Le Club AccorHotels Review – Introduction
Back in December Fairmont President’s Club members learned the fate of their beloved program with the news that Le Club AccorHotels would replace FPC beginning July 2, 2018. Unlike other programs, such as Starwood and Marriott, where management decided to take features from both programs when merging, Accor decided to just outright replace The President’s Club, leaving a lot of Fairmont loyalists quite upset (myself included). I’ve decided to write a complete Le Club AccorHotels review to highlight the program and showcase the main differences compared with Fairmont President’s Club (hint: it’s not good).
I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of the Le Club AccorHotels. Fairmont had a very different program with some unique benefits. Free-night certificates and suite upgrades allowed for some truly aspirational hotel stays that wouldn’t be attainable for me had I been paying cash. Furthermore, extra benefits such as the locally authentic dining experience and spa certificates were a nice extra for those special stays. All of this will be gone with Le Club AccorHotels, and that’s sad. At least Fairmont was kind enough to offer a second set of certificates to their elite members with two stays between January and July of this year. If you haven’t taken advtange of this, now is your last chance!
Le Club AccorHotels Review – The Basics
Using ‘basic’ in the subheading is a bit misleading, because nothing seems basic about Le Club AccorHotels. Seriously, I can’t think of a more confusing loyalty program, though I’ll attempt to break it down for you.
First of all, Le Club AccorHotel members receive two types of points:
- Status points
- Reward points
Status points, as you might expect, count towards elite status (more on that later). Reward points, on the other hand, can be used for redemptions, including discount vouchers towards hotel stays (more on that later also, but don’t get too excited).
For elite status, there are 4 tiers, including:
- Classic – upon enrolment
- Silver – after 10 nights or 2,000 status points
- Gold – after 30 nights or 7,000 status points
- Platinum – after 60 nights or 14,000 status points
Le Club AccorHotels Review – Earning Status
There are two types of ways to earn status – through nights, or through status points. I’ll be using top-tier platinum as the goal throughout this review to keep things simple, so for that you would need to earn either 14,000 status points, or stay 60 nights at participating hotels.
Which is easier? It depends on your travel habits, but more likely through status points. At first I thought it could be done by staying at a bunch of cheap ibis hotels around the world, but naturally the cheapest Accor properties don’t participate in Le Club AccorHotels. Of all of the Accor brands, the only properties participating in the program (assuming all of the recently acquired Fairmont brands will be eligible) are:
- Grand Mercure
- The Sebel
- Suite Novotel
- Ibis (only in Hong Kong)
- Ibis Styles (previously all-seasons)
- Mama Shelter
And how do you earn status points? Of course it’s not something simple like 1 point/dollar. Instead, you can earn:
- 25 status points/10 Euro (€) at all hotels except ibis, ibis style, Mama Shelter, Adagio and Adagio Access
- 12.5 status points/€10 at ibis, ibis style and Mama Shelter
- 10 status points/€10 at Adagio
- 5 status points/€10 at Adagio Access
Oh, and a huge caveat is that status points are earned on the base room rate only, so you can forget about earning status points for taxes, resort fees, incidentals, etc.
Let’s look at an example:
Say you stay exclusively at Adagio Access properties and want Platinum status. Based on status points, you would need to spend a whopping $48,425CAD, at a rate of 5 points/€10. Crazy, to say the least (in this example you would actually earn Platinum status before reaching this total based on number of nights, assuming most Adagio Access properties don’t sell for $800/night).
If, however, you stay at Sofitel (or Fairmont assuming it’s the same earn rate), you would need to spend about $8,500 at a rate of 25 points/€10 (not including taxes, which could easily be another 10-20 percent). Not as bad, but still bad. If you wanted to become Platinum by night count rather than points, you could expect to spend roughly $18,000/year, assuming an average nightly rate of $300 (not unrealistic for Sofitel, Fairmont, etc).
