There are hotel loyalty programs that build emotional connections to the brand — and then there are some that just flat out deliver utility and value. In our humble opinion, Hotels.com Rewards is in the latter category.
Hotels.com Rewards Delivers Utility and Value
People booking rooms as personal travel may not have enough volume to earn tangible value in one of the major hotel loyalty programs. Business travelers on the run, can find a hotel room quickly on Hotels.com® when getting a head on the pillow takes precedence over the finer points of selecting a particular hotel brand for the night. For both of these traveler types, Hotels.com Rewards delivers utility and value.
The program is simple, book 10 nights and earn 1 free night. The value of the night able to be redeemed is based on the average room night spent for the 10 previous. The offer is clear and easy to understand.
The question is “why” this online travel consolidator made the decision to introduce a $5 fee charged each time a program member redeems a free night. We may not read our email carefully enough, but we don’t recall seeing the announcement communicated directly as part of loyalty program communications. We learned about the new charge from a travel blogger and had to go digging to verify the change.
New Redemption Fee Added to Program
As it says on the company’s website, “from November 27, 2019, a redemption fee will be applied to each reward night you redeem. There's no fee if you redeem on our app. The fee helps us cover the costs of the program.”
If the objective of the change is to cover program costs, then one would think the charge would apply regardless of channel used for redemption. If the objective was more to influence behavior change to encourage members to use the mobile app, then the fee is an annoying way to stimulate that change.
We'd like to hear from Hotels.com about the reasons behind this new fee. We always make room for reasonable doubt to brands who make decisions that we may not understand on the surface of the announcement. But, for now, we have to “award” a Loyalty Asterisk© to Hotels.com for this change.
Introducing a change of this type is bound to confound program members and create more comment and controversy among online commentators than benefit for the company. Let’s see how this unfolds.