Many hotel chains in China, both domestic and international offer loyalty schemes to their frequent stayers. We look at the typical characteristics of loyalty programs and show the benefits and perks of some the loyalty programs most commonly found in China.
Marketing and customer service gurus point out that it costs five times as much to acquire a new customer as to retain an existing customer. They go on to analyze what factors help retain customers. Besides the obvious factors — such as the quality of the product or service, and price — a key factor is that customers want to feel that their custom is appreciated by the supplier. Loyalty schemes show this appreciation in both tangible and intangible ways. The more frequently guests stay at a hotel, and the more they spend, the higher the level of benefits or perks they accrue.
Hotel loyalty programs can be broadly divided into those that are points based and those that predominantly offer perks. Points based programs are analogous to frequent flier air-miles – points accrue with the number of stays or the amount spent. Points can then be redeemed for rewards such as free room-nights at a participating hotel or other goods and services. Perks based programs offer added-value benefits such as room upgrades, early check in and check out, and guaranteed room availability.
Each program is aimed at differentiating that group's offerings from those of other groups and hotel schemes tend to differ more widely than frequent flier programs. Perks based programs often appeal to corporate bookers since perks such as guaranteed room availability can be of direct value to the corporation as well as to the individual. And some programs offer a combination of points and perks –- the best of both worlds?
Many hotel loyalty programs allow hotel guests to earn air-miles with one or more frequent flier schemes. Not only does this give travelers the opportunity to acquire miles more rapidly but, where points are transferable between the schemes, the hotel program can be used to protect accumulated air-miles from expiring by keeping them in the hotel scheme until required. Unlike most airline schemes the typical hotel loyalty scheme does not expire points providing the program membership is kept active – typically by staying a least once a year in one of the program's properties.
With many points based systems the guest has to decide between hotel points and air-miles — trying to anticipate which will be of more use in the future. Hilton removed this uncertainty by introducing the concept of "Double Dipping" in their HHonors loyalty program. Hilton guests earn both points — which can be used for free room nights and other rewards — and air miles.
Many hotel loyalty programs partner with loyalty schemes in other travel related industries –- notably airlines and car rental companies -and with credit and charge card operators. These partnerships give loyalty program members additional ways to earn points –- and to spend them.
As well as offering free room-nights some programs offer other rewards that can be purchased with points. These can range from airport transfers by helicopter to the opportunity to going back-stage at a rock concert.
Membership of programs can be achieved in a number of ways: on request, by invitation, or by purchase. Of these the most common way of joining is on request. Typically membership can be requested when staying at the hotel and the member will start accruing points, or building towards elite membership with its perks, on the next and future stays. With other programs the hotel guest is invited to join the program (e.g. Kempinski Private Concierge and Marco Polo's Tai Pan Club) or purchases a membership card (e.g. Super 8's VIP card).
With some programs, notably those that are by invitation or purchase, all the benefits are available as soon as the member joins. However many programs have several tiers of membership, with each tier offering a higher level of benefits. The more frequently the guest stays with participating hotel the higher the tier reached. Higher tiers offer the opportunity to accumulate points more rapidly or benefit from a higher level of perks.
Normally with these schemes members need to keep their membership account current by staying in a participating hotel at least once a year.
An approach taken by some hotel groups is to enable guests to earn rewards through partner programs. For example Millennium and Copthorne hotels co-operate with some of the world's airlines in their travel award programs –- as do Meritus Hotels & Resorts.
Hotels update their loyalty programs from time to time to offer upgraded or more relevant benefits and perks to their members. For example Accor is about to launch a new loyalty program which has evolved from their Accor Favorite Guest program. Meritus Hotels & Resorts is in the process of developing a new rewards program, which will extend special benefits and privileges throughout their network of hotels.
The 16 properties of the Gloria Hotels and Resorts group participate in the Gloria Partner program. A soon as guests sign up to be members they can start earning reward points. There is no charge for membership.
Whenever guests stay at any Gloria hotel or resort at the eligible room rate, they are credited with one reward point for every CNY1 spent on room charges. These points can then be redeemed against offers made by the group. Some of the offers include free stays, dining, airport limousine pick-up, spa treatment, and room upgrades.
Guests that have accumulated a total of 8,855 reward points during a period of twelve consecutive months would be automatically invited to become a Gold Card Member. And those achieving a total of 27,878 reward points are classed as a Platinum Card Member.
All the hotels and resorts within the Hilton family Participate in the Hilton HHonors program In the Asia Pacific region all qualification requirements and perks are the same for each participating hotel. Enrollment is free and can be made online at the Hilton HHonors website or by telephoning any Hilton reservations center.
