Rewards and loyalty programs remain prevalent within the hospitality industry, and for good reason. Guests are loyal to hotel brands they can trust, demonstrate consistent value, and customize an experience both while on property and in between stays.
Recent research from Kalibri Labs uncovers the advantages of direct bookings as an important attribute of loyalty programs. The latest report shows how trends in bookings and guest acquisition have evolved since 2016, with loyalty program members making up the largest client base for brand name hotels in the United States. These hotel and resort chains experienced a 25% growth in their loyalty base, from 2015 to 2016, with the latter coinciding with the timeframe that ‘book direct’ programs first launched.
The study also showed hotel websites have increased at the same rate or higher than online travel agencies (OTAs). Reservations made directly with hotel sites via loyalty programs had steady growth over OTA bookings, which helped the industry cut costs associated with the guest acquisition. Not only does direct booking provide properties with an economic advantage by enticing repeat visits without having to pay OTA fees, but they also lead to a more personalized experience than they would get from third-party sites, creating a more immediate connection to the properties.
Guest-centric membership programs clearly hold a lot of value, especially when used strategically. For example, offering a free massage at the hotel spa to a loyal business traveler who would not typically have time to enjoy it might not be as strategic as an offer to a loyal hotel guest traveling for pleasure. Resorts can tailor offerings based on guest data.