Can Independent Hotels Use Loyalty Programs to Increase Occupancy Rates?

August 21st, 2018 Kent Howard Marketing

According to a study by Accenture, 46% of consumers have joined a hotel loyalty program – an unsurprising percentage, given the popularity of such a component in big hotel brand marketing strategies.

Should independent hotels adopt this same strategy, or are the relative costs simply too steep?

The good news for independent hotel owners is they actually can create a loyalty program that positively affects occupancy.

Examples of great loyalty programs

In a 2017 study that evaluated the most rewarding hotel loyalty programs, the top three were:

  • Wyndham Rewards
  • Marriott Rewards
  • Hilton Honors

Wyndham has held the top spot for a couple of years, primarily because of the significant rewards available for budget travelers. By booking budget hotel stays under its loyalty program, Wyndham guests can accrue points to use for stays in more expensive rooms.

With Marriott Rewards, members can convert hotel points into airline miles or spend them at the best restaurants in town, thanks to a smart partnership strategy the hotel chain developed.

Members of the popular Hilton Honors program enjoy late checkouts, guaranteed best prices, executive lounge access and free breakfasts (to name but a few perks), depending on the level of membership selected.

There’s no doubting that these three examples of brand loyalty programs are perhaps a bit lofty for independents, but that doesn’t mean they can’t inspire you to create your own version to entice guests from the chains.

Here are three tips for creating loyalty programs that should increase occupancy:

  1. Choose the right tech

You simply can’t run a successful loyalty program without the right technology. With a modern property management system (PMS), your customer database can be transformed from a simple list of names and addresses into one that includes guest preferences, loyalty point accruals and review platform integration.

With that information, your hotel staff will be able to deliver the loyalty program effectively and enable you to personalize every stay.

Even if you property does not cater to a large percentage of returning guests, you can use a service such as, Stash Hotel Rewards, to tap into a huge existing market of loyalty program hunters (it’ll relieve you of a fair bit of the leg work, too!).

roomMaster cloud PMS makes it simple to manage your loyalty program or has the needed integration to allow you to become a participating hotel!

  1. Make it simple and offer immediate rewards

A common advantage of Wyndham, Marriott and Hilton’s loyalty programs is they’re admirably simple.

If a loyalty program requires guests to calculate the rewards for offers themselves or the rules aren’t immediately clear, then they’ll quickly lose interest.

The benefit of becoming a member should be obvious, simple and so tempting that very few people would refuse to join. For instance, if you simply want to offer members a guarantee, free continental breakfast with every stay – then go for it!

Offer immediate benefits, such as a room discount, free upgrade or maybe even an on-premise credit, as incentives for guests to sign up for your program.

  1. Be flexible

Hotel loyalty programs don’t have to be written in stone. Sure, you set the rules; but if guests ask if they can extend their points’ expiration date by one day to guarantee a night’s booking, then it would not be very service-oriented to deny their request.

Equally, by using the data contained within your hotel PMS, you can identify members who are the most loyal and offer them a perk above and beyond the normal membership by way of thanks. These unexpected gestures are always remembered and will only strengthen the bond you have with such customers.

Final thought

Loyalty programs are capable of making a massive difference to your occupancy and brand image. You’ll need to invest time, some capital and be willing to call on the services of experts, but the rewards are absolutely worth it.

Do it right, and according to research, as many as 83% of your loyalty members will likely recommend your hotel to their friends.

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InnQuest Software is a leading technology provider for the hospitality industry. For over 25 years, innQuest has combined hotelier experience with innovative technology to deliver an all-in-one solution that empowers hotels to attract guests, drive customer loyalty, and increase profits. Our flagship property management software, roomMaster, helps manage over 5,500 properties across 100 countries. InnQuest develops scalable solutions ranging from a Hotel PMS, Cloud PMS, Channel ManagerHotel CRM and helps properties enable guests to Book Direct. We believe that everyone deserves a great guest experience, whether they’re staying at a small B&B, a thousand-room resort, or anywhere in between.

Call us today at 1.813.288.4900, or email us at sales@innquest.com. We will be happy to walk you through innQuest’s solutions.