Starwood is looking to capture a greater market share of B2B activity, which is growing globally in response to the economic rebound. It's likely that other major brands will respond with some loyalty scheme of their own.
Starwood Hotels and Resorts today announced an expansion of its Starwood Preferred Guests loyalty program that gives meeting and travel planning professionals the ability to earn points and status for any business that they book for employees and clients.
The new program, SPG Pro, will drive Starwood’s efforts to capture a greater share of global corporate travel and events bookings.
The timing of Starwood’s new initiative could seem strange in light of more and more individual business travelers planning their own flights and lodging; however, it is largely in response to the hotel group’s research that found business-to-business bookings — comprised of corporate travel, meetings and events, and leisure and wholesale travel sold through agents — account for almost 70 percent of Starwood’s overall room revenue and that one-third of the hotel group’s most loyal guests are also booking meetings and events.
Although this marks the first time that travel agents will have the opportunity to earn Starpoints and elite status with SPG, the benefits extend beyond professionals.
An administrative assistant would be able to collect points booked on behalf of his or her boss’ business trip or family vacation and a regular traveler would be able to collect points for blocking off a certain number of rooms for a sibling’s wedding.
Starwood is rolling up three previous programs to simplify the point collection process for these kinds of customers.
SPG Pro members will earn 1 Starpoint for every $3 that they book on behalf of others, one night towards elite status for every 20 room nights booked for others, and the ability to redeem Starpoints for free stays or SPG Moments.
SPG Pro will officially launch on October 15, 2014.
Business Marketing Made-Over
To promote the new program, Starwood is also launching a $30 million B2B marketing campaign, the largest one of its kind.
Starwood took a lifestyle approach to the campaign and hired New York City photographer Jim Franco to create the campaign’s “day-in-the-life of” style.
The campaign features photos of real meeting planners and travel professionals alongside actual Starwood employees.
In this way, it is similar to Marriott International’s recently launched Love Travels campaign that features same-sex couples.
The campaign will run on the SPG website, social media, and trade publications. It is also Starwood’s first ad buy to be leveraged on LinkedIn.
The campaign’s video component is as follows:
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Photo credit: New York City travel and lifestyle photographer Jim Franco works with real Starwood employees and customers in new B2B marketing campaign. Starwood Hotels & Resorts