Let’s compare that to the outgoing Fairmont President’s Club:
To be fair, I’ll use two examples. First, the way I earned Platinum status by staying 5 nights at The Fairmont Singapore. Normally Platinum status would require 30 nights or 10 stays, but The American Express Platinum Card had a benefit where cardmembers could accelerate their Platinum status by having just 5 nights.
I booked the Fairmont Singapore and managed to get a best rate guarantee offer, bringing my nightly rate down to $157/night. After taxes, the 5-night stay cost roughly $880CAD, and with that I had Platinum status. I’ll be fair and even throw the Platinum Card fee into the calculation for out-of-pocket cost, for a total of $1,579. As an aside, we also were upgraded to a Junior Penthouse Suite while in Singapore, courtesy of a Platinum Suite Upgrade from Brad’s account (these will be discontinued with Le Club AccorHotels).
Even if you didn’t have a Platinum Card, and qualified by staying 10 nights, the cost would be significantly less than Le Club AccorHotels. The Fairmont properties in Vancouver regularly sell for between $200-$300/night in the off season. Assuming you’re a business traveller who has many one-night stays, you could ultimately get 10 stays for $3,000, which would qualify you for Platinum. Still about $5,500 less than the best case scenario with Le Club AccorHotels.
Le Club AccorHotels Review – Reward Points
One of the key changes I hear over and over again from various Fairmont staff is how great it will be to earn reward points on stays under the new program! Similar to status points, members also receive a redeemable points currency that can be used towards hotel stays or transferred to airline partners. Sounds great, but wait, there’s a catch (more on that in a bit).
Unlike status points, reward points are awarded depending on elite status and are earned on incidentals such as parking and taxes. Similar to status points, the number of points earned varies by property, with the following chart showing the different earning rates.
Redeeming Points – Hotel Stays
Now for the fun part! Reward points can be redeemed for free-nights, with 2,000 points translating into €40. With that, let’s do some math!
The Fairmont Pacific Rim charges $494 per night during peak season for a Fairmont Room. Assuming you’re Platinum, and Fairmont earns 44 points/€10, you can expect to get 1436 Reward points for your one-night stay, which is, well, good for nothing.
Converted to Euro, the Pacific Rim would cost roughly €328.50, meaning you would need 16,000 Reward points for a free night stay (actually that would cover €320, and you would need to pay the last €8.50). To earn 16,000 Reward points, you would need to spend approximately $5,500CAD at any top earning Accor property as a Platinum member, which isn’t a very good return.
Ready for the best part? Reward points can only be redeemed towards eligible rates booked directly with the hotel. In other words, discounted rates (such as advance purchase, special promotions, AAA rates, etc) are all ineligible. In order to use points for a discount, you need to book the expensive, fully-flexible rate. Unbelievable.
Redeeming Points – Airline Partners
This is how I’ll be using my Reward points if I ever have any stays (though I probably wont have many based on the tone of this Le Club AccorHotels review). Reward points can be transferred to a number of airlines, and the transfer rate is OK. Participating airlines relevant to Canadians include (full list can be found here):
- British Airways
- Aeroplan – Air Canada
- Air France KLM
- Cathay Pacific
- Delta Air Lines
- Singapore Airlines
Transfer rates are 2:1 for the above programs, with varying minimum transfer amounts.
Let’s look at that Pacific Rim example from above to see how the Le Club AccorHotels compares with the outgoing Fairmont President’s Club for earning airline miles.
As a Fairmont Platinum, I’m eligible to earn 1,000 airlines miles per stay, so I would get exactly that regardless of the paid rate.
Assuming after taxes and parking the Fairmont Pacific Rim totalled $700, I would earn 2035 points as a Le Club AccorHotels Platinum member. If I wanted to transfer to Aeroplan, I would be out of luck since the program requires a minimum of 4,000 points to be transferred. However, once the threshold is met, it’s about equivalent to the 1,000 Aeroplan miles (2,000 converts to 1,000) – the same as what I would earn as a Fairmont Platinum.
