Interview with Nadja Weindl

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Interview with Nadja Weindl

July 8, 2014, In All news, Fairmas hotel report

Customer Loyalty Programmes in the Hotel Industry – An interview with Nadja Weindl, Director of Marketing, Choice Hotels Europe

SolutionsDotWG: When did you start using a customer loyalty programme?

Nadja Weindl: We first offered our premium programme Choice Privileges ® to the franchise hotels affiliated to us in Germany in 2008. The programme itself has been in existence since 1998 – for 15 years – and was originally launched on the North American market.

SolutionsDotWG: How much did it cost to set the programme up? What sort of costs are you currently looking at (in terms of financial outlay and working hours)?

Nadja Weindl: I’m sorry, I don’t have that sort of information at my disposal.

SolutionsDotWG: Every hotel chain has a customer loyalty programme. Is it still a competitive advantage?

Nadja Weindl: Yes, because a customer loyalty programme allows direct contact with regular guests. The massive changes in distribution caused by the Internet (on-line travel agents, customer review sites, etc.) have led to tougher competition in the hotel trade, as has the increase and amalgamation of distribution channels. We have to combat this by concentrating on direct connection to the guest in the B2C segment.

What does your company see as the three most important advantages of a customer loyalty programme?

Nadja Weindl: The franchise companies affiliated to us use an existing programme with a fully-functional infrastructure and an established network of partnerships which they could never build up as a single company. We can provide our guests with immediate information about the hotels in our corporation and so directly address loyal Choice customers and people interested in travelling rather than engaging in general advertising along the lines of the “watering can principle”. By cooperating with partners we can attract new groups of travel enthusiasts to our hotels.

SolutionsDotWG: How have the various services /additional benefits of the programmes changed for the guest in your hotels over the past few years?

Nadja Weindl: There are more offers for European members and also more European partnerships. We organise regular promotional campaigns for members, e.g. collecting triple points for your stay, or something of a similar nature.

SolutionsDotWG: How do your customer loyalty programmes differ from those of your competitors?

Nadja Weindl: The Choice Privileges Premium Programme allows members to quickly collect points for free overnight stays. A free night can already be had for approx. 10 overnight stays. We also offer a large network of hotels where the free night can be spent.

SolutionsDotWG: Are customer loyalty programmes a model which involves no risk for the guest and for the hotel itself? What dangers could there be for both sides?

Nadja Weindl: I see no risks in their application – neither for the guest nor for the hotel.

SolutionsDotWG: Data security is a big and emotionally charged topic at the moment. To which aspects of this should hotels be paying particular attention?

Nadja Weindl: By giving their unconditional approval guests can choose whether they want to receive our advertising or not. Hotels should be aware of this option and point it out to clients.
In general we adopt a very strict attitude to handling guest data. We have appropriate security measures in place within the corporation and issue corresponding directives to our affiliated hotels.

SolutionsDotWG: How do you communicate this to the guest?

Nadja Weindl: The relevant information and boxes to tick for approval are included in the registration form. In addition, all data privacy statements are accessible on-line. Our service centre is always available for questions and the newsletters in which we announce our promotional offers to members can be cancelled at any time.

SolutionsDotWG: What ways and possibilities do hotels have of increasing acceptance for customer loyalty programmes?

Nadja Weindl: On the one hand it’s vital that our employees at the hotel reception are well-trained in the use of the programmes. Staff that are personally convinced of the programme are more likely to persuade guests to make use of it. On the other hand the benefits and discounts offered in the programme must be sufficiently attractive – then they will be accepted. The transparency of the system is also very important.

SolutionsDotWG: How do you envisage the future? Where do you see the customer loyalty programmes in five years?

Nadja Weindl: As far as our Premium Programme Choice Privilege is concerned, we would like to raise the number of members while at the same time expanding the range of partnerships and services available to members and make the programme even more attractive.

SolutionsDotWG thanks you for the interview.

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