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September 5, 2019

Hotel Loyalty Programs: Getting Creative.

In this series looking at hotel loyalty programs we've seen some do’s and don'ts, some elements of successful programs, and we'll see how to put it all together and build a loyalty program that works for you. Today we're going to see some of the more creative things hotels do to surprise and delight their loyal customers.

Because while room upgrades, late checkouts and other financial rewards are valued, the more surprisingly creative you can be, the more it catches guests' attention.

And you need to catch their attention: According to the 2017 J.D. Power Hotel Loyalty Program Satisfaction Study, the average hotel guest is a member of 3.25 hotel programs."

“Lifestyle-based experiences are still a very underrated way to use points,” according to Gilbert Ott, founder of loyalty-focused travel blog God Save the Points. “These things are great because, essentially, hotels are leveraging their power and access to get things that you can’t typically buy," such as tastings with renowned chefs and -- true story -- Hyatt's yoga sessions with baby goats.

In fact, Hyatt allows guests to redeem loyalty points for things like "Create Your Own Herbal and Organic Beauty Products," "Private Bonsai Class with New York City’s Premier Professional Bonsai Artist" and "Calligraphy with Delhi Hero Qamar Dagar." Marriott has offered tennis master classes with 2003 U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick.

The nifty thing about such loyalty experiences is that they're location specific: Hyatt offers Buddhism sessions in Cambodia and Vietnamese cooking classes in Saigon. Hotels in Austin, Texas sometimes offer lessons from noted music stars, and Anantara Resorts in Thailand has offered guests the unforgettable experience of helping release baby turtles to the wild.

You may not be able to offer private wine tastings with famous sommeliers, but are there attractive lifestyle experiences in your area that guests otherwise might not have access to? Tours of places that don't give public tours, cooking experiences, or sessions with local artists or artisans?

And if there are, but they're just out of reach, are there restaurants, travel companies or even other hotels in your area willing to partner with you?