DR's Getaway1 Nov, 2008 By: Jacqueline Renfrow Response
One hotel chain that spends a large amount of money DR marketing to its rewards customers is the United Kingdom-based Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG). When Ken Bott, director, global consumer marketing and CRM, IHG, joined the company four years ago, the group's Priority Club had 20 million members — today, it has more than 40 million. IHG began one of the first hotel loyalty programs in 1983, but the programs have become more widespread in the last five years.
In its second year, the Smart Show campaign, created exclusively for Holiday Inn Express priority members, was designed to offer a low-barrier tool for the customer to communicate directly with the brand and continue an ongoing relationship.
"As things tighten, people focus more on what they're spending, and there's more value here on the hotel side of things," says Bott. "One of the trends in the industry is that it used to be a rebate currency, but now it's social currency." People no longer want hotel points — they want to use those points for a day with the family at Disney World.
Cree Lawson, founder/CEO, Travel Ad Network, agrees, saying that the competition is so tight that marketers now have to lead with amenities, not prices, to get consumer attention. "For example, Jet Blue's tag line is bragging about leg room," he says. "Fuel prices have killed them so they have to lead with features."
Joining the Conversation
The Web is usually the first stop for someone planning to travel. According to a Prospectiv poll, 72 percent of consumers who are looking for travel discounts go through online resources and use the Web as their primary resource for special offers. And 60 percent of those polled preferred to learn about travel offers through online resources they signed up for.
There are many Web sites that just focus on travel deals and arrangements such as Travelocity, Expedia and other online travel agencies (OTAs). These Web sites can benefit partnering airlines, car rental companies and hotel chains; however, they also create competition and take away from brand awareness. The online competition is what inspired Lawson to start the Travel Ad Network in 2003. The New York-based company, which began by building niche travel Web sites, now sells ads on 7 million Web sites.
Travel Scream offers online travel deals where the information is relevant. For example, a customer reading about Aruba on Randmcnally.com can immediately click on a link to get travel deals for the island.
"The number of travel Web sites and users skyrocketed over the past five years," says Lawson. "There are 10,623 travel Web sites in the U.S." Some of Lawson's clients include Lonelyplanet.com and Randmcnally.com. "We've put together banner ad campaigns across 200 Web sites, working with 160 advertisers a month." Travel Ad Network is the exclusive sales force for its partnering sites and sells space such as banner ads, cost-per-click (CPC) and E-mails.