Loyalty has become an extremely hot topic for hotels over the past year. As book direct strategies have become more important to hoteliers, loyalty has come into prominence as a key way to make those direct bookings happen. One big loyalty debate relates to points vs personalization: which matters more for guests? Which is more cost effective for hotels?

This week, we’ve rounded up some of the best stories on loyalty from the recent past. Firstly, big data is becoming more important in every industry. Proper revenue management software, along with collaboration across all departments, allows you to make the most of your data. You can use it to figure out what kind of loyalty programs best suit your hotel and your guests.

Your guests are more in the driver’s seat than ever, so pay attention! IDeaS argue that loyalty programs must go beyond instant discounts to “humanize the guest experience.”

There’s a lot more to learn about loyalty programs below. We’ve also included a brand new study from Expedia on how packages are performing for hotels (very well), and a piece on the importance of your hotel’s Google presence.

Why Data Scientists are Vital for Increasing Customer Loyalty

The importance of big data is increasing across all industries — as are the jobs required to tap into the insights within the data. So it’s no surprise that the McKinsey Global Institute recently predicted that the US will see 4 million to 5 million new data analysis jobs by 2018.

The travel industry is no exception. In fact, 67 percent of travel brand representatives at an EyeforTravel show recently indicated that customer loyalty could be improved by investing more in data and analytics.

To get a comprehensive view of the customer across various channels and time periods, you should group together data sets – such as clicks, returns, visits, transactions, views. The more external sources there are, the more critical this process is.

Once data is clean and consistent, the company can get a clear picture of the customer journey. And familiarity with this journey allows travel marketers to tailor offers and outreach to customers with an eye towards improving the overall shopping and booking experience and increasing loyalty.

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The Vast & the Various: Your Guest is Driving, Buckle Up

  • Loyalty programs need to go beyond instant discounting to humanize the guest experience
  • Discounts aren’t enough for hotels to call a loyalty rate a loyalty rate
  • Hotels shouldn’t worry about technology replacing positions, but focus on automated technology that elevates guests experiences
  • Hotels with the greatest success take automated efficiency and fuse it with human intuition

As an industry, we have debated tirelessly over the pros and cons of focusing on driving more direct bookings. One can argue just how profitable direct bookings are in relation to the alternative. There are now price comparison tools, consumer behavior dashboards and OTAs facilitating hotel loyalty program sign-ups.

The available solutions—and the data that drives them—have quickly become vast and various, but how do you decide to prioritize that data, and arguably more important, how do you decide what strategy will achieve your end goal of maximum profitability?

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Small Hotels Boost Business with Reward & Loyalty Programs

Loyalty and reward programs can help make up the difference between having average occupancy rates or a fully booked calendar. In fact, according to Phocuswright April 2015 report, (Dis)Loyalty and the U.S. Leisure Traveler, “62% of frequent travelers used hotel loyalty programs.” So, if the majority of travelers are taking advantage of these, shouldn’t your hotel be on board to offer one as well?

According to Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration study, Assessing the Benefits of Reward Programs: A Recommended Approach and Case Study from the Lodging Industry, we also know that “the number of annual room-nights for each guest increased by nearly 50 percent,” and that “such frequent traffic resulted in noteworthy revenue gains per year—up 57 percent.”

Here are four great ways small hotels can (and do) boost business with customizable hotel loyalty programs.

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The Power of Package Bookings for Hotels

Expedia took a deep dive into 2016 data, comparing package bookings to standalone hotel bookings from global points of sale inbound to U.S. properties. The findings? A wealth of information and opportunity that should be music to hoteliers’ ears.

Packages are a great way to maximize revenue, secure longer booking windows, and minimize cancellations.

Overall, in full year 2016, Average Daily Rates (ADRs) – a common performance metric for hotels – for package stays were higher versus standalone stays by an average of 20 percent (see Figure 1). This shows a substantial rate boost for hotels – and an incentive to include their hotels in package offerings.

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The Importance of a Hotel’s Presence on Google

What would our lives be like without Google?

Ever since the world wide web took over, online research has become a necessity, almost a reflex. We use it for school, for work, for our own entertainment. And to be honest, we don’t even stop and think about it. Looking up information on the web feels like the most natural thing in the world.

Hospitality makes no exception. Sites like Google continue to create ways to fit into all phases of the traveler’s search-shop-buy experience. Starting as a search engine, it is now so much more than that and hotels should pay attention.

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