The Leaders Club entices me back with a freebie …. where should I go?

I don’t mention Leading Hotels of the World much on Head for Points.  10 years ago it was quite a force in luxury hotel marketing – and they threw some fantastic events in London to prove it.

Leading Hotels of the World is a marketing group for 375 independently run luxury hotels across 75 countries.  It provides a centralised booking site as well as a loyalty programme, Leaders Club.

Its allure has faded in recent years.  There is no particular reason but the factors include:

the continued growth of branded luxury hotels, primarily Four Seasons, which do not belong to Leading Hotels of the World

the struggle that independent luxury hotels find in accessing the capital needed to renovate and compete with the major brands, which makes them less attractive to guests

the introduction of a $150 annual fee for joining Leaders Club, albeit this can be justified by additional benefits on stays

the growth of ‘preferred partner’ travel agent schemes such as Virtuoso (which includes a lot of independent hotels), Four Seasons Preferred Partner etc.  These schemes offer GUARANTEED benefits when you book through them as opposed to the vague benefits – apart from breakfast – promised by LHW.


If you join Leaders Club for $150 you receive the following benefits:

A free night for every five stays you complete (there are conflicting reports about how difficult it is to redeem a free night)

Free continental breakfast for two on every stay

One category room upgrade when available at check-in

Free internet access

Early check-in / late check-out ‘considerations’ (ie worthless)

Welcome gift at each hotel

The only thing you can rely on is free breakfast – although that is worth having, of course, and would justify the $150 membership fee on a 2-3 night stay at a Leading Hotels member.

However, compare it to the benefits that American Express offers to Platinum cardholders who book a hotel via Fine Hotels & Resorts (I wrote more about Fine Hotels & Resorts here):

Noon check-in when available (admittedly worthless)

Room upgrade on arrival when available (not worth much)

Free breakfast for two people (continental at a minimum but usually full in my experience)

GUARANTEED 4pm check-out (very valuable)

An additional benefit, usual $100 of food and beverage credit per stay

Free in-room wi-fi 

Compared to Leaders Club, Fine Hotels & Resorts trumps them with the $100 food and beverage credit, often a better breakfast and a GUARANTEED 4pm check-out.

Gainsborough Bath

LHW wants me back

I let my Leaders Club membership lapse when the $150 annual fee was introduced.  I have happily survived without it using a mix of Virtuoso, Fine Hotels & Resorts and Four Seasons Preferred Partner booking options.

On Monday, however, I got an email from Leaders Club:

If I renew my Leaders Club membership for $150, I can claim a free night at one of 49 participating hotels to be used before 30th November.

This looks like a good deal.  There are a lot of hotels on the list I like the look of (see here).  This includes the new and well reviewed The Gainsborough in Bath (image above) – where I was at university – which is usually £267 midweek with breakfast.  I could get in via this route for £115.

There are others – the Kamp in Helsinki which I stayed in years ago and loved.  Vila Vita in Portugal which I’ve always been intrigued about.  The Bairro Alto in Lisbon.  The Grand Hotel in Stockholm which, again, I have stayed in a few times.  I took my wife there on our first weekend away if I remember correctly.  For $150 this is a good deal even if I don’t use the LHW benefits again during my membership year.

So …. I have ponied up my $150.  I will let you know when and where I redeem my free night, whether I have any issues doing so and what sort of LHW recognition I receive.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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  1. How about Palace Luzern or Victoria Jungfrau in Interlaken – beautiful scenery and good food !

  2. Jonathan says:

    It’s worth noting that LHW now have their own travel agent preferred partner programme also called VITA. It offers: daily breakfast for 2, room upgrade (subject to availability), complimentary WIFI, Early check-in/late check-out (subject to availability), VIP amenity (whatever that is) and hotel/resort stay credit (at select hotels).

  3. plastikman says:


  4. Vila vita in Portugal hands down . Stayed here twice so far . One of the best . Go with family if you can and you won’t regret it

  5. I just stayed at the Kamp Helsinki last weekend, booked through LHW following a ‘free membership’ offer earlier in the year. I also loved it. They were pro-active at check-in in running through the LHW benefits one by one, including offering late check out. My selected welcome amenity (half a bottle of red wine) was waiting in the room, along with extra pillows etc, so make sure preferences are ticked on the LHW site when booing. The breakfast was excellent, but as with many hotels in Finland the highlight was the sauna.

