Skift Take

The hospitality industry continues to tweak its various loyalty programs. But is this what customers really want?

La Quinta Inns & Suites will be relaunching its La Quinta Returns loyalty program in early 2017, CEO Keith Cline, told Skift.

And as a precursor to that relaunch, the hotel company added a brand-new feature: the ability for members to redeem their La Quinta loyalty points for everyday purchases on things like groceries, restaurants, or even coffee.

The new program, called Redeem Away!, is exclusive to Visa accountholders who link their eligible Visa credit cards (including La Quinta’s own branded Visa card) and mobile number to their La Quinta Returns account. When that member makes a qualifying in-store or online purchase using that linked Visa account, she will receive a text inviting her to redeem La Quinta Returns points for that purchase. If the member responds with a “yes,” those points are deducted from her loyalty account and a credit for the purchase amount shows up on her Visa statement in about 10 days.

Applicable purchase categories apply to more than a million different retailers in the U.S., and they include fast food and casual restaurants, bookstores, grocery stores, drugstores, and club and discount stores.

This type of a loyalty play, whereby consumers can get cash back for using their hotel loyalty points, isn’t a common practice in the travel or hotel space. And it signals a shift toward loyalty programs that are being more structured to offer immediate perks or smaller rewards instead of just offering free nights or emphasizing huge spend. Other brands that have taken this approach include Wyndham Hotel Group and Red Lion Hotels Corporation.

“Today, consumers have told us loud and clear: ‘We don’t just want to work toward a free night. We want points to work immediately and have value today,” Cline said. “This type of program keeps the La Quinta brand top of mind; you’re interacting with it every day. That’s what drives repeat business at the hotels.”

Cline said that the La Quinta Returns program currently has about 3 million active members for a chain that has three brands and 890 properties spread out over the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Colombia, and Honduras. Although 3 million is a relatively small number in comparison to the membership numbers for other programs from companies like Marriott or Hilton, that number represents a very loyal group that prefers to book direct. A recent U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing from La Quinta stated the company had approximately 11 million loyalty members as of Dec. 31, 2015.

“Almost 80 percent of our bookings are direct,” Cline¬†said. “Just under half of our revenue across the entire platform goes through our loyalty program.”

Cline didn’t have exact details on the conversion between La Quinta Returns points and dollars per retail establishment but he said it would likely vary depending on the establishment.

An added benefit of the new program is the ability for La Quinta to capture more data about where their loyalty members like to shop. “Over time, what this is teaching us about our customers is giving us that 360-degree view of who they are and what their preferences are. This also provides us with a vehicle to make La Quinta more valuable to them, too.”

The La Quinta Returns program, which has already undergone major changes earlier this year, including the addition of more than 20,000 partner luxury hotels where members can redeem points for stays, will be going a complete reboot in early 2017.

Cline didn’t divulge many details about what the relaunch will entail, only to say that member benefits, tiers, and the ways in which members can earn points will all be impacted.

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Tags: la quinta, loyalty

Photo credit: The La Quinta Inn & Suites Dallas DFW Airport North. La Quinta is debuting a new loyalty program feature that lets members earn cash back for everyday purchases. La Quinta Inns & Suites

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