Hotel Loyalty Group adds NH Hotels and doubles its reach

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Skift grip

Global Hotel Alliance has 21 million members after joining the Spanish group NH. It could now have an eclectic mix of global indie brands, but will have to watch its rivals’ next steps closely: if they don’t merge, they are leveraging their vastly larger size and scale to secure new partnerships of loyalty outside traditional reception channels. .

Matthew Parson

Loyalty and distribution platform Global Hotel Alliance has signed a partnership with NH Hotel Group which will now nearly double its membership as rival chains scale their own programs to win more direct business.

The Spanish chain has 340 hotels worldwide, bringing the alliance’s network to more than 800 hotels, covering 40 brands in 100 countries. The 10 million members of the hotel group’s NH Rewards program are now moving to the Global Hotel Alliance’s Discovery loyalty program, extending it to 21 million members.

Hotels are expanding their loyalty programs in several ways. They offer customers more flexibility in the new post-pandemic world, but the ultimate goal is to compel repeat customers to book directly through their websites, which helps properties reduce the amount they pay to third parties, especially online travel agencies.

They become more creative. Marriott, for example, has 55 million Bonvoy members in the Asia-Pacific region alone and develops payment and superapp alliances as well as co-branded credit cards.

InterContinental Hotels Group revamped its loyalty program in April, adding a new tier and bonus point earning structure that allows guests to choose bonuses rather than receive standard bonuses at 6,000 franchise properties.

Hotel mergers are also accelerating. Choice Hotels announced Monday that it will acquire Radisson Hotel Group Americas, further shrinking the loyalty pool.

East meets West

For NH, its former “Rewards” members retain the value of their points and other benefits, including member rates with up to 10% off and additional rewards when booking on the NH website.

Key to its success, however, will be a new kind of new cross-pollination between the dozens of brands the alliance is home to; NH Group brings with it NH Hotels, NH Collection and nhow, but the alliance also has around 40 other brands, including Kempinski, Corinthia and Doyle Collection. And with its ties to Thailand’s Minor Group, of which 160 hotels including Anantara, Avani, Elewana Collection, Oaks and Tivoli are already member brands, the alliance manages to bridge the gap between east and west. NH Hotel Group is majority owned by Minor.

Global Hotel Alliance says it is now the largest alliance of independent hotel brands, and its CEO said he believes he is now better placed to take advantage of a new class of ‘hybrid’ travelers who want more variety.

“The loyalty program platform we’re building and the kind of brands we have are interesting because we have an eclectic and rich mix of brands, from a premium point of view for the evolving traveler,” said said Christopher Hartley, adding that the business of tomorrow The Traveler is now moving away from a “commodified” persona to embrace a broader mix of leisure and business.

“They stand out in a stable of brands, unlike Marriotts and Hiltons, which have a standardized, standardized product portfolio,” Harltey added.

Global Hotel Alliance recently revamped its loyalty program with Discovery Dollars. This allows members to earn and spend at any property in its Discovery portfolio. There are also more levels and a Live Local feature that offers “around the corner” lifestyle experiences.

“The new currency is ultimately attractive to this new emerging hybrid leisure customer,” Hartley said.

The CEO of NH Hotel Group meanwhile told Skift that business had surged to pre-pandemic levels, after a disastrous 2020, with more guests mixing work and leisure, and staying longer. By contrast, Hartley said the alliance’s “overall” international business has returned to around 70% currently.

“Before Thursday was a departure day, now it’s check-in day,” said Ramon Aragones. He thinks NH hotels are ready for future business guests, having outfitted rooms with the necessary amenities for hybrid workers during the pandemic. Now the focus should be on the customer experience, he argued.

“At the end of the day, a hotel is a hotel and the customer wants a specific level of service,” Aragones said. “Not all customers want the same thing. Now we are part of Discovery which increases our possibilities.

Hotels are doing their best to circumvent the labor shortage, but Hartley isn’t too worried. “I don’t see people leaving the industry forever,” he said. However, what was needed was “a combined industry effort to remind people why travel is such an attractive industry to join… This is a temporary problem. More than a recruitment campaign, it is a communication campaign.

The alliance will also continue to build relationships with travel management companies and directly with travel buyers, Hartley added.

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