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October 11, 2017

The Most Rewarding Hotel Loyalty Programs in 2017

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New data compiled last week suggests that Wyndham may have the most rewarding loyalty program in the American hotel industry. On average, Wyndham Rewards returns 16.7% in value on every dollar spent on a room booking, nearly twice as much as Marriott Rewards, the second-ranked program in the study which was published by the Ideaworks Company.

Ideaworks used a unique calculation to evaluate the most rewarding hotel loyalty program. In short, the study took the number of points earned on an average hotel booking and determined how that payback could be applied to a portion of a future booking. In Wyndham's case, for example, an average of 16.7% of each hotel night booked could be used for a future stay. Put another way, a $100/night room at a Wyndham property would result in $16.70 of credit towards another room -- or it would take 5.9 stays for an average member of Wyndham Rewards to earn an additional free night.

By contrast, Starwood Preferred Guest, the worst-ranked loyalty program in this study, produced a payback rate of 5.4%, or 18.5 nights to earn another night.

In order, the six hotel loyalty programs evaluated in this study ranked (with payback percent) were:

  1. Wyndham Rewards (16.7%)
  2. Marriott Rewards (8.8%)
  3. Hilton Honors (7.5%)
  4. Best Western (7.4%)
  5. IHG Rewards Club (6.7%)
  6. Starwood Preferred Guest (5.4%)
Marriott and Wyndham kept kept respective 2nd and 1st place rankings from last year, though Wyndham's payback went up from 13.6% to 16.7% while Marriott's went down from 9.0% to 8.8%. As well, Starwood stayed at the bottom of the annual rankings, moving from 5.6% last year to 5.4% this year.

Data from the study was aggregated from a series of over 1,300 manual searches performed by Ideaworks.

Wyndham's continued dominance in this study is a direct result of a recent aggressive overhaul of its loyalty program. In 2015, Wyndham Rewards was changed to make it easier to book free expensive rooms with credit from budget hotel stays, effectively building in higher rewards for budget travelers. That move made the program both widely popular with the business travel community and increased the value of potential high-end reward bookings.

Despite the high marks in this study, the data also doesn't suggest that Wyndham Rewards has the best perks for every traveler. Ideaworks only took into account the return value of each booking in its calculation and didn't consider the hotel network's reach (where Marriott would earn high marks), loyalty program partners (where Starwood would come out on top) or program flexibility (where Hilton would do well). After earning elite status with a particular hotel network, the equation would also dramatically change to account for room upgrades and other free perks.

Everyday travelers simply looking to earn free award nights as fast as possible, however, might seriously consider Wyndham rewards.


Copyright 2017 Forbes Media LLC. All rights reserved. From https://www.forbes.com. By Grant Martin, Contributor.
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