CLEVELAND—Vantage Hospitality Group has released a loyalty rewards program for its hotel brands, including Lexington Inns and Hotels, Jameson Inn, 3 Palms Hotels & Resorts, Signature Inn, Country Hearth Inn & Suites, America’s Best Inns & Suites, Americas Best Value Inn and Canadas Best Value Inn. The Vantage Rewards program is based on instant rewards and not points. It gives users a 15% discount off standard room rates at any Vantage property; free room upgrades; a late checkout option upon request; and access to discounts and special offers for dining, shopping and entertainment through Abenity, a benefits company that offers discounts on travel activities, explained Andrew Kraemer, VP, IT and electronic distribution, Vantage Hospitality Group.
Value Club, a successful 15-year-running rewards program through Vantage’s Americas Best Value Inn and Canadas Best Value Inn brands, was the catalyst for the company-wide rewards program. “We rebranded it, calling it Vantage Rewards and opened it to all of the Vantage brands,” Kraemer said. “Now we have one program that’s going to be the umbrella program for all of our brands,” he explained, adding that Value Club members will get the same benefits as before but now they will get rewards at all of the company’s brands and 1,200 different hotels.
“From the very beginning, our goal was to have a common, frequent guest program for all of Vantage’s brands,” Kraemer said. Value Club members were automatically enrolled in the Vantage Rewards program as part of the new initiative. “In addition to the Vantage Rewards program, our Lexington Inns and Hotels will continue to honor Lexington Rewards, a point-based system,” Kraemer explained.
Other reasons for unveiling the Vantage Rewards program are to stay relevant in the current loyalty program market and to provide franchisees with an additional sales tool.
From a communications standpoint, the loyalty program enhances the growth and positioning of Vantage’s brands and will create a consistent, universal marketing effort, according to Kraemer. He anticipates the program will expand the company’s marketing reach and create a stronger value proposition, appealing to a larger consumer base, which means more brand exposure.
The Vantage Rewards program will provide better business opportunities with enhanced marketing and by adding value for loyal customers, Kraemer expressed. “It will help our properties on Main Street compete for their customers. The other brands have programs that help sell rooms. We want to give that type of program to our properties so they can drive business into their hotel. I think it’s just one of those things customers look for today,” he said.
Vantage’s hotel owners see the rewards program as an opportunity to garner business the same way many of their competitors do, including Hilton’s HHonors program and Marriott’s Marriott Rewards. “We are primarily 99% a franchised organization. They recognize it is a valuable marketing tool. In order to compete with the other brands, they need to offer this amenity or benefit to their customers,” Kraemer reported.
So far, Vantage’s customers are reacting positively by booking more stays. “When we rolled out the Vantage Rewards program in May, we saw a 40% increase in sign-ups. Guests appreciate being able to receive their rewards instantly—there are no points to accumulate before you can be rewarded,” Kraemer pointed out.
Vantage will continue to evaluate the program and gather input and feedback from their board members and owners, according to Kraemer. “We want to deliver a program that they believe in and see a value in because they are the key to the success of the program. Between that front desk and that returning customer, that’s where the most important connection is made,” he said of Vantage’s franchisees and board members.
The future of Vantage Rewards could mean additional benefits and possibly other changes. “We understand that free stays are important to many guests and we are developing a points-based program to address this in the near future,” Kraemer disclosed, as the current program does not give out free stays.
Kraemer said the initial, point-based concept was presented to Vantage’s membership in December 2015. Their advisory board and advertising council was given additional information during the company’s board meetings. The plan is for Vantage to present the overall structured concept to their members during their International Educational Conference and Trade Show. “Ultimately, our goal is to offer the “best of both worlds” where guests have the option to select points for free stays or instant discounts and perks. We plan to unveil this concept in 2017,” Kraemer noted of Vantage’s overall goal for its rewards program.
Because the Vantage Rewards program is a loyalty program similar to other reward programs in the hospitality industry, as well as other sectors across the board, Kraemer took the time to point out the characteristics of a loyal Vantage customer. The company has customers across each lodging segment, from economy to full-service, and caters to all travelers, including family, seniors, group and business travel. “An Americas Best Value Inn customer is someone who is looking for an economy-branded hotel and they’re looking for a consistent experience. They want a property that is going to give them a discount,” Kraemer said. “Another segment is the Lexington hotels. They are full-service hotels that cater to business travelers,” he said. “That’s what loyalty looks like for us. It really depends on the brand and the traveler.” HB