For Jeff Low, Founder and CEO of Stash Hotel Rewards, becoming the largest hotelier rewards program in the country is the ultimate goal. For now, Low is very satisfied with the progress his company has made in just three years.

“I’m excited about where we are,” Low told Loyalty 360. “We have grown to 200 hotels. Our goal is to be above The Hyatt, which has 370. We’ve already gotten on the radar of great hoteliers and we’re starting to see an increase in frequency that is measurable.”

Just last week Stash Hotel Rewards announced it’s expanding its partnership with Denihan Hospitality Group by adding three new properties to the rewards program – The Benjamin, The James New York, and The James Royal Palm.

Stash Hotel Rewards focuses exclusively on independent hoteliers.

“It’s a nice validation of the program,” Low said. “Denihan Hospitality Group is one of our most engaged customers. We love it when a hotel ownership group adds more hotels. It proves the program is working for them. They are adding their flagship properties, which is particularly exciting.”

The Denihan portfolio includes properties operating under The James and Affinia Hotels brands, as well as Manhattan luxury independents, The Surrey and The Benjamin, and additional independent affiliates in New York City.

Guests can join Stash for free at www.stashrewards.com.  Stash members earn five points for each dollar spent on eligible room rates and can redeem them at one-of-a-kind independent hotels across the U.S.  Stash points never expire, and redemption is simple, without blackout dates or category restrictions found in many chain programs.

“We introduced dynamic pricing with no blackout dates,” Low said. “Our partners can load rates into the system and control them. The program is going very well. It serves a need and we’re able to document that.”

The advantage of the dynamic pricing model is the ability to pay far fewer points for a hotel night when rates are low such as a resort hotel in an off-season location.

The idea for a loyalty program for independent hoteliers came to Low when he previously worked at Expedia and traveled frequently between New York and Seattle.

“I left Expedia and thought about opportunities for other loyalty programs,” Low said.

About 15 months later, and a plethora of discussions with independent hoteliers, Stash Hotel Rewards was born and launched with 65 properties.

“The George Clooney character in the film, ‘Up in the Air’, exists,’’’ Low said. “You run into these guys who travel all the time. They are really focused on getting their points to pay back their family and themselves for time spent on road. The independent hoteliers all recognized a need for a program like this because they weren’t getting that frequent traveler.”

Low said program adoption has gone well, but there is still low awareness.

“Many members join at the hotel,” he said. “Independent hotels area just better – 80% of the Top 100 hotels in TripAdvisor are independent.”

Regarding customer loyalty, Low has specific views.

“Rewards are an economic incentive,” he said. “People want to get their points and trade them in. Loyalty can come from rewards and from great customer service. Harley Davidson is a great example and how connected people are to that brand. Rewards programs provide the first step in developing better loyalty because you begin that customer relationship and discussion.”

Low said the best definition of loyalty he ever heard went like this: “You’re loyal to a particular brand when you start to think of it as my hotel or my airline and you don’t consider any other hotel or airline.”

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