a living room with a large window overlooking a city

What do you give the person who has everything? That was the question on many great minds during the holiday season, but it’s also a perpetual question in the hotel loyalty industry.

A suite upgrade is nice, but what if the person already buys suites every time? That “benefit” is a “non-benefit” to someone in that position, and does virtually nothing to encourage loyalty from the person who books what they want from the start.

If they can buy suites outright frequently, you can probably bet offering free breakfast is a nice touch, but it’s far from something that moves the needle in making sure that wherever they are, that high value person stays with your hotel chain.

So, how do you fix this?

The answer? Well, that’s a perpetual question to solve. But for now, the best attempt appears to be Shangri-La’s newest top tier, invitation only status ‘Polaris’. Some of the benefits of this rarified status are enough to make some eyebrows raise!

a close up of a card

Shangri-La ‘Polaris’: World’s Best Hotel Status?

Most top tier hotel status from the big chains is about potential. There’s the potential for suite upgrades, the potential for late check out and generally, a free breakfast in the mix. Beyond that, well, there’s not all that much beyond that.

This is where Shangri-La ‘Polaris’ is probably the most baller hotel status out there. An early check out takes on new meaning with this invite only tier, and so does late check out. In fact, so does checking in!

Shangri La Polaris offers…

  • check-in from midnight (!) on the day of your reservation and 6pm checkout.
  • access to pools, club lounges, gyms and facilities even when not staying!
  • dedicated personal concierge for all travel experiences and Shangri-La needs.
  • complimentary upgrades for up to 14 nights per stay, up to 10 times per year.

These are amazing, no doubt, but they’re not all that unique, other than the access to club lounges, pools and gyms, even when you’re not staying. That’s such a cool feature for people who live in cities with a Shangri-La, where

Want to zip around a city with a private chauffeur for some shopping or a special meal out? Up to 6 times a year, invitation only ‘Polaris’ members receive 4 hours of comp’d chauffeur service when staying at any Shangri-La Hotel.

Or, how about going behind the scenes for “priceless” experiences in some of the best cities in the world? Shangri-La’s Polaris tier offers members a chance to explore behind the scenes in Tokyo’s fish markets with a world famous sushi chef before a decadent omakase meal, a suite stay and a private dinner for two.

Thats just one of the many choices invite-only members receive each year for their unique ‘Polaris Discovery’ choice, which is basically a free mini trip to thank the Polaris member for their loyalty.

A caviar experience with a suite is another, and so is a supercar test drive in Singapore, and an aerial helicopter tour of the Great Wall, with a butler and Michelin starred meal and you can kinda get the gist by now. These are awesome.

There’s also a bunch of other things, like one off access to a hotel buffet for 4, a two night stay for a family, with a family themed and tailored trip and some spa privileges included too.

a living room with a large window overlooking a city

Raising The Loyalty Bar: Good For Everyone?

Unbeknownst to many, the economics of hotel loyalty are decidedly different than airlines and other businesses. The hotel loyalty programs rarely own the physical hotel you’re staying in, and the hotels are often instead owned by private, one off investors.

Basically, a person, company or group of people build a hotel, then hire a big chain to manage the property and the loyalty program. Because of this, owners get chippy with costs like “free breakfast”, so it’s a limbo.

Shangri-La, on the other hand, owns most of the hotels bearing the Shangri-La name. This means it can do more to entice customers, since the group benefits as a whole when people stay loyal to Shangri-La. There’s less fracture.

Even though most hotel loyalty programs will never reach the dizzying heights of baller elite status which Shangri-La has introduced, this new program may provide plentiful inspiration to leaders in other programs looking to hone in on wallet share, as travel rebounds.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. It’s a marketing hype rather than anything. The Polaris members are all like friends and family of the owner family and management rather than real loyal members.

    1. I mean, other than being in the loyalty program and being the one choosing the invites, how would you ever quantifiably or verifiably back up that statement?

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