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How to design the right guest loyalty program: 8 ideas to use

Guest loyalty plays a key role in hotels. Make sure your guest loyalty program stands out from the crowd with these ideas.
Daan de Bruijn
Jun 30, 2023
5 min
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In the fiercely competitive landscape of the hospitality industry, it is vital for hotel marketers and hoteliers to continuously innovate and find strategies that will not only attract guests but also guarantee their return. Building guest loyalty plays a crucial role in the success of any hotel business, as satisfied customers are more likely to return if they have had a memorable experience during their last stay.

In fact, a recent survey conducted by the American Hotel & Lodging Association discovered that a staggering 57% of guests were more likely to return based on their previous experience. In that matter, a big part of working on your guest loyalty has to do with loyalty programs.

These kinds of programs are an excellent strategy for fostering repeat guest visits, but in modern times most of them have lost their appeal and hardly ever stand out from the others. Most of guest loyalty programs reward guests with points or discounts when they book multiple rooms or stay for a specific number of nights within a year, but they don’t go further than that, offering something that elevates the experience while keeping the essence of the brand. 

Since hospitality is such a competitive industry, having an “okay” guest loyalty program is not enough anymore. If you are truly trying to turn your one-timer guests into returning ones, you need to craft a loyalty program that stands out from the crowd.

How to craft the right loyalty program? 

The real question is how can you make your guest loyalty program a program they actually want to sign up for? How can you turn your loyalty program into “the right” one? Here are a few ideas you can use to make your loyalty program transmit your brand while exciting guests and bringing them back.

Start by extracting insights from your guest data

First, you need to look back at your guest data and try to identify all the insights you can get.

What do we mean by that? Basically, go into your hotel CRM and look into your guests’ preferences. What are the most popular services you have? What are the ones that are normally fully booked and what are the most boring ones? 

Then, you can also look into your rooms and what seem to be the most requested ones and also the least favourite ones. What is the main difference? Is it a matter of space or amenities?  

Prepare an appealing offer

Remember, one big thing to consider is that every type of guest should find value in your guest loyalty program. For example, offering free tickets to a kids' show will probably interest your family bookers but not your business guests. 

That is why using your guest data as fuel for your guest loyalty program is key. Because first, you need to understand who are your guests before you can come up with something valuable to offer them. 

Think about events

With all this information, prepare an appealing offer that will motivate your guests to choose your hotel again to be able to enjoy these benefits. After the pandemic, events have started to win a lot of attention back, meaning face-to-face experiences are becoming more and more attractive. Offering exclusive access to events can serve as a powerful incentive to make your guests continually choose your hotel. 

How to identify these events? You can put one together by yourself but you can also talk to local vendors. This is an excellent way to establish commercial bonds that can benefit your accommodation brand. 

Think about in-room amenities

According to Expedia, 70% of travellers are willing to pay extra for having in-room amenities. Can you imagine how much willing they will be to come back to your hotel if the loyalty program includes the opportunity to upgrade their room at a lower price? Or if it simply includes an amenity that will take their in-room experience further? These simple but well-thought details can make your loyalty program go from one more to one of a kind. 

Include the essence of your brand

The most important part: your guest loyalty program should scream your brand essence and values.  You have to make sure you find a way to include your accommodation’s spirit. For example, maybe you want to create an online community, where guests can share experiences and advice about your city or area. The possibilities are endless; all you need is creativity.

Communicate your loyalty program in the right way

One big mistake when it comes to loyalty programs is that most of them are not communicated through the right channels or even to the right guests. Ensure you use the right channels based on who your guests are, and don’t send the same message to everyone. 

When you communicate the loyalty program to business guests, you can highlight different benefits than when telling a family about it. Make sure to use tools like a hotel CRM to create the right audiences and schedule campaigns as part of the guest journey. In this way, it will be personalised but it will also be recurrent, without you having to remember to send that message to every guest. 

Use a “welcome back” package

If your guests made a second (or third) booking in your hotel, now it is time to show this was the right decision. How to do it? Well, everyone loves gifts. Especially hotel guests. Consider offering a “welcome back” package, which includes delightful free treats or memorable souvenirs. If the city you are located in is famous for anything special, use that as a theme, since it reinforces the attractiveness of the location they chose. 

Keep it simple

Make sure you don’t over-complicate the program by using too many platforms or having a complicated loyalty program structure that will only confuse customers. The most important part is to communicate the benefits and to make sure that the different types of guests can find it valuable. 

In conclusion

In conclusion, designing a guest loyalty program might require a bit more effort than you thought, but it will pay off as soon as you put it into practice since engaging your existing guests is cheaper than earning new ones. If you want to learn more about how to increase guest loyalty, download our ebook: Turning one-timers into returners.

Remember: In today’s world, working on your guest loyalty is not a choice anymore, it is a must-do if you want your accommodation brand to grow, and even survive.

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