Loyalty programs provide plenty of opportunities for hotels to expand their customer base and engage better with travelers. A recent study shows 77 percent of hoteliers value guest loyalty as their technology initiative № 1 for 2022. Unfortunately, independent hotels often struggle to implement their own effective loyalty program. These programs can be complex to start and difficult to maintain, which can be a challenge for independent operators to justify, despite their potential to cement future guest reservations and create a healthier landscape for reservations in general.
A strong loyalty program may be just what hotels need to recoup reservations lost during relocations in 2020 and beyond.
The reputation of many hotels in the industry was also damaged during the pandemic. Guests traveling during this time are often confronted with a variety of inconsistent hotel experiences, and while the appeal of the Revenge Trip prompts some to seek new experiences, the majority of travelers today crave consistency. Loyalty programs are characterized by setting logical expectations for the stay of guests, improving their overall experience and enticing others to join.
One problem: not all loyalty programs are created the same. The best in the business offer a combination of rewards ranging from immediate satisfaction to long-term goals. In order for independent hotels to have a fully effective post-pandemic market loyalty strategy, it is important to have an integrated PMS system that allows guests to develop their relationship with the hotel during every transaction and interaction, including before and after the stay, and during -experience of the property from any of the offered sites or amenities.
Traditionally, the main convenience of hotels for customer loyalty is access to free Wi-Fi. This offer is gradually reducing its value in the eyes of travelers, who are increasingly expecting access to free Wi-Fi wherever they go. While they are still an effective draw for a growing loyalty membership, hotels need to be willing to offer more than that in the long run. Otherwise, they risk limiting their loyalty program to a concierge to Wi-Fi in the property, rather than a service that is actively working to increase passenger loyalty.
An effective hotel loyalty program provides guests with a variety of ways to earn and reap prizes. Points and money-based reward systems remain popular with travelers, but it is questionable whether they have a direct impact on loyalty. Hotels should also offer incentives for re-bookings, such as free credit nights at the hotel restaurant, first-class in-room amenities, a hotel spa, gift shop, room upgrades and other services based on the hotel and its location.
Independent hoteliers who want to implement a more stable loyalty program should check that their property management system is equipped to handle the necessary processes. Some PMS providers offer fully integrated loyalty programs that allow hoteliers to reduce the number of third-party services they work with to offer a high-quality guest experience while eliminating program-related transaction fees. It is also important to ensure that your PMS can integrate its loyalty capabilities with other systems, including other POS systems, games, tickets and any other system where you have the opportunity to promote your loyalty program and bring unique value to guests. . Operators must first clearly define what they want their loyalty program to mean for their guests and then fully explore PMS providers with built-in capabilities that meet their needs, integration with third parties to achieve their goals and most likely and both.
These capabilities can help independent hotels offer loyalty rewards that remain competitive with big brands if operators are fully committed to launching and maintaining the system.
Inertia of construction
Loyalty programs are usually easy to manage by the hotel’s marketing department once they are in place, but reaching them can be a challenge for independent operators. It is the responsibility of these hoteliers to define and implement their own loyalty program from scratch, and in most cases it is not for the faint of heart. These programs feed (and c) almost every department in the hotel, so a strong internal organization – and possibly external consulting experience – is often necessary for the effective and efficient implementation of the loyalty program.
However, the benefits of an effective loyalty program can be transformative for the hotel. The biggest advantage provided by hotel loyalty programs is the ability to build long-term profiles for your guests, their preferences and how best to serve them. By gradually filling in guest profiles during the re-stay, operators can anticipate their needs before they arrive. This includes facilities awaiting check-in, as well as targeted promotional messages sent to passengers before their journey, designed to increase engagement once they are on site.
If the guest usually likes to order room service, for example, the hotel loyalty program can track this information with a fully integrated PMS solution that provides a 360-degree view of the guest. The marketing team of a property can then proceed with offers by email or reminders directing them to the offers and promotions of the restaurants in the property. Even something as simple as recognizing a guest at check-in and offering a verbal note about a positive experience during a previous stay can help travelers feel valued and build on gaining loyalty.
Many independent hotels and resorts have not yet fully realized the potential of re-booking loyalty programs, as few properties are able to exceed expectations in the hotel landscape after a pandemic due to many factors, especially labor challenges. By blending both immediate guest satisfaction with long-term incentive goals and by maintaining guest engagement by meeting and exceeding their expectations during their property experience, hotels and resort groups can help create a new era of passenger loyalty.
Warren Dehan is president of Maestropreferred cloud and local PMS solution for independent hotels, luxury resorts, conference centers, holiday rentals and multi-property groups. Maestro was the first on the market with a fully integrated Windows PMS and sales and catering solution and continues this trend with leading web and mobile based solutions. Independence from the platform and implementation presents Maestro as an investment that will continue to grow and adapt with the advent of new technologies.
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