Last updated: 05:00 PM ET, Mon May 11 2015

The New Rewards: Wyndham News Mirrors Changes in Traveler Loyalty

Hotel & Resort | Ryan Rudnansky | May 11, 2015

The New Rewards: Wyndham News Mirrors Changes in Traveler Loyalty

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Travelers want to trade in special offers and discounts for points and free nights.

That appears to be the way the world is rotating these days, and hotels are responding in suit.

Wyndham Hotel Group—the world’s largest hotel company based on number of hotels—recently announced the new loyalty program, Wyndham Rewards, complete with a $100 million ad campaign featuring a “Wyndham Rewards Wyzard.”

The rewards program is fairly straightforward: Earn 15,000 points and receive a free stay at any of Wyndham Rewards’ 7,500-plus properties. And Wyndham does mean any property, from a one-star hotel to a five-star luxury spread. For every stay, you receive 10 points for every dollar spent or 1,000 points, whichever is more.

On top of that, if loyalty program members want to use their points faster, they can receive a night at any participating Wyndham hotel for 3,000 points plus cash (cash amount depends on property), allowing for more flexibility.

Wyndham’s latest offering is indicative of what travelers are demanding these days. Travelers want a crystal clear points system, and they want that points system to be fair and simple. They don’t want to have to calculate how much they have to travel or spend to get a certain percentage of a stay off. In many cases, a free night is preferred over a discounted night, even if it takes travelers a little longer to earn it.

PointsHound, a San Francisco-based company acquired by Points International in 2013, has had success awarding loyalty program members with points and miles in exchange for booking on its site.

Pete Van Dorn, co-founder of PointsHound and current general manager of consumer services at Points, told TravelPulse in April, “I think the travel industry is notorious for all the different deal sites. I think customers have been seeing those types of offers and have kind of been beaten over the head with them from various travel brands. Taking that discount and passing it along as (points and miles)…that seems to be more effective marketing for brands, and I think that resonates more with consumers (particularly frequent travelers).”

Uber now rewards points to Starwood Hotels & Resorts loyalty program members who use its transportation service.

Expedia, perhaps the poster child of companies that offer discounts and special offers, has even delved into the points market, offering redeemable points for booking hotels, flights, activities and cruises.

The benefit of a reputable loyalty program is well documented, whether a hotel company is trying to attract leisure or business travelers.

The Expedia 2015 Small Business Behavior Index, based on a survey of more than 1,000 American small business travelers, found that 78 percent of small business travelers believe loyalty programs are important to them when booking a flight for business travel, while 77 percent believe loyalty programs are significant when booking a hotel. More than half (54 percent) believe loyalty programs are important when booking a car rental.

Starwood’s SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) and SPG Pro (for travel professionals) loyalty programs have been rather popular as members rack up “Starpoints.”

But Wyndham has perhaps gone a step further, not only offering a flat redemption rate for a free night, but also doing away with separate rewards categories, which can be confusing and laborious to travelers.

Given the way the travel industry is progressing, it’s likely that Wyndham Rewards will be a hit among travelers.

The only question is: Will it be a profitable move for Wyndham? That is, will the potential increase in overall bookings outweigh the number of free nights being granted at top-tier hotels?


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