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Only reviews count, not the programs

ITB Hospitality Day 2016: Paying premiums or more guest interaction?

ITB Hospitality Day 2016 Panel Loyalty Programs fromleft Fuchs Gerhard Kennedy Sarah Zois Elina Astheimer Frank Jost Benjamin  

A distinguished circle at the ITB Hospitality Day 2016 discussed
about
loyalty programs: from left Gerhard Fuchs, Sarah Kennedy,
Elina Zois, Frank
Astheimer, Benjamin Jost.

 

Berlin (April 29 2016). Where are loyalty programs heading to? Why are they becoming more important to travel providers and what are the reasons for hoteliers to be active in several programs with one hotel? A distinguished circle of representatives from TrustYou, Marriott, Sabre Hospitality and Miles & More were searching for answers at the "ITB Hospitality Day" in March.

Particularly, Benjamin Jost, CEO of TrustYou, kept stirring up the talk round, which was hosted by consultant Gerhard Fuchs (die marketingfuechse). TrustYou, a company evaluating a wide range of review platforms clarified that this company itself is a loyalty program. After all, those who get good reviews must have a good product and therefore also loyal guests. At the same time Jost surprised the audience with the statement: "Many users believe that we are a B2C-platform, but our core business is B2B. Globally, we are the largest collector of review data and for example we are also the ones behind Google's review scoring." TrustYou chaperones the hotel guests – similar to the traditional loyalty programs – during the whole trip. Already before booking, the reviews of others play a role; later guests are the ones contributing own reviews. Today, 80 to 90 percent of holiday bookers read reviews, Benjamin Jost states.

Immediate analysis after departure

  ITB Hospitality Day 2016 Panel Loyalty Programs Jost Benjamin
  Benjamin Jost, CEO
of TrustYou.

Elina Zois, Director Marriott Rewards & CRM Europe at Marriott International explained why loyalty programs are becoming more important to the hotel industry. "Marriott Rewards" does not only generate direct bookings from the 54 million members, but furthermore collects guest data which allow a personalisation of guest experiences. Every guest who books a room in any of the 19 group brands via the Marriott channel receives information about Marriott Rewards and may register immediately. Guests, who have performed the booking via other sources, are informed about the program at the front desk during Check-in.

If a Marriott Rewards guest leaves a Marriott Hotel, an immediate analysis follows, in order for Marriott to win him over once more as paying customer or bonus guest for his next stay. Zois: "We develop offers to match his profile and travel history." In the future, Marriott will invest in the program and its technology to make guest travel simpler and to enhance the customer's passion for the program.

Zois emphasised a meanwhile generally known fact: The Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program played an enormous role in the decision process of the Starwood acquisition, the manager said. Where it makes sense and where the guest should receive more flexibility, Marriott is also cooperating with other loyalty programs, according to Zois: Marriott's AC Hotels for example collaborate with Miles & More.

ITB Hospitality Day 2016 Panel Loyalty Programs Zois Elina  
Elina Zois, Director
Marriott Rewards &
CRM Europe at Marriott
International.

 

Miles are only one element

In Berlin, Frank Astheimer, Director Retail Partnership Miles & More, represented the Lufthansa program with currently 300 partnerships in various industries and 28 million members worldwide. Today, collecting miles is just one feature of the program, according to Astheimer. Miles & More receives diverse data about the users' lifestyle, from preferred hotel chains, rental cars, shopping and credit card usage. One third of the Miles & More users are from Germany, one third from the rest of Europe and one third from the rest of the globe.

A stand-alone loyalty program for a brand will only make sense for top customers, said Astheimer. A program such as Miles & More, collecting various travel situations, allows an even more individual offer selection, which could motivate customers to bookings. "We can see the traveller's focus", explained Astheimer the follow-up method. "This is our basis for newly tailored offers." The manager sees the future of the loyalty programs in their application on mobile devices and in the more intense interaction with the customers.

  ITB Hospitality Day 2016 Panel Loyalty Programs Astheimer Frank
  Frank Astheimer,
Director
Retail
Partnership
Miles &
More.

Modern Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems support all these tasks in the background in channelling and collecting the increasing customer data. Sarah Kennedy Ellis, Vice President Global Marketing of Sabre Hospitality Group, joined the discussion round as a representative of the technology industry. "85 percent of all customers expect their loyalty to be rewarded", she said. Globally, 32,000 hotels are utilising the Sabre technology. "Every hotel is able to collect traveler data at Sabre", the expert states. The better the technology, the less the guests take notice. The technological fragmentation is a problem of the hotel industry, she said.

Reviews count, not the programs

Benjamin Jost of TrustYou kept telling the industry that their loyalty efforts were redundant as long as many hotels did not do their homework. According to their reviews he has an overview which specific factors are important to hotel guests. Supposed a hotel does not offer free WLAN, for example, this will strongly influence the review. Hotels are still not thinking enough about the benefits they themselves can get out of the reviews, he said having experienced it personally.

ITB Hospitality Day 2016 Panel Loyalty Programs Kennedy Sarah  
Sarah Kennedy Ellis, VP Global
Marketing
bei der Sabre Hospitality
Group.

 
 

"The relationship with the guest begins with a good product and investments in the product, as well as the conscience about desires and reviews." A good example was Motel One, which so far has not offered or needed any kind of loyalty program. "There is a permanent guest feedback. Those who listen to their guests have a good brand. At most, a loyalty program is the icing on the cake," added Jost. One of the most important loyalty platforms in the future for the manager is the mobile app WhatsApp. "WhatsApp is currently implementing an API, an interface. The direct communication with the users will be established. Then providers and customers will be able to directly connect with each other."

But the industry has not yet really given up on the traditional loyalty programs. The audience polls following the discussion revealed that 55 percent of the attending ITB visitors believe that these programs will continue to survive. 35 percent voted "No" and 11 percent said "Maybe". / Susanne Stauss

 
Watch the video of this ITB Hospitality Day session 2016 here in full length!

 

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