There are four tiers of membership, Blue, Silver VIP, Gold VIP, and Diamond VIP. Hilton HHonors members can earn VIP status based on qualifying stays, number of nights stayed or base points earned in a calendar year.
To become a Silver VIP member of Hilton HHonors members need a minimum of four qualifying stays or 10 qualifying nights at participating hotels during a calendar year.
To qualify for Hilton HHonors Gold VIP membership members need 16 stays or 36 nights at Hilton hotels or have accumulated 60,000 base points during a calendar year.
To qualify for Hilton HHonors Diamond VIP membership members need to complete 28 qualifying stays or 60 qualifying nights at Hilton hotels. Diamond VIP status can also be awarded after accumulating 100,000 base points in a calendar year.
Blue: Access to exclusive HHonors reservation number; access to exclusive HHonors check-in line; members can start accumulating points and miles to move up to VIP status.
Silver VIP: Guests earn a 15% bonus on all HHonors base points; complimentary access to the health club or fitness center during the stay (applies to hotel owned and operated facilities), members can choose from a selection of rewards at special VIP-only points levels.
Gold VIP: Guests earn a 25% bonus on all HHonors Base points. HHonors Gold VIP members are offered upgraded accommodation or amenities at participating hotels.
Diamond VIP: Guests earn a 50% bonus on all HHonors Base points, reservations availability is guaranteed to Diamond VIPs when reservations are made before midnight hotel local time and 48 hours prior to the intended arrival time. HHonors Diamond VIP members are offered upgraded accommodation or amenities at participating hotels.
Hilton HHonors uses the term "Double Dip" to refer to the opportunity to earn both points and miles during the same stay.In this context, Hilton states that HHonors is the only guest reward program, which allows members to double dip.
Hyatt Gold Passport
Participating hotels — all Hyatt hotels worldwide including Hyatt's newest brands — Hyatt Place and Hyatt Summerfield Suites – and Hyatt's hotel partner AmeriSuites.
Hyatt Gold Passport has three membership levels, Gold Membership, Platinum membership, and Diamond Membership.
On signing up with Hyatt Gold Passport members get the following benefits: Five Hyatt Gold Passport points for every eligible dollar spent at Hyatt locations; no blackout dates on points redemption; complimentary newspaper and a choice of coffee or tea every morning; complimentary use of Hyatt Fitness Centers, including the 24-Hour Stay Fit Gym (where available); 2:00 pm late check-out upon request (subject to availability); and USD250 check-cashing privilege per stay.
To achieve Platinum Membership a guest needs five eligible stays or 15 eligible nights in a calendar year in participating properties.
Benefits of Platinum Membership include all the benefits of Gold Membership plus: A 15% point bonus when a member chooses Hyatt Gold Passport points; a guarantee from Hyatt that the bed type requested at the time of reservation will be available; and a Platinum Extras Award after every third stay.
Benefits of Diamond Membership include: A 30% point bonus when a member chooses Hyatt Gold Passport points; welcome amenity on each stay; 500 bonus points will be awarded for stays at Hyatt Place and Hyatt Summerfield Suites; a guarantee from Hyatt that the bed type requested at time of reservation will be available; 72-hour guaranteed room availability; check-cashing privileges of up to USD500 per stay; and exclusive Diamond members-only opportunities from Hyatt and its partners.
Hyatt Gold Passport members who organize group meetings or events can accumulate points.
If member does not have a sufficient number of Hyatt Gold Passport points in their account to redeem a Hyatt Gold Passport award, the member may purchase up to 10% of the total number of points needed for such award.
When checking in members can choose whether they want to earn points or air miles. There is no double dipping but points can subsequently be converted to air miles.
Priority Club Rewards
Participating hotels in Priority Club Rewards include over 4,000 InterContinental Hotels Group properties in nearly 100 countries and territories. The qualifications and perks are the same for each participating hotel.
Priority Club rewards has three tiers- Club, Gold, and Platinum levels.
To achieve the Gold level a member needs to stay for 15 to 49 qualifying nights inparticipating properties or to accumulate 20,000 points in a calendar year. Gold status can be purchased for USD50.
Benefits of Gold level membership include: a 10% bonus on base points earned for hotel stays, priority check-In on guaranteed reservations, and an exclusive customer service phone number.
To achieve the Platinum level a member needs to stay for 50 or more qualifying nights in participating properties or to accumulate 60,000 points in a calendar year.
Benefits of Platinum level membership include: a 50 percent bonus on base points earned for hotel stays;room upgrades at check-in; priority check-in on guaranteed reservations; an exclusive customer service phone number; guaranteed room availability for Platinum members making reservations 72 hours in advance if the hotel is sold out.
Priority Club Rewards does not offer any form of double dipping.
