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Marc Becker, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the New Orleans Hotel Collection, is very excited about his company’s group of hotels and the success it has attained in the past two years since it partnered with Stash Hotel Rewards, the largest point-based rewards loyalty program for independent hotels in the U.S.
The New Orleans Hotel Collection added its fifth property, The Whitney Hotel, to the program. Both leisure and business travelers can now earn and redeem Stash Rewards points at five NOHC properties: Bourbon Orleans Hotel, Dauphine Orleans Hotel, Hotel Mazarin, Hotel Le Marais, and now The Whitney Hotel.
Becker participated in an interview with Loyalty360 to discuss the company’s success and the role customer loyalty has played−and continues to play.
In the time you’ve partnered with Stash, how has that program provided value for your customers and, in turn, increased loyalty?
Value to the guest is pretty clear. They are earning points fast enough to get free stays in a very competitive manner (as measured against other programs). Some guests are “point junkies” and will not stay anywhere that does not offer points. Others are more measured in their response, but most find the addition of the point offer an advantage and a benefit that allows our five hotels in the market to differentiate against other independent, and some of the new “lifestyle” brands that are copying our style and success.
As measured by return visits, for which we pay specific points to, we can see that there is an increase in the return factor of guests to our hotels over prior measured results. Comments from guests are also used, and all guests have been uniformly pleased with the idea of staying at a unique, independent hotel property, and being able to earn points for future stays at a variety of similar properties. Because we can see where the STASH guest originally joined the program, we are easily able to monitor new guests. STASH helps us monitor repeat stays of all members as well, a feature that is extremely helpful to us.
What has been some of the feedback you’ve received during this time?
“Wow, we didn’t know we could stay at an independent property and earn points as fast as at a big box Marriott!”
What have you seen as the biggest surprises that have come from the partnership?
Fortunately, there have been no unwanted surprises. We anticipated a good reaction, and we have gotten that from guests. We were told that the average stay would likely be longer from this group of guests, and we have enjoyed that in actual results.
Customer experience/customer loyalty is seen as such a huge differentiating point for marketers today. How has this point of differentiation increased for you since partnering with Stash?
In the competition with major “big box” players, we find we are appealing to a guest who has many point program cards in their pocket, but wants to stay occasionally at something more fun and unique, and now has justification to do so since they can earn points. We also find, importantly, that the STASH member is one with a demographic that is enticing to us. They have already indicated their desire to stay at this type of property in other cities, so it becomes a natural move for them to find us in New Orleans when travel takes them here.
How do you define customer loyalty and has that definition changed or evolved in the past two years?
Customer Loyalty only comes to a hotel in the sense that a guest finds all aspects of the total package appealing, and therefore wants to come back. If any aspect of the package is no longer appealing, then the guest will chose an alternative. The true measure of loyalty in hotels is defined by a situation where a hotel is sold out and cannot provide a “loyal guest” the room on the dates desired. If that guest changes his dates in order to stay at the hotel of his choosing, then THAT is real loyalty. It almost never happens, because dates of visit are determined long before choice of hotel. We have however seen this on occasion, although I cannot say it is because of STASH. What we can say is that as a driver toward specific dates, the use of STASH reward points in multiples for “need dates" has been effective for us.
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