Skift Take

At a time when some big hotel brands seek to increase average daily rates, Booking Holdings' expansion of its Genius loyalty and discounting program could hurt that effort. Some individual properties, hungry for increased exposure as they compete with vacation rentals and other hotels, will welcome the move.

After five years of operating its Genius loyalty and discount program on Booking.com, parent company Booking Holdings is expanding the scheme to sister brands, including Priceline, Agoda and Kayak, Skift has learned.

Travelers who log into these sites will be able to access these rates and perks, such as room upgrades, thus expanding the program’s reach, a Booking Holdings spokesperson confirmed. Booking Holdings did not announce the expansion.

The move by Booking is clearly designed to expand its customer base and take more share from the big hotel chains.

Qualified properties with ratings of at least as high as 7.5 out of 10 can opt into the program by offering discounts of perhaps 10 to 20 percent to guests, and in return they get increased exposure on Booking Holdings’ sites, generating heightened demand.

Properties can also target where they want these discounts to apply by city, for example, and can offer additional 5 percent discounts to business travelers.

Commission rates are unaffected by Genius program participation.

“From Magnuson’s perspective, it’s gratifying in this economically sensitive time to see a global firm like Booking leverage its marketing and technology to help hotels, rather than to drive share price at the expense of small businesses,” said Thomas Magnuson, CEO of Magnuson Hotels.

Magnuson properties, as well as affiliated independents, can opt in to participate.

Booking Holdings’ expansion of the program — which some hoteliers deride as more of a discount program than a loyalty plan — may not be met with uniform applause from segments of the hotel industry.

After all, the Genius program can discourage some consumers from joining chains’ loyalty programs, and eat into direct bookings on hotel websites. The discounting also undercuts hotel pricing at at time when many brands would like to push average daily rates higher.

Participating in the Genius program gives properties higher visibility on Booking.com, and now with the expansion also on Priceline in the U.S., Agoda primarily in Asia and Europe, and Kayak, as well.

Prior to launching the Genius program in 2016, Booking Holdings took a dim view of loyalty programs, citing them as often confusing to consumers. But the company has obviously now bought into the program’s merits.

Correction: Contrary to our initial story, hotels in the Genius program can not target travelers by state or extend discounts to their friends and family.

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Tags: agoda, booking holdings, booking.com, discounting, hotels, kayak, loyalty, magnuson hotels, priceline, vacation rentals

Photo credit: Pictured is the Hotel Kronenhirsch in Rußbach am Pass Gschütt, Austria as seen on May 24, 2017. Booking Holdings is expanding its Genius loyalty program to Kayak Priceline and Agoda. The hotel pictured doesn't necessarily participate in the program. Hotel Kronenhirsch

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