June 25, 2024

Bucks: Hotelier Offers New Options to Rewards Program

Anyone who is a member of a loyalty rewards program has been in this frustrating situation: You have a small number of points left over after a big redemption, but the rewards available for low balances aren’t very enticing. (How many cheap steak knives do you really need?)

Officials at the InterContinental Hotels Group are tweaking the chain’s “Priority Club Rewards” program over the next two to three months with an eye, in part, to addressing that situation. They’re making the program more flexible and adding lower-point reward options, like downloads of songs, mobile apps and e-books, for members earning points by staying at IHG hotels, including Holiday Inns and Crowne Plazas.

Offering downloads in exchange for reward points is a first for travel loyalty programs, according to Don Berg, vice president of loyalty programs and partnerships at IHG. He told me the exact number of points required for downloads will be no more than “a few hundred.” IHG will also offer a points “sweepstakes,” in which members can spend, say, 100 or 200 points to earn the chance to win a higher-stakes reward, like an iPad or four nights at the InterContinental Hotel in Times Square. (A four-night stay at one of the company’s luxury hotels can require up to 120,000 points, although periodic promotions can sometimes drop the needed total to 20,000).

IHG also says it will allow members to use a combination of points and cash to get brand-name merchandise. Some frequent travelers are loath to redeem points for more hotel nights, Mr. Berg said. They’d rather use the points for other items, like electronics or sports equipment — often as gifts for others.

Yet another new option will be an offer of 50 percent discounts on “last-minute” rooms booked using points. Members will get an e-mail on Mondays, telling them what properties will offer discounted rooms the following weekend. (If a room typically required 10,000 points a night, it would require just 5,000.)

IHG seeks an edge in the competition for business travelers, who make up the vast majority of reward program members. The average loyalty club member, IHG research shows, belongs to an average of three programs. Hotel loyalty programs have gained in appeal, as airlines have made their frequent-flier programs more restrictive and added more fees.

IHG’s research over the last three years suggests that loyalty program members want to use their points like cash. By offering a variety of redemption options, “you’ll get more of their wallet on the paid end,” Mr. Berg said. IHG has 4,400 hotel rooms under six brands in addition to its flagship InterContinental properties, including Holiday Inn Express and Staybridge Suites.

Would you use points to redeem low-cost items like downloads? Or do you prefer to accumulate them for bigger rewards?

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=3ecd867f278c721c8544ad72120e5263