Anniversary of the Hotel Loyalty Program
Frequent stay plans mark silver anniversary
Miles & points
by Randy Petersen July 2008
Hotel loyalty programs came onto the travel scene 25 years ago. Despite some bumps in the road, they’ve been very successful—for hotels and travelers.
The year it all started? 1983. This is the 25th anniversary of hotel loyalty programs, and let me be one of the first (well, at least one of the most sincere) to offer my congratulations to these programs that help make hotels a home away from home for many frequent travelers.
These programs have come a long way. Many of us who have learned the value of miles and points find ourselves spending far more time these days enjoying our award redemption of hotel points than we do our airline award redemption. It thoroughly pleases me to extract every bit of value from hotel programs—and, as I’ve often advised, the best frequent-flier credit cards available today may well come from a hotel program.
I would like to officially inform the world (well, at least Executive Travel readers) that both IHG Priority Club Rewards and Marriott Rewards are celebrating their silver anniversaries in 2008. Both hotel groups have a blog presence, so you might want to take a look to keep up with the various promotional celebrations, such as Marriott’s recent sweepstakes, which offered 25 lucky members 250,000 bonus miles from Delta SkyMiles. The Priority Club Rewards blog is all about the program, and the Marriott blog includes general news about Marriott hotels, including musings from Bill Marriott himself. You can read both through boardingarea.com.
Marriott Rewards is one of the first travel loyalty programs to introduce an online community site for its members. The program recently sent invitations to a handful of members to log on to marriottrewardsinsiders.com and add content while the site is in its beta phase. In less than a week, the site had more than 20,000 visitors, 4,000 new user profiles and more than 1,000 posts. By the time you read this, the site may be open to all users. Check it out.
Priority Club Rewards and Marriott Rewards have evolved in different ways over the years. Although Holiday Inn launched its Priority Club first, the company also ended the program first, when its resident bean counters discovered they were losing vast amounts of money from it.
I was one of the early members who got to enjoy being perhaps overly rewarded—but naturally, I didn’t know that at the time. I thought it was supposed to be that way. I recently heard from Priority Club that the program was so far over budget at the time, Holiday Inn had to assess franchise owners a special fee for three years to help cover the debt. Well, as we now know, the company quickly relaunched the Priority Club program with a different type of award system, and it continues to win awards and new members to this day.
Marriott launched Honored Guest Awards (HGA) in 1983 as well. The chain got it right from the start and can now claim 25 continuous years of its hotel loyalty program, although the name has changed over the years. In the summer of 1997, Marriott updated the program’s title to Marriott Rewards, and it too has won its fair share of awards and accolades.
RANDY PETERSEN is publisher of Inside Flyer magazine and president of Frequent Flyer Services. Email Randyat firstname.lastname@example.org.