Rethinking Hotel Clubs

I have a wallet full of Hotel Loyalty Clubs. I have a philosophy that if the program is free to join and I am going to be staying in the hotel anyway, I join. I then get my bright shiny cards and take them with me on the road.  In the USA in 2010, there were almost 2.1 billion Hotel membership cards floating around the wallets, pockets and drawers iof travellers. A study by Deloitte in the US with 4000 travellers found there that only eight per cent of travellers stayed loyal to one hotel brand. Of high frequency travelers, almost 42 percent are members of four or more loyalty programs. Is that you?

As a result of my memberships I (and millions of others) have the following bonuses:

  • I have earnt points which can be used for free stays in the future (when enough points are accumulated
  • I am more likely to be upgraded to a nicer room for free
  • I am less likely to be kicked onto the street if the hotel is overbooked (was very useful one winter’s night in San Francisco)
  •  free wi-fi, free drinks and free ironing
  • Early check in times and Late check out times
  • Free or discounted on-site parking
  •  the more I stay, the higher my “status” is in that hotel programme and the “better” the rewards

280571_110714163224_STDDo these benefits drive my future choice of hotel when I stay somewhere? NO!

There are some friends and colleagues who are religious about their points accumulation, choosing only to stay in hotels associated with their brand when on trips. Deloitte found that this group represented about 25 per cent of loyalty card customers. They spend in excess of 75 per cent of their annual hotel spend with one chain or brand.

Nearly 50 percent, however, of hotel loyalty members’ annual hotel spend is not with their preferred brand.  I tend to choose hotels based on price, locale and facilities and I am not alone.  Deloittes found that Proficient travelers are most interested in location and comfort with the Loyalty Program considerations coming a paltry 12th in a list of considerations for hotel choice.  Deloitte says while most travel brands consider reward programs to be the cornerstone of consumer loyalty, travellers place more importance on factors such as value for money and past experience.

One of my bugbears is that as a regular traveller, I don’t always get the best rates available for a room. In fact, I have often booked at sites that offer rates way way lower than the hotel site. This does not buy me my loyalty. I also get annoyed that redeeming free nights can be harder than redeeming frequent flyer seats on aeroplanes.

What does this mean? For hotels, Deloitte suggests

  1. Redefining loyalty
  2. Refocusing on priority customers and not treating all card holders in a homogenous fashion
  3. Reinventing programs and experiences that meet what the customer is actually looking for

If hotels take note of Deloitte’s advice, we may see a redefining of how the programs work. If they don’t, customers will continue to be “disloyal” with their loyalty programs.


Hotel Loyalty Programs

These are the key programs and the participating hotels. I make no representation about any of the hotels or programs

  • Wyndam Rewards (Baymont Inn & Suites, Days Inn, Dream, Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham, Howard Johnson, Knights Inn, Microtel Inn & Suites , Ramada, Super 8, Travelodge, Wingate,Wyndham)


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  1. Personally, I find little value in hotel programs so long as where you are going can be covered by IHG or Choice’s BRG programs. They are perfect for short 1 – 2 night stays, and once you school up on how to use the programs, they are easy to claim. For longer hotel stays it’s trickier and I think that’s where points can really come into play as far as loyalty is concerned (at least for me). Watching promotions for hotels and matching status’ between them has benefited me alot, without having to shell-out $$$ for loyalty.

  2. Not all high frequency travelers have the same travel patterns. I have a situation where 75% of my travel is to a manufacturing plant on the East coast. I’m there nearly every week, and I’m loyal to one hotel brand because it’s easiest to just stay in the same place all the time. The other 25% of my travel is to conferences / training sessions, where the hotel choice is really dictated by the conference organizers (whatever hotel gave them the best deal on meeting rooms.) For those conference, I belong to 6 different hotel programs, in hopes of eventually saving enough on those other chains to cash-in for a nice weekend somewhere.

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