Kempinski Private Concierge
Kempinski Hotels and hotels in the Global Hotel Alliance participate in the Kempinski Private Concierge scheme.
Membership is by invitation only. One of the advantages of this program is the availability of various benefits regardless of whether the member is currently staying at a Kempinski hotel or not. For example members qualify for discounted annual membership fees for the hotel health and fitness clubs. Members can also utilize the hotels' concierge services to book tickets to the theater, concerts, or events.
There is a dedicated services number that members can use to update their personal information and preferences.
Kempinski guarantees room availability at the time requested by the member – with the exception of fair periods when wait list priority is given to members. Members can check-in early – from 10 am; and check-out late – until 5pm and enjoy complementary room or suite upgrade to the next higher category (subject to availability at check-in). No supplements are charged for double occupancy or extra beds for children under 12 years old. Members get complementary transport to and from the airport on the hotels bus (where available) or get preferential rates on limousine transfers.
Members enjoy complementary use of the hotels' health and fitness clubs (spa services excluded) and get a 20% allowance on laundry and dry cleaning. They can watch a free pay-TV movie every evening of their stay, and receive a newspaper of their choice each morning. Frequent flier miles with Kempinski's partner airlines can be accumulated on all eligible stays. Members may request a credit card cash advance of up to USD200 per stay (subject to a handling fee of at least 5%).
Participating hotels in the Marriott Rewards program are Marriott Hotels & Resorts, JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Renaissance Hotels & Resorts, Courtyard by Marriott, Residence Inn by Marriott SpringHill Suites by Marriott, TownePlace Suites by Marriott, Fairfield Inn by Marriott, Marriott Conference Centers, and Marriott Vacation Club International. Members can also earn points at Marriott Executive Apartments.
There are three elite membership levels for frequent travelers, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.
To qualify for the Silver level members need to have stayed for 10 nights; to qualify for the Gold level members need to have stayed for 50 nights; and to qualify for the Platinum level members need to have stayed for 75 nights.
Members earn Marriott Reward Points according to how much they spend with the hotel, points rates vary depending on the property but are typically either five points per USD1 or ten points per USD1 at the higher end properties. In some properties (e.g. Courtyard by Marriott) points are only earned on the room rate. Members can elect to earn air miles instead of points. There is no double dipping but points can be exchanged for air miles. Members can also purchase points to achieve a desired reward.
Marriott Reward Points can be redeemed for: free room nights, room upgrades, or travel related goods or services. Marriott claim that guests need to spend less to achieve free room nights than with other programs. Points can also be transferred to a program member's spouse or donated to charity.
Silver: 20% bonus on points, elite only rewards, elite reservation line, exclusive guest services line, priority late checkout, weekend discount, check-cashing privileges USD200 per stay.
Gold: 25% bonus on points, guaranteed room type, room upgrade guaranteed lounge access, free local phone/fax, continental breakfast, elite only rewards, elite reservation line, exclusive guest services line, priority late checkout, weekend discount, check-cashing privileges USD500 per stay.
Platinum: 30% bonus on points, 48-hour guaranteed availability, guaranteed Platinum arrival gift, dedicated Platinum reservation line, guaranteed room type, room upgrade guaranteed lounge access, free local phone/fax, continental breakfast, elite only rewards, exclusive guest services line, priority late checkout, weekend discount, check-cashing privileges USD500 per stay.
Shangri–La Golden Circle
Participating hotels are all hotels in the Shangri La hotels and resorts group.The qualifications and benefits are the same for every hotel in the group. Among the benefits that all levels of membership enjoy are the facility to get a cash advance of up to USD250 per stay in local currency, no fees or commission are levied for this service. Members room preferences and other details are recorded on their profile making the reservation and check-in process swifter.
Members can accumulate air miles with their frequent flier program, based on number of stays.
There are three levels of membership: Classic, Executive and Elite.
Classic membership benefits on enrollmentinclude: priority check-in; members partner sharing the same room stays free; 50% discount on breakfast in a hotel F&B outlet; upgrade to an executive suite (payment required); priority wait listing; welcome fresh fruit bowl in room; and free local telephone calls.
Executive membership is acquired after staying 20 nights in a calendar year at at least two separate Shangri-La hotels or resorts. Benefits include all the Classic membership perks plus: priority check-in in an exclusive designated area; priority check-out in an exclusive designated area; complementary breakfast; upgrade to next best room category if reserved room type is not available at check-in; guaranteed room availability for reservations made 72 hours in advance; 11 am early check-in; 4pm late check-out; international newspaper; and choice of three welcome amenities (e.g. fresh fruit, beer, soft drinks, a local or seasonal amenity etc.). Executive members get a 25% bonus on air miles earned per stay.
