You don’t have to be a brand to ‘do’ loyalty
Too often I hear the same very valid argument from independent hoteliers, that they can’t compete with the brands and their loyalty programmes. I am not going to admit that this is an easy battle to win but I do feel we can do something to encourage loyalty and we definitely should be doing something to start the process.
This week Right Revenue exhibited in London at HOSPACE and there were many fantastic speakers at the event. One of the subjects that we discussed was the subject of loyalty and encouraging direct bookings and how this was often perceived as too difficult by independent hotels.
We know of course that the large groups such as Hilton and Marriott can offer free night stays at any one of their hotels and that their rewards also cross to car hire and airline benefits which they have negotiated with partners. A difficult ask for any independent!
We also know that we are up against the wire when it comes to competing with OTA’s who have similar ‘Stay 9, get your 10th night free’ reward that guests can use in multiple hotels. But all is not lost and we should be doing whatever we can to promote our own loyalty rewards which in turn affects our Book Direct strategy.
Before writing this blog, I went to the websites of many well known independent hotels and I was shocked at just how difficult it was to find even a ‘Register with Us’ button. However this is a strategy I am not really a fan of as I feel our customers and guests can be wary as registering for anything online nowadays, as this of course can mean being bombarded with e:shots that are often not relevant. So why not change that ‘Register with Us’ to something like:
- We Reward Loyalty
- We Reward Direct
Then put this up front and centre on your website.
If a guests clicks to find out more, then give them some fantastic reasons to Book Direct or Register their details (they should have a choice of doing either). And lets face it, if they make a booking then you will have their email address as part of the booking process. Just make sure that guests can access your booking engine immediately through a date checker on this page.
But what should these rewards be? Well of course they could be access to hidden rates that can’t be found anywhere else on your site. Your booking engine provider can help you with this, but these rates could be discounted or simply just unique rates – your choice.
However, it doesn’t even have to be that complicated. Why not tell your guests that as a reward for booking direct and becoming part of your loyalty scheme / members group or privilege club they get unique benefits. Maybe:
- Late check-out
- 1 item dry cleaned during their stay (a huge incentive for longer staying corporate guests)
- Complimentary coffee delivered to their room each morning (you know the nice kind and not the in-room granules)
- Complimentary upgrade whenever you can offer it
- A welcome plate with fruit or pastries
Your choice. Think about what you can deliver and what works for you.
If we take it a step further, can your booking engine or PMS track repeat bookings? If they can, then why not make sure that these guests know that if they have 10 nights per year (as an example – you decide) then the benefits go up. Maybe a second person could stay free when sharing a room (and encourage that transformation from business guest to leisure traveller). Perhaps complimentary dining in your restaurant or wine with dinner.
Whatever you decide, make the rewards instant and not something they have to wait on. If they Book Direct, show your guest that they will be rewarded as soon as they arrive. If they start to build up multiple stays, then let guests know the reward for their 10th stay will be delivered there and then.
This is a difficult battle, there is no doubt about that, but isn’t it a fight we should at least be trying?
(and for all things revenue, just firstname.lastname@example.org)