by Laura Badiu
Hospitality has always been a highly competitive industry, especially nowadays - with additional options from Airbnb and similar companies. Therefore, hoteliers need to step up their game and engage with their customers at a deeper level than ever before, through loyalty programs.
This is the reason why so many hotels are investing in such programs; the name itself refers to keeping travelers loyal to a certain hotel, brand and/or service.
Why do guests join a loyalty program?
Some people find comfort in familiarity. They like to go to the same destination and therefore, they prefer booking the same hotel every time. Others will travel for business in the same cities over and over again, so they constantly book the hotel which meets their needs, usually comfort, functionality, proximity to the office, etc.
As a hotelier, it’s important to acknowledge those guests and reward them for their loyalty. This helps establish meaningful connections that can positively impact your hotel’s reputation. Loyalty programs have an extended range of rewards and benefits towards the travelers, from extra night-stays to free access to certain facilities and free breakfast.
What does a good loyalty program include?
Well, starting with the obvious, hoteliers have to make sure that they have a loyalty program. Even though the concept might already seem slightly outdated, some hotels are still missing a loyalty program and hospitality trends are not something to be ignored. At least, not without expecting guests to follow their own interest and opt for a more beneficial establishment.
It’s also important to give the guests choices. Going for a standard, one-benefit-fits-all kind of program might seem like the easy option, however, a survey delivered by Oracle Hospitality shows that 20% of the participants do not join loyalty programs because the offerings do not interest them. Also, 61% are very interested in being able to choose their rewards. Every traveler is unique and everyone wants to feel like their specific needs and expectations are being respected. Personalization is one of the key success factors in hospitality and nothing says “personalized” better than choice. Rewards for loyal customers can vary: free stays, free breakfast, spa access, discounts for different services, etc. This will not only encourage travelers to become loyal to a hotel, but will also generate positive feedback.
How do loyalty programs impact a hotel’s reputation?
We always encourage hoteliers to ask for feedback and encourage guests to share their thoughts, impressions and suggestions on any available platform. Reviews in general are a powerful way of advertising a hotel’s traits, and they can also refer to the loyalty program feature. 66% of financial executives said acquiring new customers was the top strategic objective for their loyalty program. However, getting reviews and feedback from current or previous guests is a way of showing them that their opinion and experiences matter and can encourage other guests to adhere to a loyalty program or to advertise the one that they are already part of.
All in all, engaging the customer can turn out to be a real challenge, but loyalty programs are a valuable asset for hotels. They are also a long-term investment in the guests’ beneficial experience and the hotel’s positive reputation.