3 Innovative loyalty programs to be inspired by

With competition between hotel loyalty programs so fierce today, creativity and innovation are essential if you want to stand out and give your guests more bang for their buck.

Take inspiration from these innovative loyalty programs

An Accenture study revealed that it is becoming more difficult to retain loyal customers, with 61% of consumers switching some or all of their business to a different brand within the last year. This means that hoteliers need to look into tailoring far more personalised loyalty programs that really speak to your guests and provide the value they want. 

Remember, it usually costs around five times more to attract a new customer than to keep an old one, and customers will remember their experience with a brand long after forgetting a discount. A good loyalty program will provide your guests with something truly convenient that they want to be a part of.

But you don’t need a massive budget to offer guests the type of innovative loyalty programs offered by larger hotel brands. Once you know what your guests want, you can take inspiration from brands like Hilton Hotels to tailor unique loyalty programs that provide great value for money, and sustained business for your hotel in the long run.


Hilton Honors mobile app

Image credit: Hilton Honors
The Hilton Honors mobile app allows you to check-in, choose your room and and unlock your door.


Looking at Hilton’s convenient app functionality, Shep Hyken sums it up perfectly: “Members of the [Hilton] reward program can download a mobile app to their phones and then use it to check the status of their hotel room, check in when the room is ready and even use the phone as a key to get into the room. All of this without ever having to visit the front desk.

“Once you learn how to use it, which is a simple process, you find it more convenient to do business with Hilton. And, the company that is most convenient and easy to business with wins.”

Below, we take a look at some innovative and successful reward programs and how you can emulate their success.

Marriott Rewards

Marriott’s reward program was called the best loyalty program of 2017 by Smarter Travel, and is widely regarded as one of the best loyalty programs out there.

But one of the most innovative aspects of their Marriott Rewards program is that guests can earn loyalty points just by posting about their stay on Twitter, checking in on Facebook, or posting a picture on Instagram using a predefined hashtag.



Marriot Rewards members earn points by engaging on various social media platforms, which helps to increase brand awareness.


It’s such a simple but effective win-win scenario, and a brilliant way to connect with a growing demographic of millennials with major social influence.

Users download and sync their social media accounts to the Marriott’s Rewards app, and can earn up to 2 000 points a month simply by interacting with the hotel in various ways.

Think of innovative ways you can use your social media channels to reward guests.

Wyndham’s intuitive membership tiers

Close behind Marriott in loyalty program popularity (and some would argue ahead of) is Wyndham’s tiered reward program. As members ascend the four ranks, the benefits get more luxurious and exclusive.

By creating levels that guests steadily ascend, Wyndham keeps their focus fixed on very attainable loyalty goals that they can easily reach if they stick with the program.


Wyndham created a series of Wyzard Wyzdom videos to educate guests about their rewards program and
mobile app.


In October last year, the hotel chain also made 25 000 properties from its vacation rental and timeshare businesses available for loyalty members, who could redeem points for free stays once they reached the top tier.

By inviting guests into your exclusive inner circle, you make them feel like an integral part of your brand. Adapt their approach to your own strategy with some of these ideas:

  • Create a simple, easy to follow tiered reward system that offers rewards scaled to each tier
  • Set an ultimate goal that members are excited to work towards
  • Turn the loyalty program into a fun game. Offer bonus points if guests accomplish certain tasks en route to the top tier, and offer one or two big benefits early on in the program

Remember to keep it simple. There’s absolutely no need for a convoluted points system with conditional clauses that only serve to confuse and frustrate your guests.

Kimpton’s personalised reward program

The Kimpton hotel group knows that guests today crave more personalised and uniquely memorable moments when travelling, and their rewards program reflects that.

Karma Rewards focuses on creating “ridiculously personal experiences” for its guests, who have since responded by rewarding Kimpton with the highest customer satisfaction scores (93%) and emotional attachment scores (89%) of any hotel company in the United States, according to Market Metrix Hospitality Index.

"This allows us to truly treat individuals as individuals. We find unique ways of delighting guests when they least expect it.” – Kathleen Reidenbach, Kimpton

The proprietary algorithm inside Karma Rewards tracks a member’s stay and purchases, including whether they book via the hotel’s website, attend Kimpton events, or interacts with the brand via social media.

"This allows us to truly treat individuals as individuals," says senior vice president of marketing at Kimpton, Kathleen Reidenbach. “We find unique ways of delighting guests when they least expect it.”

One example tells the story of a guest who posted an Instagram photo of Kimpton’s fun yoga mats in her room. She came home to a new Kimpton yoga mat waiting at her doorstep a week later.


Image credit: Kimpton Onyx Hotel, TripAdvisor


“But we don’t promise anything,” says Reidenbach, explaining these little extras are randomized among guests.

By finding ways to tailor rewards to each individual guest, you’ll make them feel truly special. Make them feel like they can’t get this personalised attention anywhere else, and there’s every chance they won’t even bother trying.

Extra tips to consider

When considering your own loyalty approach, it’s important to first note that the needs of a business traveller will differ from those of a leisure traveller (even though the lines are blurring these days), and you’ll encourage loyalty from a broader audience if you offer rewards tailored to each segment of guests that stay at your hotel.

Generally speaking, leisure travellers seek instant gratification (dining discounts, free gifts and tours), while those travelling for business prefer points that accumulate towards future stays (free nights, upgrades or bonus points).

Having said that, try to blend a mix of short and long term benefits to your reward scheme that apply to all traveller demographics.

Some good general ideas include:

  • VIP check-in, where guests can avoid lines just by being part your loyalty program
  • Room discounts on a guest’s first stay with you (a thank you bonus for signing up)
  • A booking condition, like receiving bonus points for signing up and making a dinner reservation on your first stay

Loyalty programs in 2017 and beyond should strive to be more than just thinly-veiled marketing schemes. They should offer your guests something truly useful, and encourage them to be an integral part of your brand.