When it comes to building and sustaining loyalty for today’s independent hotel brands, every guest touchpoint matters. Delivering consistent service and surfacing personalized offers and experiences requires a geographically expansive loyalty program powered by an agile technology platform.
Competing with larger chains for guest loyalty can feel like an uphill battle for many independent hotel brands, which operate with significantly fewer resources when it comes to sales, marketing, and distribution. Global Hotel Alliance (GHA) connects independent hotel brands with millions of customers through one unified loyalty program, GHA Discovery.
Like all of today’s data-driven loyalty programs, GHA Discovery is highly dependent on technology and requires constant adaptation to the ever-changing hospitality and technology landscapes. The program’s modern, shared technology platform, powered by various Oracle cloud environments, helps bridge the gap between a hotel’s property management system (PMS), central reservation system (CRS), and customer relationship management (CRM) system, leading to cost savings and incremental revenue for member brands.
“We have used the time during the pandemic to invest in and strengthen the backbone of the GHA Discovery loyalty architecture,” said Folker Heim, chief operating officer at Global Hotel Alliance. “Supported by our technology partner and shareholder, Oracle, we focused on enhancing functionality in our systems and applications to improve guest recognition on property, provide personalized marketing to members on their preferred channels, and provide a direct booking channel with an appealing customer experience and member-exclusive rates.”
According to Folker, staying competitive on loyalty within a hospitality landscape of ever-shifting allegiances means employing a data-driven approach that puts the customer first: “Gathering and analyzing advanced behavioral insights allows us to recommend relevant offers to our members in online touchpoints, address specific segments by sophisticated personalization, and engage with our members with relevant communications, all while ensuring data security and privacy of our members.”
Recognition throughout the guest journey, supported by technology, is key. By using data collected from multiple customer touchpoints and interactions, GHA can use direct channels to surface exclusive offers, tailored promotions, member rates, pre-arrival messages with relevant information, post-stay surveys, and personalized web and app experiences based on preferences.
Delivering an authentic level of personalization across so many touchpoints requires strong and reliable data, a commodity many independent hotels lack. To overcome this hurdle and capture a meaningful cross-section of data, GHA connects its shared technology platform with a member brand’s existing systems, from PMS, CRS, and CRM systems to distribution systems. Brands benefit from GHA’s integration platform and the flexibility to interface to a range of systems in use by other member brands. Data is then ingested to GHA’s central CRM database, which is planned to migrate to Opera Cloud in the near future.
In addition to these member-originating touchpoints, data is collected and generated from the GHA Discovery website and app, from GHA’s customer contact center, via partner channels, and through other touchpoints. The data collected from these multiple, disparate sources is then loaded into GHA’s data warehouse, enabling GHA to create a single source of truth for its customer profiles. This unified data is then consumed by a wide range of systems and endpoints, enabling customer recognition at all levels.
“It sounds complicated, but in fact, it’s a low-cost, plug-and-play loyalty solution. Integration is quick and seamless, with GHA providing the APIs and the core CRM and marketing platform,” Folker said. “For member brands that don’t have their own CRM platform, GHA Discovery delivers the ability for loyalty lifecycle administration, rewards management through our Discovery Dollars, CRM campaigns, and many other functions.”
By facilitating and personalizing the customer journey via the CRM, hotel brands are not only increasing repeat business, but also cross-brand business. Since the program was reimagined last year, cross-brand business for member hotels increased from 6 percent of total revenue to 11 percent. Because GHA Discovery members are incentivized to earn and spend Discovery Dollars both locally and globally, they’re seeking out new hotels in the GHA portfolio, at home and away.
“There’s a cost-reduction angle, too,” Folker said. “As hotel expenses escalate, exacerbated by geopolitical circumstances, staff shortages, and other major challenges, GHA Discovery and its cutting-edge technology play a key role in reducing reliance on expensive third-party distribution by incentivizing direct bookings with a comprehensive member experience and member-exclusive rates, resulting in channel shift and shaving the deep OTA costs.”
Amid industry-wide staffing challenges, GHA member hotels are finding that they can leverage the GHA Discovery platform to increase operational efficiency. The platform makes the jobs of hotel staff members easier by providing consistent and uniform member profile data and enhanced functionality across processes, systems, and applications to improve guest recognition on and off property.
By utilizing the GHA Discovery membership number as the unique identifier, hotel employees are able to deliver member recognition, better understand guest needs, and serve guests more efficiently.
“It’s this level of engagement and user-friendliness, wrapped up in a seamless experience, that wins and retains loyal customers in the long term,” Folker said. “This ensures independent hotels remain more relevant than ever in a world where technology is required to deliver a personalized and unique experience.”
Another major benefit of GHA’s central loyalty platform and its ability to aggregate data from a large variety of disparate systems is the provision of detailed metrics and actionable insights to general managers at the touch of a button.
“Alliance member brands tell us the deep-dive reporting capabilities GHA offers are critical to their business, providing insights they would otherwise be unable to collate without significant investment in technology,” Folker said. “To complement this digital service, GHA’s account management team works with each brand to identify marketing opportunities to drive additional business to their brand, based on this reporting.”
While granular reporting capabilities are available at the hotel level, GHA is also tracking the overall performance of the program in aggregate. According to GHA’s Q3 2022 performance report, member interest in the GHA Discovery program is growing, with enrollments as a percentage of stays up 20 percent compared to pre-Covid numbers.
Member engagement with the program is also increasing, with over 59 percent year-over-year growth in reward redemption, all with longer stays and with significant incremental spend, in addition to the previously mentioned doubling in cross-brand stays.
“With reward redemptions giving repeat and cross-brand stays a huge boost, we are generating revenue to our hotel brands,” Folker added. “Typically, these redemptions are being used as part-payment for a guest’s total bill. Overall, our brands are witnessing an average of 17 times return on investment from the new program — a 21 percent lift compared to the ROI delivered by the former version of our loyalty program.”
With independent hotels discovering a powerful way to drive repeat business, this positive outlook is reassuring, even as uncertainty looms in the year ahead.
Please join Christopher Hartley, CEO of Global Hotel Alliance, for a special session at Skift Global Forum East, December 13-15 in Dubai.
For more information about membership in GHA visit Global Hotel Alliance.
This content was created collaboratively by Global Hotel Alliance and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.