A Word on Hotel Loyalty – Sunday guest post by Marshall Jackson

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Hotel loyalty programs appear to get a lot less “press attention” than the airline programs we all know and loathe….I mean love. In some circles, they seem to get a little more love from the media who tends to forget that even though you can barely count the number of hotel brands out there, the majority of them are managed by three or four very large companies. Sound familiar?

Hotel loyalty programs have been more “revenue based” than their airline brethren for years, but seem to mostly work. I’ve had some great experiences using hotel points, most recently on my very own “Vendoming” experience in Paris, but I’ve never found the programs to be particularly exciting.

While there is some value to be had in focusing on hotel elite status, I’ve never been one to wallow in it. Frankly, my needs from hotels are pretty basic. I like having a bed, a bathroom, a TV, and wi-fi that works. Everything else is gravy. Beyond that, I love little things that show a hotel cares. Those can include a lot of things from the occasional upgrade to a personal note from the general manager to a plate of strawberries in the room.

It takes a lot to get me to feel “connected” to a travel provider, whether they’re an airline or a hotel. Somehow, Kimpton and their loyalty program, Kimpton Karma, have found the secret sauce that got me there. For sure, my appreciation for Kimpton Hotels is not a recent development as I have been a fan since my first stay years ago. However, my evolving views on loyalty somehow met up with changing stay patterns that made Kimpton an ideal fit for me.

Over the last few years, I have “broken up” with a lot of traditional ideas about “loyalty.” One of the things I did was actively avoid “big box” hotels for something a bit more personalized and less cookie-cutter. Enter Kimpton. What Kimpton hotels lack in thousands of properties, they make up for in a spirit of customer service, caring, and style. I can’t flip a credit card or six and stay at a Kimpton hotel for a week for “free” and I’m OK with that. What I can depend on is the spirit of customer service, style, and caring. That is what I truly value in hotels. Have you ever gotten a hand-written card from your hotel loyalty program? Just sayin’.

Kimpton is not for everyone, and if your travels tend to keep you outside of the “big cities” you may be better off focusing on another program or having a backup program. For example, when I’m not at a Kimpton property, you’ll find me at Marriott.

Kimpton has of course been purchased by IHG, and the future of Kimpton Karma is not totally clear. The optimist in me hopes that IHG will learn a little from Kimpton before the larger company starts messing with things, and so far, it appears that is exactly what is happening. Then again, there could be some interesting opportunities in being part of a larger program. For now, I consider this a developing story, but for now Kimpton Karma is standing on its own and I hope that’s a trend that continues.

Hotel loyalty overall might not be what it used to be, but depending on what you value most, there are opportunities to connect with a program in a way that matters. For me, Kimpton has what it takes. – MJ, May 7, 2017

 

You can find more posts from MJ at Travel Update here on BoardingArea as well as on Twitter @MJonTravel

 

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