Hotel loyalty and rewards programs are no longer relegated to travel’s golden age. These programs are experiencing a renaissance and travelers are taking note. To help you update your program, I’m going to walk you through the loyalty trends that hoteliers need to adopt to stay competitive.
Trend 1 – Expanding loyalty programs with diverse accommodation offers
In addition to rewarding guests with free or discounted stays at your own property, include special offers for other brands or locations. Wyndham has taken an innovative step in this direction by inviting loyalty members to redeem their points at its timeshare and vacation properties, effectively extending the rewards from the main brand to include subsidiaries.
Loyalty trend tip: Work with other independent properties that share your brand values and complement (but not compete with) your offerings. For example, a boutique wine hotel in British Columbia, Canada, could partner with vacation properties in wine regions such as Sonoma, California, and Niagara, Ontario. Together you all become stronger.
Trend 2 – Diversifying reward portfolios by integrating other travel components
Some hotels aren’t able to offer free stays, just as some guests don’t have a reason to return any time soon. As such, crossover reward techniques are gaining traction. JetBlue has started offering loyalty-member discounts on complete travel packages. It’s helping them attract new customers from partner brands while fostering a loyal clientele of current patrons.
Loyalty trend tip: Work with complementary brands to create packages, and offer incentives to the loyalty members who purchase them. For example, your hotel may partner with car rental companies, waterparks, and restaurants. Travelers can participate in just one loyalty program but still reap diverse rewards such as upgrades and discounts on various travel expenses. Everyone wins.
Trend 3 – Gamification
Customer engagement is vital if a loyalty program is to drive revenue. And the best way to really engage members is to make the program feel like a game, combining gameplay mechanics with traditional offers. Additionally, the SoCal study “The Endowed Progress Effect” found that customers are more likely to participate in loyalty programs if given bonus points. When guests feel like they’re progressing, even if it’s artificial progress, they’re motivated to continue.
Loyalty trend tip: Give customers a head start and motivate them to remain engaged via bonus points. For example, you could give guests double points for their first booking: points for their stay and bonus points for signing up as a new member.
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Trend 4 – Shifting to short-term reward structures
Guests no longer have the patience to wait for their points to add up or their rewards to kick in. Keep their attention by rewarding them often and in innovative new ways. Accor tries to reward the guest at every opportunity. Take a page from their book and move away from rewards based solely on bookings. Start rewarding members for things they do during their stay as well.
Loyalty trend tip: Give guests points for using paid services, buying products, and patronizing partner businesses. For example, offer guests a free breakfast when they dine in for dinner, purchase from your gift shop, or rent a car from one of your partners. Small hotel? Try providing a room upgrade when guests book a package deal with their overnight stay.
Trend 5 – Simplifying tiered structure
Turn your guests into active loyalty members (and brand ambassadors) by having a simple tiered program structure. Offering different reward levels encourages guests to increase their engagement in order to move up a tier, while having a simple structure makes the benefit of reaching each tier immediately obvious.
Loyalty trend tip: Give guests clear and achievable goals to work toward. Pairing specific actions with corresponding rewards, such as making the fifth stay free, for example, will help. When you take this one step further by offering attractive rewards at even low-level tiers, such as a complimentary bottle of wine or spa treatment, guests have more opportunities to redeem their points—and are reminded of the value of your program every time they do.
Bonus loyalty trend tip: travelers want to see your loyalty offers online
Loyalty and rewards programs—especially those that adhere to the five market trends above—are re-emerging on the hospitality scene as the “must-have” for boosting hotel revenue and ensuring repeat business. So, the question is, do you have one? Let potential bookers know by promoting it on your hotel website.
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