Fighting for Loyalty

By Abigail A. Lorden | August 10, 2008

Economic uncertainly can actually breed consumer loyalty, or so recent trends in the hospitality industry would indicate. There's no question that when consumers are cutting back on spending, coupons and deals can go a long way in influencing how and where they spend their dollars. But don't just let your guests go deal-shopping. Savvy hospitality operators are boosting their loyalty programs to become the obvious first choice for guests who want a good deal, but don't necessarily want to work hard to find it.

It appears that new loyalty initiatives are more innovative and customized than their predecessors, and are using cutting-edge technology to target membership. Hilton's already successful HHonors loyalty program (at 25 million members, it's one of the industry's largest) is upgrading its intelligence quotient with highly-customized communications. New data mining capabilities from Epsilon's Sonar real-time interface will provide HHonors members with information about earning redemption opportunities that are most relevant to them, based on their preferences, behavior and buying programs.

Loews Hotels, meanwhile, just announced the re-branding and complete overhaul of its loyalty program, formerly known as Loews First, to You First, a program that will reward guests based on number of stays. You First distinguishes itself by appealing to guests even if they don't travel all too often; a smart move in the current economic climate. Guests begin receiving awards after just one stay. Those who visit two times in a given year are privy to free Internet access, late checkout, guaranteed rooms and room upgrades. You First is also one of the only programs to offer rewards to guests who book through meeting planners or travel agents.

The lesson: don't make your guests go deal-shopping, else they find something more appealing. Being proactive with loyalty efforts in the current economic climate can be just the push your guests need to book their reservation with you now, and six months down the road.

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