Hotel loyalty rates and OTAs – Expedia promotes Red Lion Hello Rewards

According to Travelweekly, Expedia has been promoting to its customers the Red Lion Member Rates. Red Lion is a US / CA hotel chain with a little over 100 hotels.


Expedia Red Lion River Inn
Expedia featuring Red Lion Hotels Hello Rewards Program


Similar to many other hotel chains and independent hotels, Red Lion Hotels have their own member rates, named Hello Rewards and they offer loyal customers an exclusive “thank you package” with the following benefits amongst others:

  • a free night every 7 stays,
  • discounted rates,
  • express check-in and check-out;
  • late check-outs;
  • room upgrades;
  • member-only offers;


All of this is now available to Expedia and users, since July 2016 at least. Check out the screen shot below.



Is this an historical landmark we´re seeing?


For some time now, hoteliers are turning to loyalty rates to fight OTAs predominance in the online travel bookings landscape.


This is a commendable effort, but hardly a new approach!


In fact, the likes of Booking Genius rates (with a staggering 10% off) and Nectar Points from Expedia are being pushed for years has a (strong) selling point to OTAs users. They do even better not only offering “member only rates” but also asking hotels for “secret offers” and the pitch them publicly to indiscriminate users (see screen shot below).


secret offer on
Publicly pitching a “secret deal” on


The new thing here is that so far, OTAs and Hotels have been pulling in different directions and this seems to be the first time publicly open attempt of an OTA promoting a hotel member only rate to its customers.



Why? Does this make sense?


Hotels are worried at OTAs gaining more share of their online bookings pie and that is why most of them are trying as much as possible to increase their direct bookings online channels. Member only rates are a good way to force their customers to understand that “booking direct is better”.


OTAs are also worried at Hotels starting to recover their share. They need to keep on growing their share on online travel bookings. An example: the 2 giant OTA groups, Expedia and Priceline, are amongst NASDAQ biggest players on Cyclical Consumer Goods & Services sector. Priceline has a Market Cap of 69,63B.


Instead of entering a fratricide war against big hotel chains, it seems that Expedia Inc. is now looking at a more pleasant alternative: to collaborate with them!


This is a bold move because Expedia is helping Red Lion fuel its own loyal customer’s database, which on the long term can probably hurt Expedia by lowering its recurrent customers to those specific hotels.


On the other hand, OTAs strive on the customer’s idea that they “have all in the market” at the “best rates in the market”, and this is exactly what Expedia is aiming to offer its customers, the best rates in the market.


If this is going to work and get out of beta stage or not, we don’t know but we promise to keep an track on it and report it to you 🙂


Yours trully,


Hotel Digital Strategy in 2016 – Increase Direct Bookings



This article’s objective is to help you define & set proven quick-wins for a well succeeded Hotel Digital Strategy aimed at increasing your direct bookings.


First, let’s just get 3 things straight:

  1. Your marketing budget makes little difference;
  2. It doesn’t really matter if you are the owner of a Big Hotel Chain with 1000s of rooms or you only manage a small 15 room Boutique Hotel;
  3. Makes no difference your current standing point on digital marketing;


Specifically hotel and in overall travel digital landscape is a hard and competitive one.

We´ve spoken before that a winning digital strategy from 2-3 years ago, if used now in 2016 exactly as it was before, will probably end in you losing money daily. The reason why is that global tourism and hospitality industry has underwent major chances with the increasing predominance and wide spread of mobile, social and overall worldwide IT advancements, and in fact it will keep on evolving tremendously on the forthcoming years.


Therefore, the goal here is to focus on 3 solid and up-to-date quick-wins:

| Fix your pricing;

| Enjoy the metasearch wave;

| Take advantage of mobile & social merge;


Flexible & Accurate Pricing

This is probably one of the most important details in your strategy. Online bookings thrive with high demand periods such has summer season in beach resort destinations, event dates, holidays and similar high demand / high conversion periods.

For your business to fully take advantage on that you need to ensure:

  • Public available rates are all accurate and on parity (this is not just for rates, but also applies to room categories, offers, payment options and cancellation policies);
  • You can quickly increase rates and also close lower margin channels.
  • The cheapest and more unrestricted available rate (public or otherwise) is always the one you offer your direct customer;
  • Your loyal customers are rewarded as such;


Questions for you (we) to answer:

How can we keep rates accurate and on parity at all (most of the) times?

