Alternative loyalty program Universal Points launches

Universal Points, an alternative loyalty program designed to focus on the customer relationship with independent hotels and drive direct bookings, launched in the hospitality industry with over 125 participating properties as part of their network. Universal Points offers the opportunity for provide instant gratification to their customers. This approach shifts existing loyalty programs to focus on customer engagement with transparency.  

“Our mission is to drive direct bookings and improve the travel experience by bringing independent hotels and guests closer together with basic principles of simplicity, flexibility, and transparency,” said James Gancos, CEO & founder of Universal Points and long-time hotelier. "Our belief is that true hotel loyalty happens between one hotel and one guest, and we want to facilitate and encourage that outcome.

"The key to Universal Points is we allow the hotels to know their customer on a personal level and maintain valuable relationships. This is not a complicated reward program making hotels spend time, money and effort to deliver. The rewards from our program happen immediately starting on the first stay and satisfy both the hotel partner and the hotel guest. There is no technology integration, brand affiliation, minimum usage commitments or long-term contracts, and our program perfectly complements the hotel’s proprietary loyalty & CRM initiatives, which is why our partner hotel network is growing so quickly.”

“The Universal Points program allows us to make a lasting statement with our guests and encourage them to book with us directly when they return,” said John Douponce, GM of Chamberlain Hotel West Hollywood and participating Universal Points Hotel. “We’re also able to target new customers through the Universal Points website, and it was extremely simple to implement the program immediately without a lengthy or costly integration. We couldn’t be more pleased with our partnership so far.”

The Universal Points program works by giving guests 5 percent of what they spend at a Universal Points hotel back as a reward through PayPal or Virtual Visa after their stay – as long as they book direct with the hotel and not through an online travel agency. Participating hotels do not pay Universal Points for existing loyal guests who sign up within the first three months, and early adopter hotels only pay 2-3 percent for guests who sign up after the first three months or guests who are signed up by Universal Points along with the 5 percent reward. This provides a huge savings compared to the 20-30 percent that independent and boutique hotels would pay in commission when using traditional online booking sites.

Unlike discounts, hotel loyalty rewards are not in the scope of rate parity agreements and do not need to be passed along to guests who book with online booking sites, providing a direct booking advantage. The network of hotels also benefit by getting more business travelers, meetings, repeat business and guests who receive a personalized experience. There is even a charitable component, as elite thresholds are recognized not through higher earning percentages, room upgrades, or other free services but instead by giving the guests $10 or $25 to designate to a local charity of their choice through Universal Points’ partner, GlobalGiving.