been on Bunny’s bucket list.
They do not compete on price, so you can often find cheaper deals elsewhere, but they do have some great exclusive offers and amenities. These include guaranteed room upgrades, spa or dinner credits, complimentary transfers and late check-outs.
The best thing about Classic Travel, judging by Bunny’s experience so far, is the fact that their guests are made to feel special and receive exemplary service at their hotels.
Bunny was treated like a queen at Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay and the Fullerton Bay when booking through Classic Travel
Wrap-up: SLH Loyalty Program Invited
So, there you have it. Small Luxury Hotels is Bunny’s favorite hotel loyalty program, but with Mr & Mrs Smith and Classic Travel nipping at their heels. The fierce competition is good though as it means all the more deals and choice for Bunny and like-minded travels.