IHG Hotels Re-Launching Priority Club With Flash Sales

Posted Mar 29th 2011 11:30 AM

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Holiday Inn Charlotte

IHG, the 4,400-property hotel company that includes Holiday Inn brands, is re-launching its 28-year-old Priority Club loyalty program with flash sales and the option of downloading music and games using points.

Beginning in May, members will receive a weekly newsletter on Monday or Tuesday listing "Last Minute Reward Nights" for the following weekend at a 50% discount – guests can use half the points for a free night than they regularly would.

The deal applies to Friday, Saturday and Sunday night stays.

The program is similar to the e-blasts airlines send to members of their frequent flier programs but has not been seen before in the hotel industry, Don Berg, IHG's vice president, Loyalty Programs and Partnerships tells AOL Travel News.

"This is the first time someone is actually going to feature loyalty program redemption points for the following weekend, or so-called distressed merchandise," Berg says. "So, for instance, 25,000 points at the Crowne Plaza Manhattan would be on sale that weekend for 12,500. It's like what the airlines do."

The hotel company, which also includes InterContinental Hotels and Resorts among its seven brands, has 56 million Priority Club members, making it the hotel industry's largest. The loyalty club re-launch follows a nearly three-year process that included surveys of 10,000 travelers around the world, Berg says.

Among other changes, the new program will allow members to redeem a combination of Priority Club points and cash for brand name merchandise and services in addition to reward nights.

Uniquely, members will also have a chance to use points to enter a "Lucky Points" sweepstakes with prizes ranging from hotel packages to merchandise such as iPads.

"I'm not using the word 'lottery," because it's a legal thing, but we'll call it a sweepstakes," Berg says. "It's the first of its kind in the hotel loyalty landscape."

Beginning this summer, Priority Club members will also be able to redeem points directly for downloadable music, eBooks, mobile games and applications and computer software, another industry first, according to Berg.

"Today you can't redeem points for that in anybody's loyalty program that I'm aware of," Berg says.

He says the Priority Club program is a high priority for the hotel company, with members accounting for 44% of the total room revenue. The re-launch also includes a website redo.

Berg says the research showed loyalty program membership is a stronger predictor of hotel selection than price or location for frequent travelers.

But the biggest surprise in doing the research for the re-launch was how members think of their points.

"There's an emotional connection with points that goes very, very deep. We actually had some guys in focus groups tear up when talking about using the points for family outings," Berg says. "Also, it's guilt-free currency. They treat points like cash. The currency is the story here."

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