Hotelier’s Guide to Guest Loyalty & VIP Programs (2021)
April 21, 2021
Customer loyalty can be the key to a thriving business, especially in the hospitality industry. Many major hotel and hospitality brands take advantage of guest loyalty programs to encourage their guests to keep coming back. But your hotel doesn’t need to be a large property chain in order to benefit from a VIP guest marketing strategy.
What Is a Guest Loyalty Program for Hotels?
You can think of a loyalty program as sort of a VIP program for your hotel guests. They come in all different shapes and sizes, but at their core, hotel loyalty programs are strategies hotels use to encourage return business. These programs give loyal guests perks such as exclusive discounts, upgraded services, luxury hotel amenities, and early opportunities to take advantage of deals.
The key to building an effective guest loyalty program is to do the appropriate research to offer incentives that truly appeal to your hotel’s target customer base. Before you begin, gather all the intel you can on existing guests’ wants and needs when it comes to their hotel stay to get a feel for rewards they will genuinely appreciate.
Not every hotel property has the bandwidth or budget to implement a full-fledged reward program like a large chain. Nevertheless, it can be useful to get creative in planning and seek out low-cost and low-maintenance angles.
To start out, you can implement a VIP program by finding opportunities to reward your guests with things like automatic discounts upon booking or VIP punch cards for hotel amenity services. You can also consider forming partnerships with other local businesses to give guests discounts for excursions, meals, other activities. Guests can be rewarded not only for repeat stays, but for simple tasks like referrals, newsletter signups, program anniversaries, and social media mentions.
5 Benefits of Hotel Loyalty Programs
1. It builds brand advocates for your hotel
Guests like to know they’re appreciated, getting to know yours means you can offer more personalized guest experiences to turn them into brand advocates. This means you can use your hotel loyalty program not only to keep your customers happy, but to increase the likelihood that they will spread the word to their networks!
2. It provides a better guest experience
Loyalty points and rewards often encourage guests to take advantage of ancillary revenue experiences like spa treatments, or a special meal at the hotel’s bar or restaurant. Make sure the perks and services offered with your loyalty programs are catered to your guests’ interests and give your hotel guests as many opportunities as possible to have great experiences in every corner of your hotel.
3. It increases bookings rates
Additional perks and rewards can seal the deal for travelers shopping for a hotel room, or encourage past guests to continue booking with your brand when they travel. Giving travelers these exciting incentives can also encourage them to book direct rather than shopping around on third-party websites and booking websites.
4. It improves hotel revenue
Hoteliers know how much it can cost to book rooms through booking sites, but loyalty programs can help combat those by bringing in more direct bookers. Triptease research suggests that “40% of hoteliers say regular direct bookers are their biggest spenders…” Repeat guests are also often more inclined to make extra purchases during their stay.
5. It provides data to understand your VIP guests better
Implementing a loyalty program for your guests will help you build guest profiles. Gathering information about hotel guests’ habits and interests can help hoteliers develop their services, spaces, and offerings to be able to create experiences guests will enjoy and appreciate.
1. Marriott Bonvoy
One shining example of an effective hotel loyalty program is Mariott Bonvoy.
Marriott’s program members can receive rewards points for staying within their hotel network and with their 30+ affiliate brands, including St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, Westin Hotels & Resorts, and even The Ritz-Carlton Hotels and Resorts. Members also receive special benefits like free internet in hotel rooms, food and drinks, special member rates, and even mobile keys. Members can score extra rewards points by using Mariott-affiliated credit cards through American Express and Chase Visa.
2. Wyndham Rewards
Another great hospitality rewards program is Whyndam Rewards. Members can earn and cash in on rewards all over the world when they stay at the brand’s 9,000+ properties. Points can be redeemed for a variety of different things like retail items and car rentals, and, of course, hotel stays. Wyndham has also partnered with Amtrak, American Airlines, and United airlines to maximize point-earning opportunities.
3. World of Hyatt
Hyatt’s loyalty program, The World of Hyatt benefits members staying in their 700+ properties in major cities across North America, Europe, and Asia. Program members can use their points for room upgrades, stay experiences, and free nights in addition to things like airline miles and car rentals. Chase Visa also offers a World of Hyatt credit card that allows members to earn points with every purchase.
4. Choice Privileges Rewards
Choice Hotels’ Choice Privileges program rewards guests for staying in their more than 7,000 participating hotels throughout several continents. Points earned at any of their properties, including their budget hotels, can be redeemed for free nights at their Preferred Hotels & Resorts. They can also be cashed in for fun perks like car rentals and cruises.
7 Tips for Creating a Killer Guest Loyalty Program for Your Hotel
Ready for your hotel to reap the benefits of a hotel loyalty program? The following tips are a great place to start building your new VIP rewards program.
1. Determine Rules & Criteria for Your Hotel’s Rewards Program
First things first – what kind of system are you looking to implement? Do you want to build a loyalty program from the ground up? Or would it make more sense to team up with an established hotel rewards network or loyalty program services provider like Spoonity or The Guestbook?
Next, define the actions and behaviors that you’ll want to reward. Use data and knowledge you already have about your guests to determine the rewards that your customers will find the most valuable. Would they be more excited about straightforward points to be redeemed, instant rewards, or deals around town you can secure through partnerships with local businesses?
2. Offer Valuable Rewards that Your Guests Want
Guests join loyalty programs that offer rewards that are especially interesting to them and often want to be able to choose their own rewards. Take every opportunity to gather information about your guests’ preferences to be able to offer the types of rewards they want most, and leave some extra room by offering a solid mix of rewards in different categories.
Examples of loyalty program rewards for hotels include:
- Discounted stays
- Free amenity services such as spa gift cards
- Free room service and continental breakfast
- Early check-in and late check-out
- Bonus credit card points
3. Use a Loyalty Program Software
If your team doesn’t have the bandwidth to manage every aspect of your loyalty program, you can take advantage of a loyalty program service provider like Spoonity. This software allows independent hoteliers looking to reward their loyal guests to offer a dedicated app from which guests can easily track their points and rewards.
4. Use Personalization
Pleasing customers in today’s world means catering specifically to their wants and needs. Use your hotel’s loyalty program to create tailored offers and perks. You can also use check-in interactions as an opportunity for concierge and check-in staff to gather additional information about guests’ ideal travel experiences from the beginning of their stay.
5. Create VIP Tiers
Ultra-loyal guests will get a rush out of scaling membership tiers in your hospitality loyalty program. Create loyalty tiers to increase member benefits along with their return business. Take the time from the start determining how many tiers or ranks your guests can reach and then assign each perk to the tier that makes the most sense. Make sure your members have a clear understanding of what they need to do to earn their points and rewards, and what they need to do to climb these ranks.
6. Have Rewards for Individuals & Corporations
Expectations will differ between guests traveling for personal enjoyment and business purposes. Incorporating business-specific perks to encourage repeat business travelers and larger-scale corporate stays. Some great ideas could be specialized coffee service for group meetings and deals on team-building events.
7. Drive Awareness of Your Rewards Program to New & Existing Guests
Make sure guests know about your hotel’s guest loyalty program. You can use traditional advertising, social media marketing, and internal promotion upon booking or check-in just to name a few options – but be sure to weave your new VIP program into your hotel marketing strategy.