DENVER—RLH Corporation is leveling the playing field for guests who aren’t frequent travelers. Now, members of Hello Rewards are able to collect Hello Bucks every stay and spend the digital currency on future stays with the hospitality company.
“Hello Bucks is the new Hello Rewards currency that was designed to make earning and redeeming easier than ever for our members,” said Leslee Torres, SVP of digital, loyalty and partnerships at RLH Corp. “Members earn Hello Bucks on every qualifying stay, regardless of channel, and can apply those Hello Bucks to future bookings on redlion.com.”
The hospitality company has been working on redeveloping its guest recognition program, Hello Rewards, and developing Hello Bucks for the last year or so. “Developing a new digital currency meant creation of backend systems that ensure guests get their Hello Bucks,” she said. “We had to work closely with several vendors to ensure that each element speaks to each other and [helps]deliver the Hello Bucks in a timely manner, no matter how the guest booked. Additionally, once guests receive their Hello Bucks, we had to ensure our booking system could apply the Hello Bucks, like a credit, when a guest wants to use them toward a reservation.”
RLH Corp. discovered the following during its research on loyalty programs: competitor loyalty programs are expensive; traditional loyalty programs have no benefits for the average traveler; and hotel owners want more direct reservations.
“We have restructured Hello Rewards to be highly relevant for the average American traveler who takes 7.6 trips per year on average,” Torres said. “These travelers often don’t find relevance within traditional points-based programs. Additionally, brand loyalty is diminished as you move down the scale. With Hello Bucks, members will be able to use their rewards as early as their very next stay or save them up. This way, a guest who only travels a few times a year can get the benefits of being loyal to RLH Corp. brands.”
As a result of its findings, RLH Corp. rebuilt the Hello Rewards program on three specific themes: simple (make Hello Rewards as easy as possible to participate in—for members and hotels); gratifying (reward members early and allow them to use rewards often); and engaging (if Hello Rewards is simple and gratifying, then, hopefully, members will engage with the company’s brands).
“We also made the program more rewarding for our franchisees,” Torres said. “On any Reward Stay (when Hello Bucks are applied), properties are reimbursed 90% of the gross rooms revenue, effectively a 10% commission that funds the new model. Hotels pay no fees on stays that earn Hello Bucks. As a result, the program is cheaper than most other loyalty programs out there. Competitor programs cost 5.3% on average before flat fees or enrollment penalties. Meanwhile, Hello Rewards costs 1% of all member spend paid in fees, saving hotels 4.3%. Hello Bucks also drives guests to book direct on redlion.com, reducing the cost of the reservation for hotels, compared to bookings on the OTAs.”
Unlike other industry loyalty programs, no matter the brand or length of stay, Hello Rewards awards guests—no matter how loyal they are—10 Hello Bucks per hotel stay. “Each Hello Buck can be redeemed for $1 in local currency off their next stay,” Torres said. There’s a no-blackout-dates policy.
“At this point, Hello Bucks can only be applied toward room nights, but we hope in the future to offer in-hotel rewards, such as being able to use Hello Bucks for F&B and are looking into other partnerships, such as retail gift cards,” she said.
Hello Bucks can be redeemed through the new redlion.com and will be earned on qualifying stays at all Hotel RL, Red Lion Hotels, Red Lion Inn & Suites, Lexington Hotels, Signature Inn, GuestHouse, Knights Inn, Americas Best Value Inn and Canadas Best Value Inn hotels.
All guests need to do to sign up is visit redlion.com/joinhellorewards and provide basic contact information. Hello Rewards has three main components to it: Hello Bucks, Hello Rates and Hello Perks, which is expected to undergo some major changes this year.
“We are currently working on evolving our Hello Perks program,” she said. “Through partnerships, guests will receive surprising extras, such as digital gift cards, on-site rewards and perks to use in the future. These will be our surprise and delight moments that have been extremely successful since the launch of the Hello Rewards program.
“Guests have grown to expect and anticipate rewards and perks for staying at specific hotels and showing loyalty to a brand,” Torres continued. “However, loyalty programs have become extremely stale, and we have seen little innovation or evolution in the last 10 years. As consumers continue to expect instant gratification, I believe we will see a decrease in engagement with traditional points-based hotel loyalty programs that take on average at least eight stays to see any benefit. Instead, we will see more on-demand perks and benefits from as early as a first stay with a brand, to drive return and loyalty from the start.” HB