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US: Caesars and Wyndham become besties

Caesars Entertainment has a new bestie: After ending its status-matching partnership with Starwood Preferred Guest in December 2016, the gaming and entertainment company has announced a new similar but expanded partnership with Wyndham Rewards. Status matching starts now - additional benefits will follow later this summer, including an earn-and-redeem partnership, points transfers, and more. Is this the beginning of a beautiful friendship?
 
By Rick Ferguson
 
This week, Wyndham Hotel Group unveiled the new loyalty partnership with Caesars Entertainment and its Total Rewards program with more than 50 million members, upping the ante for members of both programs with a host of new perks.
 
The move brings complimentary status match to members of both programs - a first for any Total Rewards hotel partner - with additional perks slated to come online later this summer. Once complete, Wyndham Rewards members will have the ability to book Total Rewards destinations across the U.S. and Canada directly through Wyndham Hotel Group and Wyndham Rewards channels; earn and redeem Wyndham Rewards points for qualified stays at those destinations; bid on one-of-a-kind hotel, restaurant and entertainment experiences; and transfer points between the two programs. Money quote from Noah Brodsky, senior VP of Loyalty and Engagement at Wyndham Hotel Group:
 
"For the last two years, we've been unrelenting in our efforts to build the world’s best rewards program, applying a laser-like focus to help our members experience travel where and how they want. Whether it's a hotel, a condo, a vacation home or now, a world-class resort like Caesars Palace, no other program offers their members the breadth, the simplicity or the generosity of Wyndham Rewards."
And from Caesars Entertainment SVP and Chief Experience Officer Michael Marino:
 
"Total Rewards continues to set the standard for loyalty within gaming and entertainment, and we're always looking for likeminded partners to elevate member benefits. With Wyndham Rewards, we're giving our members access to an unparalleled portfolio of hotels, condos and homes and a fast track to elevated status with one of the world’s premier rewards programs."
Starting this week, eligible members have the opportunity to obtain complimentary status match with either program. Platinum and Diamond members of both programs may match to the corresponding level of their non-primary program— Platinum to Platinum, Diamond to Diamond— while Total Rewards Seven Stars members may match to Wyndham Rewards Diamond.
 
The interesting party in this play is Caesars Entertainment, which followed up its more limited partnership with Starwood with this more expanded partnership with Wyndham. One may surmise that Caesars wanted to pursue a more robust partnership with Starwood, but that the Marriott acquisition and impending loyalty program merger put any expansion talks between the two parties on hold. With Hyatt and MGM Resorts inking a similar deal, the move is clearly toward both gaming and hotel brands to strike partnerships that strengthen redemption and soft benefit options for their respective best customers. Money quote from Michael Marino as quoted in Skift:
 
“We've always been revenue-based and now you're seeing the airlines do that. We reward you differently based on how much you spend with us, but in terms of redemption options, the industry is moving away from that punch card model and we realize people want to redeem for other things, like backstage access, exclusive dinners, etc. We want to give people more access to entertainment and different amenities as we move from being a ‘gaming’ company to an entertainment company. That’s the direction everyone is going in."
Indeed: partnerships are lifeblood to loyalty program evolution. With younger consumers valuing experiences over material possessions, both Caesars and Wyndham are poised to reap the benefits of a broad-based appeal to leisure travelers. We'll be looking forward to watching the partnership unfold.
 
Rick Ferguson is CMO and Editor in Chief of the Wise Marketer Group.