Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Velocity Announces Partnership with Morgans Hotel Group

Morgans Hotel Group

By Alex Tilbury
Published in Escape 
February 17, 2013

Loyalty card points junkies can now “earn and burn” faster with Virgin Australia’s Velocity card, with a new hotel partnership and the promise of more innovations this year.

Virgin’s frequent flyer program has paired with the Morgans Hotel Group, owner of 13 boutique hotels, mostly in the US.

Data from the Velocity Frequent Flyer program shows its customers stay faithful to their partners to accrue points. So the partnership of Virgin and Morgans reinforces that many Virgin customers fly to LA and New York.

Chief executive officer of the Velocity Frequent Flyer program Neil Thompson is one of this industry’s most experienced loyalty card players. He ran the Qantas Frequent Flyer program until 2007, then worked as a loyalty program consultant in New York.

Thompson says frequent flyer loyalty programs are all about “earn ability” so members can “earn and burn quickly”.

“With us you can start to accumulate pretty quickly. People tend to focus their spending around our partners, so we choose partners that will fast-track our members.”

“We have set a target of five million members by the end of 2015 and I am very comfortable that we are well on track,” he tells Escape. “We are not trying to be the biggest loyalty program, in terms of numbers, but we aim to be the most interesting and innovative. You are going to see a pipeline of new innovations over the next six months plus we’ll expand the program to do things a bit differently.”

For Virgin, the name of the game is “relevance”.

“We know our customers, so we focus on parts of the world that we know our customers fly to,” Thompson says.

“Watch this space – there are plenty of things to come in 2013. If you use the Velocity credit card and go shopping, you will earn points. If you stay at the Mondrian (owned by Morgans Hotel Group in Los Angeles), you’ll earn points.

“The whole Morgans group is very cool. They get a mix of business and premium leisure travellers just like us they are often one and the same person. Both Virgin and Morgans know their premium leisure and business customers want to stay in gateway cities with dynamic night lives in resort markets.”

If you are heading to California with Virgin Australia, remember the Mondrian in LA is at 8440 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood (next to the House of Blues). I say remember because there is no sign outside.

It’s been said if you don’t know where the Mondrian is then maybe you don’t belong there. It’s a little tongue-in-cheek and popular with film and television celebrities.

Even the stony-faced US Customs officer was impressed I was staying at the Mondrian. “I drive past the Mondrian every day on my way to work, it has got that awesome Skybar.”

Mondrian general manager Jeff Kulek describes his hotel as a “personal playground for guests”. The guestrooms all have the same TV/mirror shaped like a huge looking glass, to convey an “Alice in Wonderland” effect. The guest is “always the star of the show”.

Kulek said the airline partnership was a first for the hotel group.

“We are very choosy but we see similarities with Virgin. Personally I love how you can do the seat-to-seat chat in-flight.” (Seat-to-seat chat allows flyers to keep in touch during a trip).

“The Hiltons of the world are all made from the same cookie cutter. We are the creator of the boutique hotel and we feel that other hotels like W are all imitators. We are the original and we are very proud of that,” Kulek says.

After a one-hour Virgin America flight north to San Francisco, I stayed at Clift (495 Geary St) near Union Square. The lobby is dark and full of avant garde art pieces. Clift is elegant and possibly pretentious, but most definitely fabulous.

The Morgans Hotel rates range from $US250-$US500 ($A245-$A490) a night, and you’ll get 1000 Velocity points a stay. Or 2000 points for bookings before February 28 for travel until March 31.

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