June 14, 2024

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10 Common Pitfalls of Loyalty Programs for Independent Hotels

10 Common Pitfalls of Loyalty Programs for Independent Hotels

Why do some hotel loyalty programs succeed while others fail to hit the mark? When it comes to designing a program that will increase the number of loyal repeat guests, all the while reducing marketing costs and boosting revenue, independent hoteliers need to know what elements to include and what pitfalls to avoid.

Small and independent hotels, in particular, should take note because their rewards programs rely completely on how well they’re executed. Chains, on the other hand, can leverage multiple locations to increase the benefits and convenience of theirs.

Whether you’re thinking about setting up a loyalty program for your property or looking to revise the one you currently offer, you’ll want to steer clear of the following 10 common pitfalls that have been the downfall of otherwise well-designed hotel loyalty programs.


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#1. Neglected rooms

If your rooms are outdated, guests won’t likely return—loyalty program or not. That’s why it’s essential to meet the modern standards they expect. However, it doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune to do so. There are affordable ways to improve the look of your rooms, and those can be as simple as giving walls a fresh coat of paint or even just rearranging the layout of the room.

Want to enhance the value of your rooms even more? We’ve put together some tips on how to exceed expectations on the essentials you offer.

#2. A focus only on the financial perks

Of course travelers love receiving a nice discount on their stay or booking an attractive deal. However, they’re also looking for an incredible guest experience. The key here is to deliver on the basics, and then take it a step further to truly win them over. What’s more, it doesn’t have to be extravagant. Freshly baked cookies, anyone?

#3. Dependency on word of mouth

To set up a loyalty program is a great first step. For guests to enroll and engage with it, however, they have to know about it. Promote yours on your website, social media channels and, of course, at your property. Don’t forget to include it in your trivago description, too.

#4. Too many tiers

Complex plans make it difficult for members to navigate their way from entry-level to elite status. Help them embrace your program with a simple one- to three-tier structure that offers a realistic threshold to move from one to another.

#5. Numerous hoops and hurdles

When it’s a challenge for guests to earn and redeem points due to countless conditions, the less value they’ll see in your program. Define the benefits clearly and keep restrictions to a minimum, so that you incite engagement rather than discourage it.

If guests don’t see the benefits of sticking to a hotel loyalty program, or they feel they’re spending more than what they’re receiving in return, they’ll abandon the program without batting an eye. By giving guests achievable goals to work towards early on and at each tier, you’ll motivate them to stay at your hotel every chance they get.


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#6. One program fits all

It’s very easy to follow the herd by modeling a loyalty program that the hotel across the street has for its guests. However, when a program doesn’t suit the type of traveler that books your property, you’re simply wasting their time (and yours).

Ask yourself: What makes my guests tick?

The way to discover the answer is by creating “guest personas.” Think of these as fictional characters that you develop based on the data you collect on your guests (plus a dash of your first-hand knowledge). Data in your PMS, Google Analytics, and even a well-crafted survey can offer insights into their needs, wants, and how booking your property will benefit them.

This data-driven approach is key to having an advantage over the competition in a competitive hotel industry.

#7. Fixated on the long term

An enormous reward such as a free stay or an exclusive package, which is nearly impossible to reach except for perhaps a business traveler who stays in a hotel every other night, won’t encourage most guests to move through the loyalty program. A mix of both short- and long-term benefits, however, certainly will.

#8. No follow-up with members

People are busy and can easily forget about a hotel loyalty program they signed up for, no matter how good it is. Remind enrolled guests about yours and the perks that come with it by sending a follow-up email a month or two—or even a year—after their last stay. It’s not necessary to bombard their inbox.

#9. Repeat guests are taken for granted

Hoteliers see many faces come through their hotels, which is great because it’s a sign of steady business. The downside is that it can make it harder to remember who your repeat guests are.

As long-term advocates for your property, loyal guests want to be remembered; they want to feel special. The easiest way to give them that is by keeping notes on their preferences and the details of their previous stays in your property management system. This best practice can even help you know how to prepare their room exactly to their liking before they check in.

And finally…

#10. A direct booking is regarded like any other booking

Guests who book directly are more interested in doing business with you than with a booking site or third-party agent. So, don’t treat them like other travelers.

Reward guests for their direct booking with extra perks right from the start. Tokens of appreciation, such as a welcome drink after a long day of traveling or even an upgrade when possible, can certainly score points with them.

How can you, as an independent hotelier on trivago, increase traffic to your website to boost direct bookings?

The answer is a simple one: promote your website rates on your profile with trivago’s Rate Connect.

As soon as potential guests click on those rates (the more irresistible, the better), trivago will redirect them straight to your booking page. It can’t get easier than that, now can it?


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Featured image by Bnenin on Adobe Stock

A version of this article was originally published in May 2017.