In today’s world of loyalty club programs, many independent hotels find themselves seeking ways to attract and retain guests, particularly those valuable business travelers. But just because a hotel doesn’t have a loyalty program at the ready, doesn’t mean it can’t attract repeat business. It just needs to find creative ways to do so.
It’s a dilemma that The Madison Hotel, a luxury boutique property in Memphis, Tenn., faces. But for the last two years, the hotel has doled out something its Director of Catering and Events Josh Spotts says can be even more valuable—branded gift cards.
“We’re an independent property and because of that, we don’t have some of the point systems that other hotels use as incentive for meeting planners. In other words, we aren’t able to give frequent stay points because they wouldn’t be applicable to our property,” he says. “So we sat down one day and thought that if we’re losing business because we’re not giving meeting planners some type of personal incentive to book here, what could we do? In this day and age, it’s important to be competitive and to have a decided edge over others.”
What the hotel’s management came up with was to hand out customized gift cards. The cards are VISA gift cards that come complete with the hotel’s logo as the image and the hotel give them out much like a standard points program. “You have to enroll just like any other point product,” Spotts says.
The rewards are given out based on certain guidelines often tied to the size of a booking. “It’s applicable to meeting planners who book group rooms,” Spotts says. “For example, if they book 10 or more room nights in a quarter they qualify for a percentage back via the VISA gift card.”
Spotts says the program also applies to meetings and events that the guests host at the hotel.
The percentage is typically three percent, according to Spotts.
Independent hotels need to find ways to gain a competitive edge, especially as reservations increasingly go online and brand loyalty programs become ever more important to consumers. Spotts believes that a program such as gift cards can offer something more valuable to consumers.
“If I were a meeting planner, I think that I’d rather have a cash value rather than points to go stay in an another property somewhere else,” he says.
Spotts says that in many cases the values of the gift cards not only compare to the value of loyalty points, but also exceed those values. He says that’s because the cards’ values aren’t limited to hotel rooms. “You can buy tires for your car or books for kids, or even take a trip somewhere if that’s what you want to do,” he says.