  6. Longshot says:

    One of my favourite schemes as I mainly stay for leisure, been a member since 2012. Leader’s Club benefits are honoured in the vast majority of cases.

    Managed to get 5 stay credits with relatively little spend on short trips, which I then used for a free night at Le Bristol in Paris. One of my favourite hotels globally. Got upgraded to an Eiffel Tower room that was selling for €1,500 a night. The welcome gift consisted of a full bottle of Sancerre that retails at over £50 online.

    Now that stay points don’t expire, the scheme has become more flexible.

  7. OT: Sorry to go off topic but there’s an Amex connection at least. Has anyone any experience as to whether or not you get hotel benefits/status if booking through Amex travel (not FHR)? Or are they treated like any other OTA? I’ve not used them before and oddly they are the cheapest option by miles due to a free night offer. I was planning to use my GHA platinum status (cheers HfP!) but the current Amex price saves about £200 and I’m not so bothered about the room upgrade- but would be nice if it happened obviously.

    • It should be treated like a corporate agent booking (NOT an Expedia wholesale booking) and your status benefits honoured.

      However, Amex does pull fast ones at times. I ran an article last year about a reader who booked a Delta flight via Amex for the same price as However, Amex had taken a ‘no benefits, no miles’ wholesale flight, marked it up to the same price as wanted for a normal ticket and then sold it to the reader. Amex profit was 50% rather than 2%, reader failed to maintain status when flight posted as non-qualifying.

      • Cheers Rob. I’ll give them a go.

      • I’m worried now! Is there a way to check whether an existing booking is one of these ‘wholesale’ flights?

        • If it is a BA booking it doesn’t matter as all cash flights earn Avios and TP, eg if you buy a package holiday with BA flights those earn miles.

          Some airlines, eg Delta, work differently.

      • Same here. Booked half a dozen Qantas flights in Australia recently via Amex, and got zero points or miles. There was no way to see the booking class during the booking process.

    • ankomonkey says:

      I got status benefits but not points for a Hilton stay in Japan last year booked through Amex Travel.

      • Good news – as it’s a GHA booking they don’t give points as such but sometimes upgrade if you have status with them. Many thanks!

        • I usually ring the hotel just to confirm the booking is in and at that stage confirm my GHA number. Have always got benefits even on a super cheap deal.

  8. Definately go Portugal: Vila Vita in Porches or Pestana Palace (Hotel and National Monument) in Lisbon – you won’t regret it!

    • Interesting. My membership is just about to expire. I’ll call them up and see if there is an offer available.

  9. i have to say that in my experience the breakfast alone is worth the $150, most of the hotels will charge around £30/$50 for breakfast. When there are two of you it doesn’t take long to get value for the fee. I use the Langham in London a lot and also get membership of the 1865 club.
    The Okura in Amsterdam is worth a visit.

    • Only if you routinely pay £30 or $50 for breakfast. If a hotel charges that much I will look for a cafe outside and have a meal of similar or better quality for £10 or less.

  10. Tortuga bay in punta Cana, Dominican republic

  11. Mrs_Fussy says:

    Is this offer available to new members as well? I would be tempted to get membership

  12. Strange, I am a member, and it was free. That must have been a promotional period or something, I don’t remember who posted it but I just needed to complete a form from the Biltmore in Miami and now I am a member and didn’t spend a dime nor ever stayed at any of their properties, unless I did without knowing…
    I am looking into taking full advantage of it in the coming months.

  13. There’s a bunch of offers around, including a $150 resort credit if you book with Mastercard.

    Details here:

    • If you look at the rates for the room credit offers they are at least £30-£50 more expensive per room per night compared the the 15% off offer per night so you are (depending on nights stayed) paying or overpaying for the room credit anyway

  14. Shouldn’t Raffles just go to the best redemption – Europe, be reasonable! – where he gets most £ benefit?

    Could be a new place.

    Could be a familiar place at a particularly popular (sold out) time.

    It’s all about the money (ok not really but it is a way of approaching this)