Hotels Struggle To Do More With Less for Guests Who Want More For Less
Hotel loyalty programs might be due for an upgrade.
During the “Does Loyalty Have a Shelf Life?” panel at the 2021 Hotel Data Conference, hotel executives with specialties in revenue management and sales and marketing discussed some of the loyalty trends that emerged as travel reopened from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vickie Callahan, senior vice president of revenue generation at Atlanta-based Peachtree Hotel Management, said a spike in leisure travel throughout the summer made the loyalty data a bit muddled.
“It’s changed just because our guest type has changed so much,” Callahan said. “There’s a little bit less of an education in our guests today of what the loyalty programs give them, and actually what they’re looking for. … We all know corporate travelers want a ton of points and that’s why they’re in the loyalty program, but I don’t know that the leisure traveler understands the value of that.”
Pent-up leisure demand and trips funded with federal stimulus checks have led to more first-time loyalty members who don’t fully understand the loyalty program perks and what they’re eligible for, said Jason Fawaz, vice president of revenue at Iowa-based hotel management company Hawkeye Hotels.
“They think because they have that [Hilton] Honors number or that [Marriott International] Bonvoy number attached to the reservation they’re entitled to the world,” Fawaz said. “The joke used to be pre-pandemic [a guest might say] ‘Oh, but I’m a diamond member.’ But now it seems to be ‘Oh, but I’m a blue member.’ The blue members, the entry-level tiers, think that they’re entitled to the same perks as the diamond members.”
Guests who have built up loyalty status with a hotel brand are quick to point out what’s different about the stay, and employees have borne the brunt of those complaints, Callahan said. She added it’s difficult for front-desk agents to even have the time to recognize a guest’s loyalty status with everything else on their plate.
“We all have to be honest with ourselves that the front-desk people right now are doing everything possible just to get the guest checked in. … We will be able to get better at that as our staffing challenges start to level out a little bit,” Callahan said.
Fawaz agreed that the pandemic has pushed recognition of loyalty status to the side.
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