Answer: Stop thinking old school. Especially with online distribution, all channels should have access to the same rates –give OTAs and OTOs gross rate. If you want to differentiate one channel from the other, set specific marketing contribution for targeted goals, define a rappel commitment attached to a revenue objective, or simply differentiate them with inventory access. Let them me bigger and more important based on their own merits aligning with your business strategical needs, not by pricing and contracting mistakes.


How can you quickly and fully increase and yield your rates if you keep on contracting static rates, with fixed safety allotments?

Answer: Unless we are talking about specific tour operators that sell (the best term here his PUSH) exclusive holiday packages, often including flights, transfers and destination management services, chances are you don´t lose a real amount of bookings and revenue by only contracting flexible rates.


How can you I keep the best rates to my direct business?

Answer: Save some room categories exclusively for your direct channels. Offer exclusive rates on your contact center (online is way more visible) and don’t forget to save a little extra for your loyal repeat customers.


Tour Operator Static Rates | Quick tip

Even when offline rate publishing is needed (catalogs and brochures), you can still print a “starting from $XX”.


Bottom line is:

By choosing to have only or on majority flexible pricing 3rd part contracting, your business will be able to yield rates and take serious advantage of high demand dates.



Enjoy the Metasearch (big) Wave

TripAdvisor, Google, Trivago and Skyscanner are the biggest players on the sector and all report huge increases. In this article, Trivago (hotel metasearch platform) is very clear about this and in a very simply displays what we all consider to be a shift in travel consumer behavior. It maybe because user considers them unbiased or it can have something to do with the crushing amount of marketing dollars they spent, but be it has it may, metasearch’s are heavly used and here to stay.


Use of Metasearch by online travelers (people that book travel online) in 2014:

  • 35% of British travelers;
  • 38% of French travelers;
  • 42% of German travelers;


This Google Trends graph says it all:

metasearch trends 2010-2016

That said and proven, how can you leverage this power for your direct bookings?

Rest assured that OTAs are already there and have been there for a while now. The good news is that you can also be present directly and in a comfortable and cost controlled manner.

Netaffinity, Seekda, BookAssist and other partners can easily help you singly connect to all major metasearch platforms without the need of establishing a direct contract with each one. And some, like Seekda, can even help you effectively manage your “metasearch budget”.

Others like Siteminder our SynXis, can still connect you but you will need to have direct contracts with the metasearch(s) of your choice.

And don’t forget Google Hotel Ads (different from AdWords), because we have a feeling it will grow quickly.



Take Advantage of Social & Mobile Merge

Have noticed that your customers – actually the World – are getting more and more accustomed to search & book on mobile?

The Connected Traveler is now both a reality and a growing trend. Even after bookings, you can start impacting your audience on social platforms, BUT them again, nothing new here!

For ages, marketing managers have made efforts on approaching customers where they were the most, and now, your customers (and prospects) are the most on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and others. And as a result of having big audiences, these platforms have became experts in providing business the tools to market to them.


Take Facebook has an example:

Those simple 2010 Facebook Ads are long gone. Facebook has recently launched its new Facebook for Business and on it, we easily noticed a distinguished industry: Travel, highlighting how to approach those Travel related customers and providing success stories with Secret Escapes or Hotel Tonight.

If you take a minute to think about it, this merge makes perfect sense!

Facebook knows our customers in-depth. Were they live, what they do on a daily basis, what time they post or consume content, what type of content they interact with….

It’s overwhelming and powerful to know that much about someone or something. And it´s not just Facebook!

Several companies keep track on our behaviors and collect meaningful and actionable data that can later be used to promote products and services – tourism and hospitality included.

Not only can you re-market to a preexisting customer database, but you can also create and manage look-a-likes, meaning prospect databases that are similar to your best buying and most engaged customers.


If this interests you, here are 3 Tools you should check:


That’s all folks! Hope you can benefit and if in doubt just drop me an email.


Post Scriptum

This article was especially written for those of you looking to:

  • Increase your hotel direct bookings effectiveness;
  • Increase your hotel digital awareness and relevance;
  • Step up your already existing online direct strategy;
  • Shift your marketing focus from offline to online driven strategies;