Where the Fairmont President’s Club really outshines for airline miles is on cheaper stays. For example, I would earn the same 1,000 miles on a $200 stay in the off-season, whereas that same stay would only earn 581 Reward points, or the equivalent of 290 airline miles, with Le Club AccorHotels. Ouch.
Le Club AccorHotels Review – Elite Benefits
This is where Le Club AccorHotels really shines…. said nobody ever. Sure, there are elite benefits, but almost everything is ‘on request’ or ‘at participating properties’ or ‘subject to availability’. That doesn’t sound very rewarding to me….
Let’s take a look at the different benefits based on status level:
Le Club AccorHotels Review – Classic Benefits
Pretty standard list of fake benefits. Note that Classic level doesn’t actually include Priority Pass membership, but rather just a discount on membership (most readers will already have access through a premium credit card). The only real benefit I see here is WiFi, which may not be complimentary at some hotels without being a member.
Le Club AccorHotels Review – Silver Benefits
Silver sees some improvement in elite recognition, with all that Classic has to offer in addition to a welcome drink, priority check-in (dedicated line for elites), and late check-out on request. Don’t forget to ask about your welcome drink, as many properties don’t proactively offer the voucher. Also, late check-out is on request and at the discretion of the property subject to availability.
Le Club AccorHotels Review – Gold Benefits
Now we’re cooking with gas! Gold elite members are eligible to receive everything above, plus a welcome amenity, room upgrade subject to availability (some persuasion may be required), and early check-in on request. Please note that Gold members can request early check-in or late check-out, but not both, and neither are guaranteed. How rewarding!
Le Club AccorHotels Review – Platinum Benefits
Normally hotel loyalty programs save the very best for top-tier elite members, but Accor has decided to offer most of the benefits to Gold Elite, which has me questioning who in their right mind would shoot for the extra 7,000 Status points required for Platinum Elite. Literally the only difference between Gold and Platinum is guaranteed room availability 2 days prior to check-in rather than 3 (does anyone actually use this?!), the option to request early check-in and late check-out, rather than choosing one (still not guaranteed), and lounge access at participating properties. Before you get excited, Accor must have the smallest portfolio of hotels with lounges, with exactly zero in North America (you can be assured Fairmont Gold lounges will not be added to the list of participating properties).
Le Club AccorHotels Review Bottom Line
I realize my Le Club AccorHotels review was overwhelmingly negative, but that’s because it’s a really lousy program in comparison to The Fairmont President’s Club.
Not only are we seeing the loss of Fairmont certificates (which is what really made that program special, in my opinion), but also the dilution of elite recognition on property. Gone are the days of guaranteed early check-in and late check-out, only to be replaced with ‘on request’ and ‘subject to availability’. I’ve had a lot of travel with overnight flights where I specifically booked Fairmont for the guaranteed early arrival. Last thing I want to do is sit in a lobby after a redeye flight because my request couldn’t be accommodated. That’s not my definition of elite recognition.
Will I ever stay at a Fairmont hotel again? Yes, most definitely, but I think that’s exactly why Accor failed to reinvent their loyalty program – they didn’t have to. Fairmont has a unique collection of properties around the world that people will book regardless of the loyalty program in place (myself included). Will the Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai sit empty because the loyalty program sucks? I think not. I may just think twice on business trips where there are a dozen other options from Marriott with similar (or better) elite benefits.
I’ll be having one or two more Fairmont stays with the existing program before it changes on July 2, including a stay at The Fairmont Vancouver Airport on the recently renovated Gold Floor later this week! You can bet I’ll be taking full advantage of early check-in/late check-out for maximum indulgence (and great plane spotting from the rooms).
How do you feel about Le Club AccorHotels replacing The Fairmont President’s Club? Is it enough to keep you loyal to the brand? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!