The Accor group has 4,195 hotels in 92 countries as of 2017, making it one of the largest hotel chains in the world. Yet, its LeClub hotel rewards program gets very little coverage in the blogosphere – part of the problem was the lack of benefits for elite members and Accor set out to improve it. Let’s find out if these improvements are making a difference?
Who are they? Accor LeClub is the reward program of the Accor group, representing 27 hotel brands with 4,195 hotels around the globe. They can be found all over the world, but the vast majority (73%) of their properties are in Europe. They do have very good coverage of Asia, with a higher proportion (18%) of their properties in the region than many American chains. The low number of properties in the US results in very little coverage by travel bloggers!
The largest Accor brand is ibis (2,060 budget properties), followed by Mercure (754, midscale) and Novotel (485, upscale). About 76% of Accor hotels fall into the budget or mid-level category, making it more attractive for travelers on a budget. But Accor recently acquired several luxury brands, including Raffles and Fairmont, giving you now more than 200 luxury!
Why should I care? Accor has the best coverage in Europe and Asia of any of the major chains and you will find them in many off the beaten path destinations long before the American chains arrive!
Accor has some of the tightest brand standard I have seen in the industry, similar to Marriott, making it a very reliable choice. You can be sure that an ibis in a remote corner of Indonesia will look just like you expect it!
They also have very functional and stylish prototypes, resulting in some of the my favorite room layouts and decors, from the budget ibis to the upscale Novotel. The new Novotel design includes glass windows between the bedroom and bathroom for extra light that can be “frosted” with the push of a button – one hotel labeled it the “magic glass”.
Accor also runs frequent promotions, sometimes to earn bonus points and sometimes with large discounts, making them very affordable across categories – I’ve stayed at ibis hotels in Asia for under $30 and at luxury Sofitel for little over $100 – in each case some of the best value at those destinations!
Earning Points Accor LeClub members earn points based on the brand of the hotel and the elite level. a “Classic” member will earn as little as 0.6 points per USD spent at an Adagio Access hotel and as much as 2.9 pt/USD at a Sofitel. Silver, Gold and Platinum member earn bonus points, with Platinum members earning as much as 4.4pt/USD at a Sofitel!
In 2017 Accor made a significant change for the program, making it harder to earn the higher elite levels. You now earn separate status points at a fixed ratio by brand. You can see all the earn rates below:
LeClub has a short list of partners: You can transfer points from Qatar Airways, Finnair and Iberia to LeClub at a fixed rate and you can earn points with rental car companies. Unfortunately, there is no credit card to earn points or perks, making it much less attractive for US residents who are spoiled by generous credit card offers!
Redeeming Points The LeClub program is not only revenue-based on the earning side (like all of the major programs), but is also revenue-based on the redemption side. Instead of a fixed amount of points for one night at a hotel (giving you the chance to find amazing value when you stay in high season at one of the top properties, regardless of the cash price), your points translate into cash vouchers, giving you EUR40 of value per 2,000 points. That makes the program less attractive for miles & points fans looking for great bargains, but it also makes it very useful for regular travelers wanting to save some money on stays at budget or mid-scale hotels. You can redeem the points online during the booking process, basically deducting EUR40 from the total amount. This reflects a point value of 2.35 UScents/point or a reward rate of 1.4-12.1% on your hotel spend. That puts Accor into the lower 1/3 of reward rates among the hotel loyalty programs for un-bonused spend. This changes drastically with the frequent bonus promotions. My bonus points frequently are a multitude of the regular points, resulting in one of the most generous reward rates I have found in the industry!
The promotions work best if you are flexible with your dates and can plan well ahead, which makes it attractive for leisure travelers. For business travelers, it’s much harder to achieve high earn rates!You can also transfer your points, even automatically, to more than 20 airline partners. The conversion rate is usually not very good, unless you are taking advantage of a partner promotion that can result in a huge number of miles for a cheap hotel night (see example here)!
Membership Levels & Benefits Like most hotel rewards programs, Accor LeClub offers several levels of membership with increased benefits the higher your level. There are four levels from Classic to Silver, Gold and Platinum and LeClub recently increased the benefits for each of the levels to the following:
You get the “Classic” membership by signing up that allows you to earn points and gives you free internet and access to “member only” rates and private sales. Silver members earn more points and get early check-in/out based on availability. Gold member receive a welcome gift and upgrades based on availability. As a top-level Platinum member, you get access to lounges at upscale and luxury properties, typically with breakfast, afternoon tea and happy hour!
As a Platinum member, I noticed that Accor significantly improved the consistent delivery of these benefits. I regularly receive a room upgrade, welcome amenity and late check-out on request and always have had lounge access were available. Most staff now are well aware of the benefits and in Asia, benefits are typically delivered without asking. In Europe, I frequently have to ask for an upgrade, but it now is usually delivered on request (so don’t be shy & ask nicely, it doesn’t hurt)!
Similar to other programs the “upgrade” can vary from a token one-category upgrade that is little more than the same room on a higher level or with extra amenities like a bathrobe or coffee maker. But every once in a while, I have received fantastic suite upgrades, like the private pool villa at the Sofitel Luang Prabang below:
Who should sign up? If you are traveling a lot in Europe or Asia, and are ok with mid-scale properties, the Accor group of hotels should be on your radar. They offer a consistent experience, very good value and are often the only international chain available in off-the-beaten path destinations. The private sales and point promotions can result in great value, even for infrequent travelers, so I recommend to sign up for the program for the private sales, membership rates and free internet alone!
With its revenue based earning and redemption, the Accor LeClub program also doesn’t offer the aspirational redemptions like at IHG or Marriott, so your frequent business trips won’t necessarily pay for that dreamtrip. The lack of credit card partners make it difficult to “top up” your point earnings and you can only earn elite status through “heads in beds”, making it tougher than some of the US chains. Top level status is hard to earn, even for road warriors – you have to stay at least 60 nights or spend around $5,000 per year to achieve Platinum! If you are a US-based traveler, it’s only worth signing up as a “back up” program if you have regular trips to the US and Asia!