If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts and Mumbai-based Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces have announced a loyalty program alliance called Warmer Welcomes, which launches in March 2017. The program integrates Taj InnerCircle and Shangri-La’s Golden Circle guest loyalty programs and will provide members reciprocal and seamless benefits.
The combined program will be six million members strong and, according to Taj Hotels CEO Rakesh Sarna, "a strategic step in bringing greater synergies among two brands known for their legendary hospitality." He added that “Over time, our valued guests and loyalty members had shared their desire for a wider selection of world class hotels in key destinations.
“This alliance will help drive deeper engagement for our most valuable guests and members as they will now be recognized seamlessly at some of the world’s finest hotels across multiple geographies.”
Shangri-La's acting president Madhu Rao was as excited over the program's prospects. "As hotel owner-operators who share similar values and service philosophies, but have minimal overlap of properties, Taj and Shangri-La are in a unique position to establish a seamless alliance that goes beyond a marketing partnership or multi-hotel distribution platform,” he said. “We will be able to enhance brand awareness and increase market share by providing Golden Circle and Taj InnerCircle members more value and more reasons to stay with us.”
The bulk of Taj's hotels are in India, while Shangri-La only has two hotels in the country: one in Bangalore and one in New Delhi. Meanwhile, Taj has six hotels in Bangalore and five in New Delhi.
Other crossover is in Sri Lanka, where Taj has two hotels on Colombo and one in Bentota. Shangri-La is on track to open a hotel in Colombo next year and has one currently open in Ambalantota.
In the UK, Shangri-La has one hotel in London, Taj has two. Each has a hotel in Dubai.
Note: This crossover is only for the Shangri-La and Taj Hotels brands. Shangri-La also operates sub-brands Kerry Hotels, Hotel Jen and Traders Hotels; Taj operates sub-brands
In case you hadn't realized by now, Taj and Shangri-La are competitors in the ultra-competitive luxury hotel space. And with Warmer Welcomes admitting that scale of loyalty program matters, especially within an industry that continues to consolidate.
The joint loyalty program would essentially double the options available for members, but it was important to have a single points-redemption mechanism, Wee Kee Ng, Shangri-La’s VP of loyalty and partnership marketing, told WSJ.
Shangri-La operates more than 95 Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, Kerry Hotels, Hotel Jen and Traders Hotels brands across 22 countries. Taj has 100 hotels across 16 countries, and includes sub-brands Exotica, Vivanta, Gateway and Safaris.