Few people would disagree that the last two or three years have been incredibly challenging for the hotel industry. However, it’s during such times that creativity and innovation come to the forefront to answer the question ‘how can we fill our hotel?’

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For many hotel chains, the loyalty programme is an integral part of the answer and the Middle East has witnessed a variety of initiatives for generating repeat business in 2011. These range from some chains introducing an existing programme to the region to extending a programme to go beyond the rooms segment to capture and reward non-residential spend. While such initiatives are applaudable, at the end of the day, it’s all about results, which are measured in a variety of ways depending on the objective.

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Christophe Landais, managing director for Accor Middle East explains the strategy and measurement criteria for Accor’s A|Club: “The main strategy is focused on three objectives: to raise awareness of the programme within the region, recruit additional members and strengthen the loyalty of our clients by developing repeated business. We measure our success with the progression of the number of members we have, which will reach 8 million worldwide by the end of 2011 and also by the number of active members, representing 41% as of November 2011.

“As a leader in the hospitality industry in Europe, Accor’s ambition is not only to attract more members from this region, which represents 54% of our members, but also to open new frontiers for our reward programme to support our hotel development in Asia-Pacific, Middle East and South America.”

Part of the strategy of Sirius, Jumeirah Group’s Recognition and Rewards Programme, was to increase the number of local enrolments to support the ‘lifestyle’ elements such as food and beverage, spa, and the Wild Wadi Water Park. Measuring success through the number of new members with a target of 15,000 to 20,000, the 2011 campaign increased enrolment through the Sirius website by 78% month-on-month comparison, after initiating the campaign.

With such results, it’s no wonder that hotel brands are commending the loyalty programme as an integral part of their business development strategy, but it’s important to ensure that key factors are taken into consideration when measuring success.

“Our loyalty programme, the Fairmont President’s Club (FPC), is more than a set of benefits and offerings; it is the way we do business and how we treat our most important customers. It is an extension of the brand’s message and voice and how we earn the loyalty of our guests — indeed it is an integral part of our marketing and guest satisfaction efforts,” reports Kent Cooper, vice president of regional hotel sales for Fairmont Middle East and Africa.

Farrah Ismail, director of sales and marketing at Millennium Airport Hotel Dubai, agrees, adding: “A good loyalty programme should offer value to both the guest and the hotel. Redeeming points should be easy and they should be redeemable at all the group’s hotels to build brand loyalty and recognition. If a loyalty programme is done well, it will make a noticeable difference to the guest experience.”

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