Ask Skift: What Are Major Trends in Hotel Loyalty Programs?



Skift Take

Loyalty programs are big business for hotel companies, and here are some noticeable trends shaping those programs.

Several hotel loyalty programs have seen substantial growth in recent years, with Hyatt reporting it had increased its loyalty program membership 22% in the first quarter from last year.

So what are the major trends in hotel loyalty programs?

We put the question to Ask Skift, our artificial intelligence chatbot. Ask Skift used information that appeared in both our past news coverage and research, and we did additional reporting on the subject.

Direct Bookings

Hotel brands in recent years have been investing heavily in technology and loyalty programs to incentivize guests to book directly and foster brand loyalty. This has resulted in significant growth in loyalty program memberships, with some brands like Hyatt doubling their members in the past four years. The shift towards direct bookings through digital channels has also boosted owner and franchise profitability.

Major hotel companies in the last few years have sought to promote the benefits of their programs in marketing campaigns. Hilton has emphasized the benefits of direct booking through its loyalty program, Hilton Honors — such as a best rate guarantee, free Wi-Fi and free points — in its Stop Clicking Around campaign.

And Marriott launched its It Pays to Book Direct campaign, which showcased the benefits of joining the company’s loyalty program and booking directly, including special offers such as the redemption of loyalty points towards entertainment, activities, and culinary experiences.

Additionally, hotel brands are leveraging their loyalty programs to offer exclusive access to premium services and influencer recommendations, moving away from the traditional concept of loyalty that was merely about brand preference or the redemption of points towards discounted nightly rates.

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Room Upgrades and Late Checkout

Regarding specific offerings in hotel loyalty programs, a report from the Global Hotel Alliance, a collection of 40 independent hotel brands with more than 800 hotels in 100 countries, found that perks and benefits are the features most important to members — more than rewards and discounts. The report said room upgrades are the benefit members value most, across tiers, in addition to other in-hotel benefits such ascomplimentary breakfast and late checkout.

The Leading Hotels of the World, an association of more than 400 luxury properties including the Ritz Paris, enables members to enjoy perks like a daily continental breakfast for two, and both early check-in and late checkout based on availability.

Points Redemptions

Meanwhile, Skift Research found a healthy percentage of travelers are using hotel loyalty points to offset costs, similar to the pattern in airline loyalty usage. A November 2023 survey exploring Generation Z and Millennial Travel Habits revealed 42% of respondents used points to cover the entire stay and 39% redeemed points to pay for part of the stay.

Skift Research also found that 50% of Gen Z respondents and 60% of Millennials are loyalty program members of the hotels they stayed in. In addition, about 56% of Gen Z and 53% of Millennials had redeemed hotel loyalty points one or two times in the previous 12 months.

Several hotel loyalty programs — including Marriott Bonvoy, World of Hyatt and Hilton Honors — enable users to combine points or transfer miles to one another. Hilton Honors, in particular, allows up to 11 people to pool their points together completely free of charge. Members of Hilton Honors can receive up to 2 million points annually from other members through pooling.

Dining Rewards and Fitness

In addition, most major hotel loyalty programs have created their own dining rewards programs. Hilton Honors Dining, IHG One Rewards Dine & Earn, and Marriott Eat Around Town all award members a certain amount of points per dollar spent at participating restaurants while using their registered card.

Finally, hotel loyalty programs have sought to reward guests looking to get in exercise during their stays. Marriott Bonvoy has offered members a seven-day trial of the FitnessOnDemand platform, which includes exercise classes on the app or website for use in the hotel room, gym or at the pool.

And Hyatt recently reached a deal with Peloton to showcase the fitness company’s exercise equipment at 800 properties. Members of World of Hyatt will earn points for Peloton workouts at participating hotels.

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