A group of 12 independent luxury hotel companies have joined forces to offer a frequent-guest program that rewards members with experiences and upgrades rather than free nights.

The program, called GHA Discovery, was launched last week by the Global Hotel Alliance, whose hotel members -- Anantara, Doyle Collection, First, Kempinski, Leela, Mirvac, Marco Polo, Omni, Pan Pacific, ParkRoyal, Shaza and Tivoli -- manage 300 properties in 48 countries.

Unlike traditional rewards program, this one offers recognition and what the hotels refer to as “experience-based rewards” rather than points. So members earn room or service upgrades or opportunities to participate in local activities.

Local experiences vary by membership level, but the higher the level the more exclusive the reward. 

For example, the alliance said in a statement, one qualifying stay at a GHA hotel enables gold-level members to learn to play traditional "Boduberu" drums in the Maldives or take a sunset drive through a nature reserve in Namibia. Platinum members can take in a rugby match in New Zealand or rehearse for Carnival at a celebrated samba school in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Guests who reach the black-level membership can take a private cruise along the Potomac in a former presidential yacht in Washington, a helicopter tour over Los Angeles or develop a customized ringtone at Microsoft Studios in Seattle.

“GHA Discovery was built with the philosophy that recognition and authentic, local experiences -- and not just collecting points -- are the true pillars of a rewarding hotel loyalty program, said Chris Hartley, CEO of the Global Hotel Alliance.

Beyond the local experiences, GHA Discovery members will also enjoy benefits during their hotel stays that range from free Internet, newspapers and bottled water upon enrollment to double upgrades and laundry service at the top tier.

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