Why Hotel Loyalty Programs Miss Our Marks


By Robert McGarvey


Oracle has weighed in with a data rich report that basically says hoteliers think they know about our loyalties but they don’t know bupkis.  Said Oracle: “We’ve uncovered a surprising divide in perception between how businesses view loyalty programs and what guests really think.”

Put another way: what we have here is failure to communicate.

And that’s at the root of why, so often, hoteliers seem oblivious to what even frequent guests honestly want from their rooms.  

So often hoteliers seem to miss the obvious.  That’s a conclusion from the Oracle data, which explores loyalty programs and also our views on social influencers and hotel tech. It’s a mixed bag of data but the one consistent reality is that we are misunderstood by hoteliers.

What do hoteliers get wrong about us?

Oracle starts off by tossing this hand grenade: “Given the choice to revoke their personal information from hotel brands, more than 80% of respondents said they would. Yet loyalty programs are at the heart of hoteliers’ commercial strategy.”

Oracle said “misconception 1” on the part of hoteliers is thinking we give much of a hoot about their loyalty programs in the first place.  Said Oracle: “Hotels think that guests would openly sign up to every loyalty program…guests are much more selective, only signing up to programs with real relevance.”

61% of hoteliers think guests sign up for every program.  Just 24% of us say we do. Hoteliers think 6% of us rarely join any program. But 30% of us say we rarely do.

Count me in that group who often decline to sign up.  Why bother when there is nothing on offer that interests me?

Hoteliers think we covet the possibility of room upgrades and rolling, 24 hour check in – the kinds of perks doled out to loyal guests.  Do we?

Said Oracle: “Guests, however, are far less engaged in the programs than hoteliers realize.”

54% of hoteliers say their offers to loyal guests are “mostly relevant.”  But only 22% of us say they are. And 39% of us say offers are “rarely relevant.”  But just 6% of hoteliers think their offers are rarely relevant.

Those are wide perception gaps.  And probably the why of our hotel discontents.

The research veers into areas where I might not agree with its findings – do you?  For instance, 37% of us say “Hoteliers used and recommended by social media influencers are more trustworthy than those recommended by celebrities.”

And 32% of us said that social media influencers reviews are more trustworthy than generic customer reviews (think TripAdvisor).  

Are you on board with this perception of influencers – keeping in mind that they work for money and further keeping in mind that the Federal Trade Commission wants their postings clearly labeled as ads.

I’m not putting influencers down, just suggesting that the rush to embrace is premature. Some are very credible. Some aren’t.

As for hotel loyalty programs, what do we want from them? Oracle says – no surprise here – that we want more personalized offers.  In fact 90% say they find this appealing: “Personalized service from hotel staff that understand my preferences and show me relevant excursions, recommendations and offers.”

65% want offers based upon our past purchase history.

86% say they are willing to complete a questionnaire so that offers can in fact be more precisely targeted.

What we are saying is listen to us and we’ll tell you how to make these loyalty programs work better. Will hoteliers listen? That is the question.

As for hotel tech, 87% of us want to be able to check out rooms with virtual reality before checking in. Just 73% are keen to use Alexa or Siri in the room. Count me as a huge Alexa fan and while I own a Google Daydream I don’t recall the last time I fired it up.  I certainly wouldn’t just to “walk” through a hotel room before booking.  Would you?

Add this up and – still – we are left with a divide between what hoteliers think we want and what we truly want.  What’s strange is that hoteliers have a lot of data at their disposal – especially regarding loyal, frequent guests – and yet they just don’t seem to be using it.

That just may be the most baffling reality about 2018 hotels.  They have what they need to know. They just don’t know it.




3 thoughts on “Why Hotel Loyalty Programs Miss Our Marks”

  1. The only real things I care about from a hotel loyalty program is being able to a) having access to the Executive Lounge without a fee; and b) free breakfasts (especially when I am traveling with my family). The upgrades are nice but usually not so major that they make a difference to me. The points are so diluted in value that I no longer pay attention. I would be delighted with an Alexa in my room but could care less about a VR tour of a prospective room.

  2. The things I care about from a hotel loyalty program are:
    + Having access to the Executive Lounge without a fee
    + Early check-in/Late checkouts
    + Enhanced high-speed internet with the fee waived
    + Free parking

    Nice but not required:
    + Free breakfasts (but only if they are full breakfasts)
    + Room upgrades are nice, but not required unless it is NYC (where most hotel rooms are tiny)
    + VR tour of rooms before booking

  3. I am a member of 3 loyalty programs. The main reason I am a member of them is that I like being able to make special location requests and very often am granted my request. Marriott is the only one that offers lifetime status based on points accrued over the years, and that is the hotel chain I primarily use. An issue I’ve always had is that the hotels that charge the most for the room very often also charge the most for wifi. Why do prestige hotels think that their customers are interested in paying for wifi, when you can get it included at every lower level hotel?

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