By offering discounts and room upgrades, hotel loyalty programs have always focused on one core tenet: pleasing the guest. The rise of these types of programs actually took hold on the late 1980s, but really gained traction when Starwood introduced a “no blackout date” program in 1999.
At the time, this was considered a game-changing move in the industry. Fast-forward nearly 16 years later, and the industry is poised for another major move. However, this time, the shift is being driven by guests demanding more extra-personalized services.
From being able to “raid the mini-bar” to exercise classes to wine tastings, there are new and innovative ways for fostering guest loyalty emerging, such as what Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants is doing. The hotel brand tossed out its points-based loyalty program, and replaced it with a rewards program that uses a proprietary formula to assign members a cumulative score and loyalty tier based on room stays as well as “engagement” factors.
Marriott Rewards also recently added two features – LocalPerks and FlashPerks – that build on its PlusPoints, which launched last year. The new features link social media activity on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to loyalty points. Essentially, it offers geo-located and on-the-fly deals to guests in real-time while they are on the property.
In addition, guests are demanding rewards for items such as free music downloads and enhanced partner opportunities like concert tickets and off-premise restaurant gift certificates.
All of this points to a new frontier where the empowered guest is driving the need to develop highly innovative rewards programs. While offering discounts and room upgrades is still a viable tactic, clearly today’s digitally connected guest wants more.
Hotel technology leaders need to continually think outside of the box when it comes to developing innovative loyalty programs. From partner management to the developing digital back-end to the “last mile” of delivering these offers to guests, the most successful brands are bringing these innovative programs to life.
Now is the time to develop hotel loyalty programs “on steroids.” Brands like Kimpton Hotels and Marriott are leading the way, and we imagine many more brands will follow suit.