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Loyalty Programs and Local Communities in Hospitality

Nowadays, there are millions of businesses in the world that focus on delivering different products and services for consumers. Keeping aside the variety of industries that businesses are part of, all of them want to retain their loyal customers and make them return in the future. It all started in 1793, when some U.S merchants decided to offer their customers copper tokens to be redeemed with future purchases.

Hospitality establishments, such as well-known hotel chains are expected to have a structured loyalty program in place for their frequent guests. Holiday Inn was the first brand to launch a ‘frequency’ program in February of 1983. This first-generation hotel loyalty scheme was allowing customers to redeem points and receive special flight prices in exchange. In today’s world, hotel-loyalty programs rely on distinctive experiences that can set them apart from competitors.

Today, we’re going to go over the major hotel loyalty programs around the world, and we’ll give more insights on how hospitality establishments can invite local businesses (communities) to be part of such programs by using our solution.

Well-known Hospitality Loyalty programs

With the nine largest hotel-loyalty programs consisting of nearly 350 million members worldwide, it is clear how this trend developed over the years. Hotel and resort chains are doing their best to differentiate themselves and provide loyal guests with unique and tailored experiences. Before jumping into more details, it is important to keep in mind that guests will value a hotel-loyalty program based on 4 factors: 1. The number of hotels that are part of a chain 2. Benefits that are most important for a guest 3. Destination (some chains have more luxurious properties based on location) 4. The type of hotel or resort that a guest is looking for (boutique, budget, ultra-all-inclusive and so on).

1. Marriott Bonvoy

This loyalty program provides guests with the richest benefits in the hotel industry. Members are entitled to earn points by choosing to accommodate at any of the 6800 locations in over 150 countries. In terms of earning points as a member, Marriott offers its guests different ways for that. For instance, famous banking companies such as Chase and American Express allow their customers to transfer rewards on their Marriot Bonvoy account. Besides that, both companies issue branded Marriot credit cards for personal and business use. Clients that opt for branded cards will receive a sign-up bonus and Marriott points are earned and ready to be used in any location right after every purchase. Referring a friend is also a great way to earn points without much effort. However, Marriott Bonvoy members will earn points whenever they spend money at any participating location, regardless of which credit card is used. For every $1 spent, members receive 10 Marriott points in exchange. These points can be redeemed for various products and services, such as: free hotel/resort stays; room upgrades; lower room rates; holiday packages; car rentals; gift cards; donations; special airline prices and more.

2. IHG Rewards Club

Similar with Marriott’s loyalty offering, IHG Rewards is as well a diverse and rewarding program. Flagship hotel chains such as InterContinental, Crown Plaza, Holiday Inn Resorts and many others are part of it. With more than 5,600 participating hotels worldwide, this program is divided into four membership categories: Club, Gold Elite, Platinum Elite and Spire Elite. Depending on how often you stay at participating locations, the likelihood of upgrading your membership increases. If not claimed within 12 months, earned points are set to expire, but the good news is that points can be transferred between two designated member accounts for $5/1,000 points transferred.

Members part of the IHG Rewards program can also earn points by spending money at nearby shops and dine locations/activities. How does it work? Users can simply search for local activities and vendors from their accounts and verify if businesses reward them with points that can be spent within the IHG group. For a helicopter tour that cost $250 in New York, IHG members automatically receive 1,000 points that can be redeemed at any hotel or resort that is part of the chain. Booking tours and other experiences are booked straight from the account, replacing the need of accessing the partner’s website.

3. World of Hyatt

Very similar with those loyalty programs mentioned above, this one stands out by including respected luxury hotel chains, such as Park Hyatt and Andaz (luxury boutique hotels). The feature that stands out the most in this program is targeting the highest tier members. They get a free night award and two suite upgrades just by reaching this status. Compared with other programs, earning points within World of Hyatt tends to be somewhat difficult. With a single transfer partner (Chase) and one cobranded credit card, you can already see the limitations. This limitation is given by their exclusive establishments and therefore by their rigorous earning criteria’s. One nice feature available is the Points + Cash bookings. It allows guests to get discounted room rates and pay with their points part of the total amount.

Oveit as a Loyalty solution for Hospitality and Local Communities

By looking at these well-established loyalty programs, we’ve identified that our solution can be a great fit in a hospitality environment. Keeping aside the valuable insights coming from guest’s behaviour and preferences, we want to introduce decision makers to our idea of Economy as a Service. After talking to professionals from the hospitality industry, we concluded that tourist destinations struggle with fragmented experiences and therefore have a negative impact on the end users (guests). By fragmented experiences, we want to say that local vendors and businesses in tourist destinations don’t have a common accepted currency and purchase behavior can be affected because of that.

With our solution, hotels and resorts are to act as owners of local economies. Instead of just making recommendations for nearby attractions and experiences, our solution enables guests to make purchases in a defined economy with the same payment tool used for completing purchases within hotels and resorts. It addresses the issue of fragmented experiences and it contributes to a fast and secure purchase behavior.

Smart wristbands used within famous Ibiza establishments

Well-known establishments, part of the famous Ibiza island are stepping up their game in terms of adopting unique technologies to enhance guest experiences. The so-called ‘smart very important bracelets’ (VIB), successfully passed the trial period and convinced decision makers that it’s the way to go. Even if these smart wristbands were introduced a while ago on the island, the Hard Rock Hotel and Ushuaia Ibiza Beach Hotel take a different approach by using it in their hospitality and event environments.

