Skift Take

Even though Wyndham's attempted "coup" of Starwood members had to be called off, it's a reminder the hospitality industry needs to take a fresh look at the hotel loyalty experience. So far, most of the innovation seems to happening with non-traditional players like HotelTonight and Airbnb.

This past week, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts attempted to stage a loyalty “coup,” offering members of Starwood’s popular SPG program 4x their current points if they donated their SPG accounts to charity.

Though the campaign soon had to be cancelled due to signs of fraudulent activity, what the move says about bigger trends in the hospitality loyalty space is much more interesting.

As attention-grabbing as Wyndham’s offer might have been, it’s still stuck on the same points paradigm that’s long been the norm. Instead, it’s other unexpected  players are quietly making moves that could transform the hospitality loyalty dynamic altogether. One example is last-minute hotel company HotelTonight, which recently unveiled its own loyalty offering. Another potential threat is accommodation-sharing giant Airbnb, which just announced a new partnership with Qantas that lets guests earn airline miles for stays. How will loyalty evolve next? Will the major chains respond? Keep reading for more details.

What Wyndham’s Giveaway Says About the State of Hospitality Loyalty
Shortly after announcing an unprecedented promotion to give 4 Wyndham Rewards points for every SPG point Starwood members donated to charity, Wyndham was forced to retract the promotion due to fraud. While the promotion never made it off the ground, what’s more interesting is what it says about the state of hotel loyalty, where chains increasingly must offer bigger and bigger points promotions to wow jaded travelers and new competitors like HotelTonight and Airbnb try to win over new customer segments. Read more

Expedia Tests Facial Recognition Tech for New Hawaii Program
Emotion plays an important role in travel decision-making, but you wouldn’t always know it from most of the price- and deal-focused travel ads found online. Expedia’s latest program with the Hawaii Tourism Authority is an effort to change that. The campaign uses facial recognition technology to gauge viewer reactions to different Hawaii attractions, using the insights to recommend custom vacation packages. Read more

Korean Air Adds Artificial Intelligence and Chat Bots to Its “To-Do List”
A recent conversation with Dante Dionne, senior IT manager, at Korean Air’s Innovation Technology Development Center, offers some insights into the emerging technologies that are on the airline’s “radar.” Dionne mentions chat bots, artificial intelligence and personal digital travel assistants as key aviation technologies to watch in the years to come. Read more

Norwegian Earns High-Profile Placement in Amazon’s “Transparent” Series
The cruise industry is increasingly turning to Hollywood to help it persuade more travelers to book a trip. Carnival Cruise Lines just launched a series of cruise- and travel-themed TV shows airing on the major networks this fall. Now Norwegian is pairing up with the entertainment industry too, coordinating with Amazon’s “Transparent” to feature the company’s ships in an episode from the show’s new season. Read more

Digital Nomad Business Remote Year Raises $12 Million in New Funding
“Digital nomads,” a segment of location-independent workers that travel the world while building their business, are getting more attention from the travel sector. Remote Year, a company that pioneered a year-long program covering travel costs, workspace and accommodations for participants, just secured an additional $12 million in series A to help expand the concept. Read more

Interest in Cuba Spikes Among Affluent Travelers
Cuba is slowly but surely opening up to the US travel market. While a number of legal and logistical hurdles remain to be solved, one segment travel marketers should be watching is affluent American travelers. Cuba recently cracked a list of the top 15 destinations for the luxury travel segment, with signs that high-end vacationers want to see the destination before it’s “transformed” by mass tourism. Read more

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Tags: loyalty

Photo credit: The hotel loyalty landscape is evolving rapidly thanks to ever-more generous promotions and new outside competitors. Free for Commercial Use / Flickr

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