Some hotels are taking a novel approach to their loyalty programs, offering members such rewards as free pizza tours and free TSA Precheck at airports.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Loyalty members at some hotel brands are using their points for more than roomnights and free Wi-Fi.
Programs that offer options for redeeming rewards outside of the hotel, sources said, are becoming more popular. Many of those options are tied to unique experiences; others are all about convenience.
Through its Club Carlson program, Carlson Rezidor allows members at any tier to use points to cover the cost of TSA Precheck at airports.
Teresa Comparato, senior director of customer engagement and loyalty at Carlson Rezidor, said 65,000 loyalty club points are required for a TSA Precheck request.
“Our strategy is to see how we can enhance the traveler’s journey because what we do is we own that in-hotel experience … and (to) just think of how we can make our loyalty program more valuable for our members,” she said. “So one of the ideas was, ‘ok, so on that journey to get to the hotel, how can we enhance that?’ So through TSA, we’re allowing our members with their points to expedite that whole hassle of the airport.”
Comparato said loyalty members have responded well to the TSA Precheck initiative since it was rolled out in June, but Carlson’s “core redemption” option remains free nights in a hotel.
“It’s great to give members choices and let them be in control of the value of their points and how they want to spend them,” she said.
For Wyndham Rewards members, the perks often come into play once they’ve reached their destination and are looking for things to do. Noah Brodsky, SVP of worldwide loyalty and engagement at Wyndham Hotel Group, said many rewards program members have said they look to redeem their points during trips with their families.
“So when you redeem at these 850 hotels in our top 25 markets, we give you, for free, an experience,” he said. “And depending on your level, it’s either credit towards an experience or, at our diamond level, it’s actually two tickets per night to these experiences that we’ve curated around the world.”
The experiences include:
- A tour of the best pizza places in New York City;
- an architecture river boat tour in Chicago; and
- a noodle-making class in Shanghai.
The value can be $50 to $75 per person, Brodsky said.
“So if you do a weekend trip, you’re actually taking your family of four for a really cool experience,” he said. “We’ve had over 1,000 of these (experiences) that we’ve given out since the launch of the program this summer that have actually been redeemed.”
The company also recently announced the addition of 17,000 vacation rental homes to Wyndham Rewards.
Giving members what they want
Members who are part of InterContinental Hotels Group’s IHG Rewards Club can redeem points for roomnights, gift cards and flights. And if they can’t find something they like, they can submit a request to the IHG Rewards Club Concierge, said Liz Crisafi, head of loyalty and partnerships for the Americas at IHG.
Requests might include tickets to an upcoming event or the latest tech gadget, she said.
“Members simply fill out a form, then the (concierge) will provide a quote with the required point value for the request, and complete the order process for the member,” she said.
Crisafi said IHG Rewards Club members can also bid on experiences—such as concerts and vacation getaway packages—through IHG Rewards Club Auctions. She said auctions are divided into three levels:
- Dream, which includes experience packages for platinum elite and spire elite members;
- Indulge, which allows members to redeem for special events and excursions; and
- Explore, which allows members to “explore new interests and discover a new hobby with uniquely-themed bundles.”
She added that all members can redeem points through the concierge and auctions, “with the exception of the Dream reward level, which is exclusive to platinum elite and spire elite members.”
“To create a successful loyalty program, brands must find a way to recognize the universal need of the member community as well as what resonates with individual members—their likes, dislikes, what they need and when they need it,” she said.