Exploring the Rise of Additional Incentives

By Teri Utley Senior Account Manager, Range Online Media | September 25, 2011

Hotel loyalty programs or "guest recognition programs" have been a staple of the hospitality industry since the inception in the early 1980s when Intercontinental introduced their Priority Club Rewards program. Since then, all major hotel companies have built their own versions of loyalty or incentive campaigns. In an effort to position their brands as offering the best values, the hospitality industry had created their own social offering by rewarding loyal customers with special benefits and privileges that are designed to reflect the travel preferences of their clientele. Choices of beds, snacks and other amenities are standard offerings to members of loyalty programs.

Through the years these programs have evolved into well designed and structured marketing plans that reward consumers and as a result encourage brand loyalty to specific hotel chains. Unfortunately for many chains, these frequent travelers may be members of as many as five to 10 hotel loyalty programs. Consumers are well trained to want as much as they can get for as little as possible and they are demanding that rewards of real value be gained from their participation in these programs.

Currently registered members are in the millions with InterContinental and Marriott having the largest numbers of loyalists. While not all of these millions are active, most chains see their active members to be around 30 percent. For this group, the incentives offered are the defining value of the program. With chains vying for the available booking, additional incentives are now being added in an effort to keep consumers loyal to a specific brand. Currently, loyalty programs account for 40-55 percent of total room reservations.
Loyalty programs are a marketing arm that is directly related to a large portion of the hotel's business. The volume of travel reservations that come from these programs is impressive. However, as they become larger and more competitive the value of the bookings is not as great as in years past as a result of the increased costs the hotels are incurring to administer their loyalty programs.

While initially designed to provide guests with an incentive to return, in turn creating brand loyalty, these programs have evolved into a staple for doing business within the hotel industry. Most programs are similar in their makeup with members receiving points for their stay at a hotel, although now most are evolving by providing alternative options for point redemptions. In some programs guests may now receive their airline points as an alternative to the hotel points. Other options include room upgrades, no blackout dates, priority check-in and what else? More bonus points!

Successful hotel marketers are now evaluating just how important these programs are to their overall business and most are struggling with how to evolve and differentiate their product to their consumers. With hotel chains still reeling from the 2009 recession, the push for customer retention is at the forefront of future plans. Let's examine some basic principles that focus on design of ongoing loyalty programs that will grow customer retention.

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.