Loyalty and reward programs can help make up the difference between having average occupancy rates or a fully booked calendar. In fact, according to Phocuswright April 2015 report, (Dis)Loyalty and the U.S. Leisure Traveler, “62% of frequent travelers used hotel loyalty programs.” So, if the majority of travellers are taking advantage of these, shouldn’t your hotel be on board to offer one as well?
According to Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration study, Assessing the Benefits of Reward Programs: A Recommended Approach and Case Study from the Lodging Industry, we also know that “the number of annual room-nights for each guest increased by nearly 50 percent,” and that “such frequent traffic resulted in noteworthy revenue gains per year—up 57 percent.”
Yet, small hoteliers often dismiss loyalty programs as tools of leverage for the already mass-marketed hotel chains. I’m here to dispel that rumour because there are many ways that independent properties can benefit; they just need to know where to start.
Here are four great ways small hotels can (and do) boost business with customisable hotel loyalty programs.
#1 Reward loyal guests with incentives and extras
When you offer high-valued incentives to guests, or provide tokens of appreciation for their business, you make them feel grateful and loyal to your hotel brand. Such rewards cost little to provide, and what’s more these help you develop lucrative repeat business.
Entice guests to stay at your property again in the future by sending them an email that not only expresses your gratitude for their business, but one that also includes an attractive incentive for their next visit. How does 3 nights for the price of 2 sound?
Examples of warm gestures to make your guests feel welcome at your property include treating them to a complimentary drink at your bar, leaving a nice bottle of wine in their room, or upgrading them at no extra cost.
Yet, this is just the beginning. Loyalty programs aren’t limited to business and leisure travellers alone.
#2 Offer loyalty and reward programs to event and travel planners
If your hotel boasts a conference center, meeting rooms, or an ideal wedding backdrop, you’re in luck.
Fill up your hotel time and again by appealing to the segment of event and travel planners. A part of their job is to make facility and room bookings that are worth tens of thousands of dollars.
To catch the attention of these individuals, you can show how much their business means to you by spoiling them.
Get in touch with meeting and event planner associations, along with those of administrative assistants, and present to them a loyalty program tailored to their needs.
To encourage them to book with you, offer them free accommodation and perks at your property. In 2012, the James Chicago tried this by arranging nearly $4,000 worth of complimentary stays to event planners. In just four months’ time, their return on investment was $350,000.
Along with addressing individual or group needs, you also want to persuade travellers to book directly with you.
#3 Give travellers a discount for booking direct
Every hotelier dreams of commission-free bookings, yet it’s not impossible to make that dream a reality.
Travellers are happy to book direct when they know that they’re getting the best deal by doing so. Therefore, why not split your savings with them? For example, if you pay 20% commission to big booking sites, offer potential guests a 10% discount or even free breakfast when they book directly with you instead.
Not only do you save money in the short term, but you also win loyal guests who prefer making direct bookings as much as you enjoy receiving them.
However, some travellers want more than a comfortable bed and a roof over their head—they want memories to cherish, too.
Compete with booking channelsLearn more
#4 Create a boutique hotel experience for millennial travellers
If you’re an independent brand with a single location, millennial travellers aren’t likely to book at your hotel again. Unless you have a clever loyalty reward program in place.
Appeal to them by offering a generous perk that produces a boutique hotel experience they can’t find elsewhere.
For example, is your region famed for its food and drink? Set up a complimentary sampling of local specialities for two at the best restaurant in town. For more influential visitors, a private wine tasting with a local vintner can certainly leave a lasting impression on them.
In the end, you have an opportunity to be inventive and offer guests unique moments that they wouldn’t necessarily receive with other loyalty programs. By differentiating yourself in this way, your guests will also be more likely to leave glowing reviews that inspire other travellers to book with you!
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