Wyndham launches new rewards program; promises 'simplicity'

While much of the Wyndham Hotel Group Global Conference focused on new technology, a significant amount of buzz came from the announcement of major changes to the company's loyalty program, Wyndham Rewards. 

Launching to consumers globally on May 11 under the tagline “You’ve Earned This,” the new program emphasizes a flat, free night redemption rate – the first of its kind for a major rewards program, as Noah Brodsky, Wyndham's new VP of worldwide loyalty and engagement, explained at the conference's general session.

The updated program will have four pillars, Brodsky continued: First, it's simple. "Loyalty programs are complicated," he said. "You don’t know how to get what you want. This is simple." When members accrue 15,000 points, they can get a free night in any Wyndham hotel room anywhere, with no blackout dates. Those who travel less frequently can still get significant discounts on rooms with as few as 3,000 points. (While these rooms would not be free, 
they will cost between $25 and $95 along with the points.) 

Secondly, the program will be aspirational. "The travelers are out there," Brodsky said. "We have hotels around the world. We have to talk about that." Wyndham will reach out to new and potential members with new imagery and updated photos (provided by corporate rather than the individual property). 

Thirdly, it will be attainable. A full 89 percent of existing Wyndham Rewards members want to earn points for a free night rather than an upgrade or other perks. "We must make that attainable," Brodsky said. As EVP and CMO Josh Lesnick noted, some top-tier rooms used to cost 50,000 points for a free stay. This program would put those rooms within easier reach of more guests.

And finally, it will be--in Brodsky's words--generous. Members will earn 10 points per dollar spent, and will be guaranteed 1,000 points per stay at any Wyndham hotel. 

The program will also make things easier on the individual hotel teams, Brodsky continued. When a guest uses points for a free night at a hotel that is operating at 95 percent occupancy, the company will reimburse the hotel the full ADR for the guest, so that the member is not seen as lost revenue. Notably, the reimbursement flat rate will increase 5 percent. Furthermore, hotels will not have to pay a fee when enrolling guests at the front desk--and, in fact, will be expected to sign up 10 new members each month or pay $250 to "retrain" the team in how to pitch the program to guests. (If the hotel can sign up 20 guests the following month, the retraining fee will be reimbursed.) 

Beginning on May 11, members will see their existing points automatically transferred into the new program. Following the launch of the program, a new updated mobile app will be launched to provide a simpler, more streamlined member experience. Finally, new and updated elite membership tiers for the program’s most loyal members are expected to roll-out later this fall.

To launch the re-imagined program, Wyndham Rewards has invested in a multi-million dollar advertising campaign starring actor Kristofer Hivju, consisting of TV commercials, print, radio and digital, which will roll out throughout the United States starting on May 11 and then Canada shortly thereafter.

"We don’t have the top loyalty program in the industry," Lesnick acknowledged after the general session. "We're not even in the top half. This is not designed to move us up by one or two spots. We want to be the best loyalty program in the world. This will be a category killer."