AmericInn ramps up loyalty program, marketing
AmericInn ramps up loyalty program, marketing
23 APRIL 2015 6:11 AM
AmericInn Hotels & Suites reached new records in 2014, and executives don’t expect that momentum to slow. That’s why they are focusing on a new marketing campaign and expanding the loyalty program. 
LAS VEGAS—AmericInn Hotels & Suites experienced a good year in 2014, with the company reaching all-time highs in revenues, according to brand executives. With a new marketing campaign coming online and the company’s loyalty program ramping up, they expect nothing less from 2015.
Systemwide revenue reached $211 million for the midscale brand in 2014, according to President and CEO Paul Kirwin. He said revenue per available room reached more than $50 for the first time in the company’s history. 
“Our brand is serving more guests than ever before, and our hotels are more profitable than ever before—both great indicators of the health of our brand,” Kirwin said during the opening general session at the AmericInn 2015 Convention & Tradeshow held at Bally’s Las Vegas.
In its portfolio, AmericInn counts about 200 hotels comprising approximately 11,500 rooms, with most properties located in the Upper Midwest.
Kirwin said the brand’s success is not merely the function of a strong economy, as the company’s STR Market Share Index rose to 109, “indicating we are continuing to outperform the midscale segment.” (STR is the parent company of Hotel News Now.)
“Because we operate in a highly competitive world, we must fight for each new customer. And when we have them, we must deliver the best product and service so we win them back for the future,” Kirwin said to the more than 500 attendees.
A new adventure
One way executives plan to capture customers is with the brand’s new marketing campaign, “The Great AmericInn Adventure.”
Mark Masuda, VP of marketing, sales and distribution, said during the opening general session the campaign was based on three tenets: engaging and interactive; uses technology; and includes something local.
With that, he said the new marketing campaign has three pillars:
  1. An interactive map: The map features stars that when hovered over show guests nearby attractions with applicable information. Below that information is a link to book the nearest AmericInn hotel.
  2. A contest with free night stays as prizes: Guests are encouraged to take pictures at attractions and properties and post them. The pictures then go into a gallery and are displayed on the company’s website. All summer long, guests can win free stays by posting these pictures.
  3. Digital postcard: Customers can use the pictures they take and email them to friends and family in a digital postcard. The postcard has AmericInn branding on it (see slideshow above).
Last year’s “Random Acts of Vacation” marketing campaign required guests to write a nomination for people they thought deserved a free stay at a property, Masuda said during a separate interview with HNN. What executives found in the nearly 3,000 submissions was that guests were submitting a lot of photos. Masuda said this year’s campaign requires a lot less work for contestants: three clicks of a mouse versus writing an essay.
To promote hotels outside the Upper Midwest, AmericInn has created customized videos that will play before online video content on various websites such as local news, CNN or TV shows on Hulu. Masuda said these types of ads are “highly effective” with high click-through rates.
The company also is making its presence known for the first time at places such as state fairs, rallies and festivals. In addition, the brand is expanding its partnership with baseball teams and texting promotions. 
For example, a member of the Minnesota Twins 1987 World Series team is seen on his motorcycle in front of what AmericInn dubs a “wild, wacky, wonderful” attraction. A question is posed to game attendees asking them where they think this player is on his AmericInn adventure. Attendees then can text their votes via text message to win a prize.
“We send a follow-up text that says, ‘Hey, do you want to opt in for further communication and promotions from AmericInn?’ And we’re getting strong response to that as well,” Masuda told HNN. “It’s our first foray into it. We’ll continue to learn and tweak it, but we’re going to continue to expand that out to the other baseball teams and utilizing it in other mediums, in other areas throughout the summer.”
The partnership, which started with the Minnesota Twins, is being expanded to a total of 10 teams.
Masuda said texting promotions probably will be something the company leverages on a long-term basis.
Ramping up loyalty
AmericInn’s 5-year-old loyalty program, Easy Rewards, is reaching critical mass, Masuda said. He said about one-third of guests are members of the program, with these customers staying more nights and in more properties than non-members. In addition, these stays command a higher average daily rate than non-member stays.
“We’ve got enough members now where we need to move to the next level. We need to have some of the stuff that the major big-boy brands have,” Masuda said during the opening general session.
That’s why the company created a new loyalty tier called “Easy Rewards Elite.”
Elite members will receive a special card to indicate their status. (A member’s status also will be accessible on the front-desk computer at check-in.) In addition, these members will be thanked and recognized when they check in.
“So we’ll provide training to all of our front-desk staff,” Masuda said. “We want them to make (guests) feel special, that they’re appreciated by us at AmericInn.”
These Elite members will receive a welcome bag at check-in that includes a bottle of water, something sweet and something salty. The items in each bag will cost less than $1, Masuda said. AmericInn will provide the bags (paper bags with handles that are stamped with the AmericInn and Easy Rewards Elite logos). Masuda said the water and treats can be purchased at a local Sam’s Club or Walmart.
In addition, to encourage and invite guests to sign up for Easy Rewards, every customer who provides an email address will receive a triggered email regardless of the channel booked. 

Editor’s note: AmericInn Hotels & Suites provided hotel accommodations for three nights. Complete editorial control was at the discretion of the Hotel News Now editorial team; AmericInn had no influence on the coverage provided.

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