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There are two ways customers could benefit – financial discounts through the accumulation of points and status benefits like better hotel service, said Clay Voorhees, a marketing professor at The University of Alabama who has researched hotel loyalty programs.
“Even if you stay relatively less frequently, simply being a member of the program can get you some service-based perks when you show up, even if you’re never able to use the points for the actual discount benefits of the program,” Voorhees added.
The status benefits could be very minor, such as free Wi-Fi and bottled water. It’s usually difficult for occasional travelers to benefit from the point system unless they actively monitor their accounts, Voorhees said, because the points could expire.
Occasional travelers could consider Stash Hotel Rewards, Voorhees added, which has travelers gain points through certain independent boutique hotels. But for the hospitality companies, let’s look at the hotel loyalty programs from Wyndham, Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt.
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Wyndham Rewards offers four membership levels: Blue, Gold, Platinum and Diamond, mostly depending on how many nights the member stayed at Wyndham hotels and lodging facilities the year prior. The benefits include points that could be used in exchange for free hotel nights and gift cards, more flexible check-in / check-out hours, suite upgrades and better, personalized service. Higher membership level will lead to more benefits.
Wyndham CMO Lisa Checchio said Wyndham’s portfolio ranges from economy to luxury, and thus they have an option for every traveler. Wyndham only has three free night tiers – 7,500, 15,000 or 30,000 points – which are part of the “simplicity of the program,” according to Checchio.
Customers earn 10 points per dollar for every qualified stay at a Wyndham Rewards hotel. They could also apply for Wyndham Rewards Visa Cards to get Gold or Platinum memberships and earn points through daily purchases.
For guests who don’t travel very frequently, Checchio said “having a credit card is a perfect way for them to really maximize points that they’re earning, that they then can redeem on future trips.”
Hilton Honors has four membership levels: Member, Silver, Gold and Diamond, and points could be used for free hotel nights, online shopping, Lyft rides, car rentals and concert tickets. Gold and Diamond members could benefit from room upgrades when available, and food and beverage credit at select brands. Similarly, customers earn 10 points per dollar spent on their stay.
The hospitality company also offers Hilton Honors American Express Card, with which customers could earn bonus points.
In addition, Hilton members could benefit from shareable digital room keys, which could be shared with up to four additional people, making group travels more convenient, said Jennifer Chick, Global Head SVP of Hilton Honors, Customer Engagement Partnerships.
“We have a digital key, which is through the Hilton Honors app… It allows you to choose your room; it allows you to open your door with your phone as your key,” Chick said.
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Marriott Bonvoy rewards program offers six membership levels: Member, Silver Elite, Gold Elite, Platinum Elite, Titanium Elite and Ambassador Elite. Customers at each level enjoy different benefits. For example, Silver Elite (10-24 nights/year to qualify) members have priority late checkout when available, while Ambassador Elite (100+ nights/year to qualify) members enjoy Your24, the flexibility to choose the 24 hours of their stay, such as checking in and checking out at 7 p.m.
Customers could earn points through hotel stays, Marriott Bonvoy credit cards, car rentals, etc., and the points could be used for free hotel nights, trips, gift cards, among others. Each dollar spent on affiliated hotels gets the customers 10 points.
David Flueck, Senior Vice President of loyalty at Marriott, said the rewards program is a travel program because the hospitality company has not only hotels and private home rentals, but also all-inclusive resorts and luxury yachts. He added members are able to redeem points for special experiences.
“We have these once-in-a-lifetime experiences, like they can go to the Super Bowl. I hosted over 40 of our members in a VIP suite overlooking the 50 yard line at the Super Bowl,” Flueck said.
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Hyatt has four membership levels: Member, Discoverist, Explorist and Globalist. The benefits range from waived resort fees on free nights and room upgrades to complimentary breakfasts and club lounge access. Members could redeem their points through hotel free nights, certain car rental locations, or transfer points to airline miles. They receive 5 points for every dollar spent at a Hyatt hotel or resort.
“World of Hyatt members can now enjoy program benefits, including earning and redeeming points at more than 50 must-visit Inclusive Collection resorts in destinations like Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and the Caribbean,” Hyatt wrote to USA TODAY.