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As other hotels continue down the road of pushing “direct booking” discounts and benefits to combat the rise of OTAs (online travel agencies), the opportunity for disruption is ripe for whichever hotel chain is able to find a way to swim against the current, reach across the aisle, and work in harmony with the perceived rivals.
Red Lion Hotels might be that chain, and the disruption opportunity may have just been seized.
In a savvy partnership with Expedia (and, consequently, its sister site Hotels.com), Red Lion Hotels will now have its “member-only” rate displayed on the site’s listing, alongside its higher standard rate. The lower of the two is generally reserved for members of the Hello Rewards loyalty program, but is shown even to travelers not enrolled in the program.
Why is Red Lion Hotels offering this supposedly exclusive rate to non-members? More importantly, why is it being listed on Expedia, a site that has, until now, been a veritable “no-man’s land” for hotel loyalty program-specific perks?
The answer, of course, lies in the heart of the agreement, and may be the key to future hotel-OTA relationships. When travelers choose the lower of the two rates (because, well, who wouldn’t?), they receive a message that if they select the member-only price, they’ll be automatically enrolled in the Hello Rewards program.
As a result of booking as a Hello Rewards member, travelers will then receive loyalty benefits from both Red Lion Hotels and Expedia+ Rewards, essentially “double dipping” and earning from two entities simultaneously.
As if this structure isn’t groundbreaking enough, the enrollment verification process tears down a communication wall that had separated hotels from OTAs for years. After the guest books, Expedia sends the guest’s email address to Red Lion Hotels to determine whether the user is already a member of the program. What this means for Red Lion is that, for the first time ever, the brand is able to contact guests who book through Expedia before they arrive, resulting in more complete data, better messaging, and increased engagement.
Only time will tell what the future holds for this previously unheard of relationship, but one thing is for certain: Red Lion Hotels is going against the hospitality grain, and if it pays off, it may change the hotel industry as we know it.
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