Starwood Hotels & Resorts is raising the stakes in the hotel loyalty landscape to win greater share from the world’s most prolific travelers, a powerful and growing group of global mega travelers.
On February 1, the company announced new benefits that make its award-winning loyalty program Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) the richest elite program in the industry. The more SPG Members stay, the more choices are available and the more personalized the benefits become with standouts like lifetime status, first-of-its-kind 24-hour check-in and a dedicated Starwood ambassador who provides one-on-one service to uniquely tailor the guest experience.
“With globalization trends, there are more mega travelers than ever before going to more places around the world,” said Frits van Paasschen, President, and CEO of Starwood. “The opportunity to cultivate what we call ‘loyalty beyond reason’ with the world’s most frequent travelers has never been greater. These are sophisticated consumers who have become jaded by generic points and perks. This is why we’ve invested in distinct new and personal benefits to truly reward those who reward us with a disproportionate amount of their business.”
Three Year Pilot Aimed at Most Profitable Travelers Inspires New Changes
According to van Paasschen, just 2 percent of travelers drive 30 percent of Starwood’s profits. With that in mind, the company spent the last three years quietly piloting a highly personal one-on-one ambassador service to better understand the needs and desires of these very powerful guests. Across the small, select sample of travelers, Starwood saw a double-digit share shift compared to a control group. Starwood took insights from this pilot to develop new benefits aimed at its elite Members.
“What we heard loud and clear from travelers was that they wanted more choice, more control, and more personal service,” said Mark Vondrasek, Senior Vice President, Distribution, Loyalty & Partnership Marketing. “Today, through high touch and high tech, we have a newfound ability to better understand our guests, their preferences and even the nature of each unique trip. By delivering a whole new definition of choice and personal services, we’re moving beyond a purely points arms race to instead build loyalty for life.”
Good-Bye 3 p.m. Check-in – Hello Your24TM
Turning an ancient hotel convention on its head, Starwood is for the first time ever abolishing the industry’s long-standing 3:00 p.m. check-in time and giving its most frequent travelers control of their own arrival and departure time. Your24 lets Members choose their own 24-hour check-in and checkout time. For example, a guest who checks in at 10 p.m. won’t have to check-out until 10 p.m. on their day of departure. The Your24 program is offered to SPG Members who spend 75+ eligible nights at Starwood hotels annually.
Ultimate in Personal Service for Most Prolific Travelers
Building upon its successful pilot program, Starwood is expanding its innovative one-to-one service which matches its best travelers with personal ambassadors. Now, all Members who stay 100 nights annually are invited to participate in this unique service designed to provide the ultimate in tailored experiences across all 1100+ Starwood hotels. What separates this from a traditional travel concierge program is the unique personal relationship between Member and ambassador. Starwood’s ambassadors work one-on-one with guests to understand their preferences and what matters to them on each trip to deliver a customized experience on property. Ambassadors also provide services beyond the hotel and are even empowered to assist guests when they’re not traveling.
Starwood to Reward Loyalty with Lifetime Status
To show its appreciation for its most loyal and enduring travelers, Starwood Preferred Guest is introducing SPG LifetimeTM status. Now Members who have stayed 250 nights total and maintained elite status for at least five years (consecutive or not) are awarded SPG Lifetime Gold status. Members with 500 total nights and 10 years of Platinum SPG status (consecutive or not) will enjoy their top tier status for life.
The Lowdown on Loyalty: Starwood Enhances Benefits for all Elite Members
“Our goal is to make SPG so rich that it’s impossible for mega travelers not to choose Starwood,” said Vondrasek. “We also want to make the program wildly aspirational for all frequent travelers. And because we know that many of our Members are also Members of other hotel loyalty programs, we believe these upgrades give travelers a compelling reason to consolidate their travel with us. With this in mind, we have enriched all of our elite offerings, ratcheting up the proposition as Members stay more.” All benefits begin March 1, 2012.
- SPG 100 Nights Benefit: After crossing the 100-night threshold, SPG Members are paired with their personal ambassador.
- SPG 75 Nights Benefit: After spending 75 nights with Starwood, Members earn four Starpoints for every eligible U.S. dollar spent. Members also get access to Your24 to control their check-in and checkout time.
- SPG 50 Nights Benefit: At 50 nights, Members will receive 10 Suite Night Awards ™ to use for room upgrades. Suite Night Awards are confirmable five days prior to arrival.
- Platinum Members (25 Stays or 50 Nights Annually): now have the option of complimentary breakfast as part of their welcome gift at check-in. Platinum Members can also choose from bonus Starpoints or a local gift.
- Gold Members (10 Stays or 25 Nights Annually): now receive a welcome gift at check-in and can choose from bonus Starpoints, complimentary in-room Internet access or a complimentary beverage.
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Filed under: Brand Loyalty