Elite membership is acquired after staying 60 or more nights in at least three different Shangri-la hotels or resorts in a calendar year. Benefits include all the Executive membership perks plus: priority check in in the Horizon Club lounge or direct escort to room; priority check-out in Horizon Club lounge; complementary buffet breakfast or complimentary continental breakfast in room; complementary upgrade to executive suite (if available at check-in) ; complimentary access to Horizon Club or Traders Club lounge; concierge services for non in-house guests; 8 am early check-in; 6pm late check out; guaranteed room availability when reservation is made 48 hours in advance; free Internet access in room and choice of welcome amenities includes a bottle of red or white wine. Elite members get a 50% bonus on air miles earned for each stay.
Classic members must have at least one stay recorded in their account within a calendar year, i.e. 1 January to 31 December, in order to keep the membership active.
Starwood Preferred Guest
Participating hotels in the Starwood Preferred Guest program are the nine Starwood brands: St.Regis, W, Luxury Collection, Le Meridien, Westin, Sheraton, Four Points by Sheraton, aloft, and element — more than 860 hotels and resorts in 95 countries worldwide.
The qualifications and standards are the same for each participating hotel. There are three guest membership levels within the SPG program: Preferred Guest, Gold Preferred, and Platinum Preferred.
The Preferred Guest level is the entry level. There are no minimum requirements for Preferred Guest membership, and there is no membership fee.
Gold Preferred: membership at this level is earned with 10 to 24 stays, or 25 to 49 nights in a calendar year – no membership fee required.
Platinum Preferred membership at this level is earned with 25 or more stays, or 50 or more nights in a calendar year – no membership fee required.
At the Preferred Guest level members receive the following benefits: 2 Starpoints per USD1 or equivalent spent on eligible charges, ability to earn Starpoints on restaurant charges when not staying at the hotel but dining and paying (USD10 minimum). Perks include a daily newspaper.
At the Gold Preferred level, members receive the following benefits: 3 Starpoints per USD1 or equivalent spent on eligible charges – 50% bonus over base points, ability to earn Starpoints on restaurant charges when not staying at the hotel but dining and paying (USD10 minimum). Perks include a daily newspaper, upgrade to a Preferred Room, subject to availability, and guaranteed 4 p.m. late check-out, (however at resort properties and conference center hotels, this is subject to availability).
At the Platinum Preferred level, members receive the following benefits: 3 Starpoints per US dollar or equivalent spent on eligible charges – 50% bonus over base points, ability to earn Starpoints on restaurant charges when not staying at the hotel but dining and paying USD10 minimum). Perks include: a daily newspaper, upgrade to best available room, including Select Standard Suites (subject to availability), guaranteed 4 p.m. late check-out (however at resort properties and conference center hotels, it is subject to availability), guaranteed room availability when the reservation is made at least 72 hours prior to the arrival date based on 3:00 pm local hotel time (Restrictions may apply), and Platinum welcome amenity.
Points can be redeemed for rooms (no black-out dates) or can be transferred to partner airline loyalty programs for air travel (normally on a 1 for 1 basis) – no double dipping. Alternatively points can be used to bid on unique experiences at SPG Moments (see below).
Moments by Starwood Preferred Guest lets members transform their Starpoints into lifestyle events – giving them insider access to red carpet movie premieres, closed rehearsals with today's top music artists, private dinners with world-renowned chefs, rounds of golf with PGA TOUR pros and more.Members can visitthe SPG Moments website and bid on a full range of specially crafted experiences not available anywhere else.
Super 8 VIP Card
The Super 8 VIP Card scheme differs from the other programs in this feature in that a small charge is made for the card (CNY38) and all the benefits are available to the member immediately. Benefits include a 12% discount, early check-in and late check-out.
Participating hotel in the Wyndham Rewards scheme include Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Ramada, Days Inn, Super 8, Wingate by Wyndham, Baymont Inn & Suites, Howard Johnson, Travelodge, Knights Inn, and Amerihost Inn. A total of more than 6,000 hotels throughout China, the UK, Ireland, Germany, the USA, and Canada.
The qualifications and perks the same for each participating hotel and the program has no premium levels.
A member's Wyndham Rewards account can be terminated and all accrued points cancelled or forfeited if the member has had no account activity for a period of 18 consecutive months.
Benefits as a Wyndham Rewards member include : Free room upgrades, early check-in and late check-out, free hotel stays, Wyndham Rewards points or airlines miles for each hotel stay, and convenient online access for hotel bookings. Other partners include Avis, Budget, Sixt, GloboGift, Global City Card, and Capital Bonds.
Points are transferable to Wyndham's partners for: airline miles and rail points;car rental; gift certificate rewards; and travel rewards.