person holding a heart reflecting the need for independent hotels to move beyond traditional loyalty models

The differences between large hotel chains and independent properties are well understood across our industry.

NB: This is an article from Laasie

Where large brands and franchisees benefit from substantial purchasing power and marketing budgets, independent hotels benefit from creative freedom; they are free to establish their own unique brand standards and offer a more “boutique” or otherwise unique experience than what is provided by their larger competitors.

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Often, independent properties can offer more personalized service – they know their customers in a way that the local Marriott or Best Western likely can’t, simply due to the sheer size and scale of their operation.

However, in a world where OTA commissions still eat away at a hotel’s bottom line and conversion rates and conversion rates remain at about 2%, the deep pockets of larger hotel brands are – simply put – hard to compete with. In fact, according to Phocuswire, global hotel gross bookings amounted to $523.7 billion in 2019, with OTAs capturing two-thirds of online sales. Not to mention, the cost of guest acquisition in hospitality is an average of 15 to 25% of guest-paid revenue, with some hotels spending as much as 35 percent of guest-paid revenue to put new heads in beds. For independent hoteliers, this means a lot of money is being left on the table (or handed over to OTAs) as they suffer the consequence of being a small fish in an exceedingly large pond. Don’t you think it’s time to level the playing field?

Fortunately, this is where guest loyalty comes in – a reimagined guest loyalty system, that is. By shifting away from traditional loyalty programs, we’ve been able to unearth a more effective way to engage and delight guests and, perhaps more importantly, a way to capture the 98% of website visitors that don’t book right away. When we solve the conversion problem, independent hotels can lessen their reliance on OTAs and, in turn, remain competitive against large hotel brands that may otherwise outpace them at every turn. The secret? Instant gratification is offered via personalized rewards that aren’t solely tied to booking decisions.

Don’t Just Reward Guests – Thrill Them

Hotel loyalty programs have always been well-intentioned and built upon a simple principle: reward guests when they book with your hotel. Typically, these programs adhere to a points-based model, which aims to achieve guest loyalty by promising guests better rewards the more they book with a hotel. Simple, certainly. But is it effective? Only to a point, it would seem. Over the years, hotel loyalty programs have received a great deal of attention (and often, criticism) simply due to their lack of tangibility and personalization.

Modern guests do not lack loyalty; instead, they have elevated expectations and standards for guest service and crave a more personalized loyalty experience that is easily accessible in nature. A points-based model, while well-intentioned, relies on the appeal of delayed gratification, which can only be effective if those points don’t expire before guests can utilize them or if desirable rewards aren’t exclusive to the highest loyalty tiers. If the rewards offered to guests are impersonal or irrelevant, they fail to delight altogether.

Moreover, these programs often exist to reward only one aspect of the guest journey: the decision to book. What about those guests that don’t book right away? Shouldn’t independent hoteliers cast a wider net if we are trying to increase conversion rates and capture as many guests as possible? The answer, if you ask me, is unequivocally yes. Now, more than ever, independent hoteliers should move beyond the loyalty models championed by larger brands to embrace a version of guest loyalty that rewards guests and effectively delights them at every stage of their journey.

No-Strings Attached Loyalty is the Great Equalizer

With the Laasie loyalty platform, independent hotels can abandon the tier and point-based solutions of the past to reward guests (and potential guests) with every interaction online or on-property and, in turn, create dynamic, one-to-one guest relationships. This creates the foundation for a powerful membership program that offers more relevant rewards via a marketplace of 1,000+ high-value reward partners and makes those rewards instantly attainable. As guests interact with your website, the rewards platform will be hard at work in the background, collecting relevant and appropriate data points (with customer opt-in) to serve up actionable insights to your hotel. Armed with this information, independent hotels can automatically offer personalized and instantly-selectable rewards and incentives that encourage members to book direct rather than via OTAs, drive repeat transactions, and grow guest lifetime value.

More importantly, these incentives are not tied exclusively to a transaction but rather aim to achieve “surprise and delight moments” with current and prospective guests that truly drive long-term loyalty and reciprocity. This is what we call “no strings attached” loyalty – a reimagined approach to traditional loyalty that not only rewards booking behavior but works to establish meaningful, long term relationships with guests.

Finally, Laasie’s Retain platform empowers independent hotels to capture travelers still in the early stages of their booking journey, by offering them access to a personalized insider program that promises to delight them with offers even if they don’t book right away. No need for big-budget technology or the traditional loyalty programs that large hotel brands use. Independent hotels can drive direct bookings and enhance guest loyalty with a modern, AI-powered loyalty platform that allows guests to look, get hooked, and later book.

Read more articles from Laasie