The value of a well-designed hotel loyalty program has been well-established in the past 40 years, with every major hotel company, and many smaller ones, launching their own versions. Even independent hotels have loyalty options these days. Wyndham Rewards, which Wyndham Hotels & Resorts debuted in 2008, reached a major milestone in March when it hit 100 million members.
Dana Rosenberg, Wyndham’s SVP of marketing, said Wyndham Rewards gives the company an opportunity to recognize the everyday traveler.
“That is something that we really, really take pride in—our mission to democratize travel, and to make travel and rewards available to everyone,” she said. “As we’ve seen some of our competitors devalue their programs, we continue to remain constant to what we stand for: being simple and attainable, being generous, being aspirational, because not only is that true to who we are in our mission, but we know it’s what our members—and also our owners—absolutely value.”
The program has won a number of awards, the most recent being named to Newsweek’s 2023 list of America’s Best Loyalty Programs, and Rosenberg attributed that in part to the fact that members are seen and valued, whether they are luxury or economy travelers, as well as to the financial aspects of the program.
“I think loyalty programs as a whole have grown up and people have realized that they can provide value not only to someone who’s a road warrior, but even if you are only traveling twice a year,” she said. “When you have our credit card, you add points on everyday purchases like gas and groceries. It all adds up and then you cash them in for real monetary value. And as someone who has absolutely cashed in points, it just feels good to know you’re staying there free. I also believe that from a business perspective, our owners and franchisees have realized the value, that it’s not just a give of points, but they understand the value that they get. They understand the [return on investment] of the program, and because of that, loyalty programs have also become more ubiquitous.”
Anshul Singhal has been GM and owner of the Howard Johnson by Wyndham Arlington Ballpark / Six Flags in Arlington, Texas, since 2002. His property was ranked the No. 1 Wyndham Rewards-enrolling Howard Johnson property in 2022. He said the strength and power of Wyndham Rewards is extremely valuable to his business.
“While we promote our own Howard Johnson brand, we’re a part of Wyndham’s massive global footprint—which in turn helps drive more business to us,” he said. “Guests trust the Wyndham name and that’s what keeps them coming back. As the program gains strength year after year, we are seeing the needle moving towards more direct reservations coming in, which gives a direct line and lets us better communicate with the guest.”
The number of guests who see the value of the program is increasing rapidly, as well, according to Singhal.
“Last year, Wyndham Rewards members made up 75 percent of our total roomnights. Compared to 2019, that number increased over 60 percent, which is incredible given the growth throughout the pandemic,” he said. “We put a big focus on signing up new members and have been very successful. This I attribute to our loyal guest base, who keep coming back to stay with us; our hotel staff, who deliver an incredible experience from check-in to check-out; and finally, the power of Wyndham Rewards. It’s a simple and easy program that offers something to everyone in the market.”
Singhal said the program is so successful because guests appreciate how easy it is to earn and redeem.
“I hear from members repeatedly that with other loyalty programs, the threshold to redeem points is so high that by the time the guest reaches it they have already lost faith in the program,” he said. “For Wyndham, you can earn a free night with as little as 7,500 points—there is no other program that makes it that easy. This is a big factor driving customers to return and spend more with us, because they know they can reach a free night much quicker with our program, compared to other loyalty programs.”
Rosenberg said the 100-million mark is especially notable because the program just attained the 50-million mark in 2017.
Future of Loyalty
According to Rosenberg, loyalty will only be more important in the future, and for more segments of the traveling public.
“It’s been important for the upper class, the upper middle class for a while, for the every-week-in-and-out consultant business traveler. It is now becoming more and more important for the everyday travelers, someone who maybe only travels a couple of times a year,” she said. “We do expect those sorts of travelers to now have more travel, and they’re going to be staying in our hotels. So how do we recognize people who wear hard hats and boots the same way that we recognize people who wear suits and carry briefcases? That’s why I firmly believe that loyalty is not going anywhere.”
As for how this relates to Wyndham Rewards, Rosenberg said it means more innovations for members. That includes the company’s annual Member Month—global for the first time—which is five weeks of deals and discounts including hotel discounts, bonus point offers and more.
“But not only that, you then also start to improve the digital experience—the app, seamless and frictionless experiences regardless of what platform you’re on—so we’re making it easy that way,” she said. “And then from an ownership perspective and the front-desk staff, we continue to look for ways to make it easier for them, whether it is through a QR code instead of having to key things in [or] pop-up messages. We’re encouraging our staff to recognize you. Those sorts of things only further loyalty and so our job, from a corporate perspective, is to help make it easier for our franchisees and specifically for their front-desk staff.”