These properties are known as the places to stay, party, dine and relax during the summer season in Ibiza. The Ushuaia Beach Hotel, also called ‘The Unexpected Hotel’ because of its unparalleled entertainment offering, events production and technology initiatives, presents the ideal opportunity for such exclusive solutions to be implemented. It all started with the introduction of a biometric technology that enabled guests to complete purchases with their fingerprints. In 2014, these two famous establishments, part of the same hotel group, decided to replace the biometric PayTouch  system with the so-called ‘wearable technology’ or VIB. This wearable technology takes it a step further, replacing the need of carrying a room key, a wallet or a mobile phone on site.

How is this technology impacting the user experience and purchase behavior within the famous Ibiza establishments?

Room Access

The radio frequency chip incorporated inside the smart wristband is replacing the traditional room key. It is nearly impossible to lose it or forget it, since guests wear it all the time. To unlock the room, guests simply place the bracelet against specially enabled readers. The technology is already there. Most five-star hotels and resorts have these special readers already incorporated right under the doorknob.

Access to different areas (VIP)

Ibiza is the type of destination where influential people, such as celebrities, famous actors and artists choose to spend their days off. Celebrities seek personalized experiences and value their moments of privacy, especially during their time off. The smart wristbands are designed to store access credentials for individual guests. Access to restricted areas such as the VIP lounge, spa or pool is simply verified with a tap of the wrist in a matter of seconds. There is no need to assign hotel staff in those areas, since the process is fully automated.

Payment Tool

The famous establishments use smart wristbands as a payment tool, replacing cash or credit/debit cards. Fancy a drink at the pool or in a club? The bracelets are waterproof, and guests can shop their favorite cocktails even while taking a break from swimming. How does it work? Upon arrival, the hotel sends out a newsletter to individual guests and instructs them on how to sync their PayPal account with the bracelet. From then on, the smart wristband works in a prepaid fashion, automatically topping up every time the balance goes below 10 EUR.

Tracking (footfall)

To find out behavior and preferences regarding hotel services, the adopted technology by Ibiza establishments proves to be very efficient. The smart wristbands can track individual guests around the hotel premises, enabling decision makers to allocate staff accordingly during peak hours.

Discounts at on-site facilities

The tracking feature is also used to offer personalized promotions and discounts. Since decision makers have access to purchase behavior and preferences, identifying the loyal guests is fairly easy. For example, if an individual is using the spa facilities quite often, a special discount or even a free massage session might be offered in exchange.

Here at Oveit, our dedicated team believes that its ‘Economy as a Service’ approach could revolutionize the hotel and hospitality segments. The hospitality environment is among those that can take advantage of our extended features, designed to shape a different kind of relationship with its guests.

foto presenting an NFC chip wristband branded with Oveit

Cashless payments and loyalty programs in hospitality & tourism

In today’s world, cash is not a preferred method of paying for goods and services. More and more businesses around the world have decided to eliminate the need of dealing with cash. There are other innovative payment alternatives, replacing the old-fashioned way of paying with cash. The hospitality and tourism industry is no different from the vast majority of businesses that adopt cashless payment alternatives. Travelers don’t feel comfortable when carrying cash during their holidays. Businesses that are part of this industry and not only, will transform usual customers into loyal ones, will increase sales, and improve the overall user experience considerably, if they switch to a cashless payment alternative.

Cashless payments and loyalty programs in resorts and hotels

Businesses that are part of the hospitality and tourism environment need to differentiate themselves from their competitors. It is an extremely competitive market, where customers have a variety of options to choose from. For a hotel, it is not enough to only provide bed & breakfast. Guests expect tailored and unique experiences. What if I told you that a simple key card can take on many roles, transforming your regular guests into loyal ones? Let’s take the example of a hotel chain, with several locations around the world. The majority of hotels and resorts, provide their guests with key cards for room access only. However, those cards can be used as: payment, entrance to specific areas, bonus, and loyalty cards in any participating location, therefore creating an ecosystem. Besides these great features, you will have access to qualified data that can be used strategically.

Among companies using incentives, 79% of them report a success rate and achieve the established goals . In the case of hotels and resorts, rewarding guests accordingly is very important. The reward is based on different aspects, such as number of bookings, amount spent within the hotel, referrals and not only. An easy way to make all this information available is by creating an ecosystem, therefore enabling to differentiate between gold and silver members for example. 

Supporting local businesses by partnering up with hotels and resorts

Hotels and resorts might choose to partner up with different businesses and contribute to the local economy. Depending on the purpose of your trip, the likelihood of willing to explore the surroundings are very high. For this reason, partnerships with local restaurants, cafes, shops, museums have a positive impact on the customer purchase experience. One creative way to achieve this, is to integrate the internal payment system of a hotel or resort with its partners. Guests will have the option to pay with their key card at partner locations, therefore expanding the ecosystem. Since all transactions are recorded, external vendors have access to relevant reports. They will be able to reward their loyal customers on their behalf.

The cashless payments solution that Oveit has put into place can easily achieve the above mentioned for any hospitality and tourism business. There might be times when internet is not available in every location that uses our system. We thought about this scenario and came up with a solution for it. Our technology has the capacity of working both online and offline, meaning that whenever internet goes down, the customer experience and the recorded data won’t be affected at all. We bet that you are asking yourself how we achieved that, but we invite you to find out for yourself!