Loyal hotel customers would give up spouse, keep loyalty program, if given choice

Relationships with hotel loyalty programs run deep, often causing members to lie, cheat or pose as someone else to get ahead says a new survey by Starwood Preferred Guest.

Honeymoon“? “Emergency“? Respondents would try subterfuge to get upgrades and were not above telling little white lies to get a better hotel room or a hotel/airline travel upgrade” Starwood said in TravelAgent. Nearly half of respondents claimed they would pretend it was their honeymoon to get an upgrade. 25 percent would pretend they had a family emergency and 20 percent would pretend to be someone important.

The idea that travelers are “married to their frequent traveler programs” may not be a stretch either with 73 percent of those responding to the January survey choosing loyalty program benefits over a spouse if they could take just one on the road.Starwood polled nearly 10,000 adults around the world who travel more than 25 times a year and had some surprising findings.

  • In a travel emergency, 70 percent said that their elite status in a hotel loyalty rewards program would be handier than their smartphone, tablet or even their personal assistant.
  • Seventy-six percent said they felt their status in a hotel loyalty program would last longer than their marriage or current job.
  • Losing their status in a hotel loyalty program (65 percent) scares respondents more than lost luggage (12 percent) or missing a flight (11 percent).
  • Half of respondents said they consider hotel loyalty programs most important, followed by credit-card (19 percent) and airline loyalty programs (13 percent).

The survey was conducted for Starwood Preferred Guest 9,900 adults across the globe who travel 25 times or more per year. Interviews were conducted between January 1st and January 9th, 2012.

Flickr photo by UggBoy♥UggGirl

Las Vegas hotels The Venetian and The Palazzo join InterContinental Alliance Resorts

Two of Las Vegas‘ most loved hotels, The Venetian and The Palazzo, are the first two properties to join with IHG’s new Intercontinental Alliance Resorts program.

What does this mean for you, dear reader? If you were already a fan of the properties, never fear – the properties will remain independently branded and under their current names, but with the added benefit of InterContinental Hotel & Resorts membership, meaning that guests can book rooms and earn points through their IHG rewards program.

What is the program, exactly? The Alliance Resorts program is more of a marketing partnership than anything else – these resorts aren’t owned, operated or managed by IHG, but rather “aligned with the spirit” of the brand and “complement the InterContinental portfolio.” For guests, this means that Priority Club Rewards and InterContinental Ambassador programs can redeem points at these “sister properties”.

At present, the Alliance Resorts program has just three properties, including Scottsdale’s Montelucia Resort & Spa.

At present IHG’s Priority Club Rewards program is the world’s largest hotel loyalty program with 56 million members.

Leading Hotels of the World launches benefits program for luxury hotels

Luxury travel isn’t going anywhere. In fact, one hotel group believes luxury travelers will pay extra for the value and service they get at luxury hotels, which is why they’re adding a fee to their membership program.

The Leading Hotels of the World, which comprises 430 unique independent hotels and resorts worldwide, announced additional benefits for members of its Leaders Club but eliminated the free aspect of joining their club.

According to the hotel, “In addition to their existing benefits – ability to earn free nights; early check-in, late check-out; room upgrades; welcome gifts and exclusive rates – Leaders Club members will now be able to enjoy daily complimentary continental breakfast for two and complimentary Internet access at all Leading Hotels.”

The cost of the enriched benefits? An annual $100 for an Access level membership and $1,200 for an Unlimited level membership.
Members with Access level will enjoy complimentary continental breakfast for two each day, complimentary Internet access, complimentary nights (based on point accumulation), access to member-only rates, early check-in/late check-out, invitations to club events and specially created experiences. Unlimited level gets all of the above plus the guarantee of a room upgrade at time of booking.

According to USA Today, Leading Hotels first began revamping its loyalty program in late 2009. By December, Leading Hotels quietly showed their loyal members a little love with one free night in any of its hotel after five paid stays within a calendar year.

Hoteliers sue Choice and Wyndham over hotel loyalty programs

Are hotel companies illegally taking loyalty fees from hotels, where guests who don’t know they’ve been enrolled in a hotel’s loyalty program are staying? That’s the question under discussion after franchisees filed class-action lawsuits against two major hotel brands.

The suits, filed in U.S. District Court in Orlando last month, allege that Wyndham Worldwide Inc. and Choice Hotels International Inc. have “inflated the ranks of their loyalty programs and are collecting fees from hotels when those guests stay at franchise properties,” according to a story in the Orlando Sentinel. The story goes on to say lawyers for the hoteliers have asked for more than $260 million in damages from Wyndham, and more than $225 million from Choice.

Here’s the issue:Franchisees say the hotel companies are ‘auto-enrolling’ guests who book online into hotel loyalty programs, unless the guest opts out at the time of booking. Then, the hotel is matching personal data (emails addresses, home addresses, etc.) to the guest to reward points (not hotel membership numbers), which franchisees say results in hotels collecting program fees of up to 5 percent of gross room sales generated by guests “who may or may not have stayed at their property because of the loyalty program, and who may not have known they were entitled to benefits.”

“The real purpose of a rewards program is that you build customer loyalty,” David Wood, an attorney for the franchisees, told the Sentinel. “In that event, the hotel franchisee would benefit. But under proactive matching, that doesn’t happen.”

Wood also goes on to say that charging the extra fee for the loyalty programs is against the franchise contracts of both companies and is a violation of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Readers: What do you think? If it costs you nothing, do you care if the hotel auto-enrolls you into their loyalty program?

Stash Hotel Rewards loyalty program reaches 100 independent properties

Tired of the same old loyalty chains? After just six months in business, Stash Hotel Rewards, the loyalty program that draws together independent and boutique properties has reached 100 total properties in 74 cities.

Stash has or will soon have 17 hotels in the Bay Area, seven in Seattle, six in New York City, and four in metro Atlanta.

“100 hotels means more choices for discerning travelers who want to earn points but don’t want big-chain sameness,” said Stash chief executive, Jeff Low. “Increasingly, travelers will find great independent hotels offering Stash points almost anywhere they go.

The independent hotels that recently joined Stash range in size from a five-room inn tucked among the skyscrapers of Atlanta to Doral Arrowwood, offering 370 rooms and a private golf course – just 30 minutes from Manhattan. A number of the properties, such as The Cliff House at Pikes Place, Louisville’s Brown Hotel, and San Antonio’s Menger Hotel have been recognized nationally for their historic significance.

We’re excited to keep a further eye on this loyalty program as it continues to grow.