It is no secret that direct bookings are critical to a hotel’s long-term viability. With OTAs like Expedia and Hotwire holding so much influence in the travel industry, hotels are under pressure to increase direct bookings, and many major brands are looking to do this by offering incentives.
Marriott’s launch of their new loyalty program Bonvoy and Hilton’s direct-booking ad campaign “Expect Better. Expect Hilton” has put both brands in the spotlight over the last year and shown that the most influential brands in hospitality think guest loyalty is worth investing in.
Marriott Bonvoy has been marketed as more than just a rewards program and is set up to also entice guests who do not frequently travel. Lower rates are available to members of Bonvoy’s most basic level, which only requires between zero and nine nights stayed per year to join.
Hilton is also giving guests a way to save by booking direct. The company’s price match guarantee promises guests the lowest prices on the market by offering an additional 25% off the room rate for each night of the stay, something that has been a big part of their advertising push.
Hilton’s ad campaign offers perks, points, and price-matching to guests who book direct.
Starting With Affordability
While competition from other hotels and OTAs make it tempting to try something else, joining a loyalty program is often the most affordable way to book a room. This clear advantage helps get guests to join, but it is often not enough to actually keep guests loyal.
In a travel landscape where consumers have a wide variety of accommodation and booking options at their fingertips, keeping customers devoted to one brand, or family of brands, is becoming an increasingly difficult task.
Research has shown that even advanced loyalty members tend to look at other options before booking, meaning that there is a good chance that a given brand’s loyalty members belong to a rival brand’s rewards club as well.
High-level loyalty members reportedly conduct an average of nine searches of other brands, with lower-level members averaging 11. PR Newswire finds that 59% of consumers always shop around before booking. This proves that while good rates are an effective way to get guests to sign up and directly book a room, true long-term brand loyalty is harder to come by.
What Keeps Guests Loyal
Inspiring loyalty in most guests will take a comprehensive effort that goes beyond perks and includes features that help make their stay and entire customer journey more memorable. An effective way to start is by providing a quick and simple booking process.
Making it easier for loyalty members to book their stays without having to navigate through several webpages will make a big difference, as research has found that ease of booking is one of the biggest influencing factors in a traveler’s booking decision. If hotels are able to securely save some guest information, the booking process gets sped up significantly. This allows potential travelers to finalize spur-of-the-moment trips without having to go through so many steps that they eventually lose interest.
Generational Differences in Loyalty
It is clear to many consumers that loyalty programs are worth signing up for even if they are not consistently brand-loyal, but these figures vary depending on the age group in question. More than 70% of millennials and Gen Z belong to loyalty programs, compared to less than 20% of baby boomers.
Boomers that are interested in these memberships are primarily motivated by the prospect of saving money. According to CrowdTwist, they are also more receptive to customer surveys that earn them loyalty points than younger generations.
With this generation so eager to save money and earn coupons, it comes as some surprise that they are generally not as willing to sign up for a loyalty membership. This could be because these memberships, and their perks, are simply not being effectively advertised to boomers.
Making membership perks immediately available helps illustrate the value of signing up and calms any concerns about joining a loyalty program. The number of loyalty perks that are made available play a significant role in attracting new members, but quantity isn’t everything. The value of joining the program must be clear to customers, and brands can demonstrate this value by giving members personalized rewards.
The industry as a whole has trended towards personalization, with every aspect of travel from booking to in-stay experiences being tailored towards a traveler’s past behavior. Something as simple as keeping track of guest drink orders or specific room requests can show guests that their experience really is the hotel’s top priority.
Giving Guests a Choice
With more and more travelers craving bespoke travel experiences, it comes as no surprise that 61% of consumers want to choose their own perks.
Being in tune with guest wants and needs is a dependable way to build loyalty. 56% say they are loyal to brands that have a deep understanding of their needs and preferences. When a hotel shows that they understand and appreciate their guests, they are more likely to develop an emotional bond with the brand.
Creating emotional value has been the goal of many guest-centric businesses for years, but the realities of today’s hospitality industry have made it considerably more difficult for hotels to do this. Alternative lodging options like Airbnb have taken the focus away from brands and changed the framework for guest expectations.
However, the service-focused nature of hotels puts them in a position where loyal guests can receive personalized service and be presented with more opportunities to choose what they want from their travel experience. If this is done properly, guests will be more inclined to stay loyal and go straight to the hotel’s website or app when they want to book a stay.
Helix by MicroMetrics helps hotels enact service recovery strategies in real time, preventing negative reviews and developing guest loyalty.
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