Unlike the airline loyalty programs, which are mostly stuck in maintenance mode, there’s been a noticeable uptick in activity among hotel loyalty programs, both those operated by the chains themselves and those operated by hotel distributors.
The programs of Wyndham, Choice, and Carlson have been all been upgraded recently, putting pressure on the likes of Hilton HHonors and InterContinental’s IHG Rewards to do the same. Meanwhile, the Marriott marketing brain trust is intently focused on merging Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, preserving as much as possible of what’s best of both programs in the consolidated program.
Elsewhere in the hotel realm, Guestbook is offering a 5 percent rebate at 500 independent and boutique hotels, further amping up the competitive pressure on traditional frequent-stay programs to add value to their offerings.
And now there’s a new program from last-minute hotel-booking company Hotel Tonight, HT Perks. (“Last minute” in this case actually means up to a week in advance.)
The program features three tiers of extra discounts and perks, based on a member’s lifetime activity—not just a calendar year’s worth of stays or spend, as is typical in traditional programs’ elite tiering.
- Level 1 – After spending $100, HT Perks members get extra-discounted rates, which “could” range from 8 to 12 percent off standard room rates.
- Level 2 – After spending $750, HT Perks members get an extra 5 percent off Level 1 rates, plus “exclusive offers and surprises to inspire more adventures.”
- Level 3 – After spending $5,000, HT Perks members get an extra 10 percent off Level 1 rates, plus more of the aforementioned offers and surprises, plus VIP phone support.
Particularly welcome is the program’s appreciation of consumers’ lifetime spend. That’s partly in recognition that participants will probably use Hotel Tonight as a backup to a traditional program, rather than as their primary loyalty focus, and thus wouldn’t find a calendar-year-based elite scheme rewarding. But it also points up a weakness in mainstream programs, which insist on resetting the loyalty clock yearly, ignoring program members’ long-term engagement with the company.
In the end, however, the program is only as good as the service it promotes. Hotel Tonight offers unspecified discounts for last-minute bookings at participating hotels. The discounts may be more or less compelling. And the available hotels, if any, in the cities you’re visiting may be more or less attractive. So there’s a sacrifice in transparency and dependability, presumably in exchange for a discounted room rate.
Worth a look, certainly. And if you regularly find worthwhile discounts at hotels that meet your needs, it might be worth adding HT Perks to the list of programs you participate in. It’s not a slam-dunk, though.
Reader Reality Check
Is there a place for Hotel Tonight in your hotel-booking strategy?
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.