The end of loyalty for Red Lion Hotels


I had never heard of the Red Lion R&R club until last September when I ended up staying at one of their hotels in California. I signed up, of course, but never really expected to get much from the program and those expectations were met quite reasonably. What I was not expecting, however, is that the chain would essentially end their loyalty program, but that seems to be what is happening. Effective 31 May 2014 (yes, it already happened) the ability to earn points in their program ceased to exist. They are providing a 6 month sunset period where members can redeem existing points balances but come 30 November 2014 the old program is completely gone. And they’re spinning the decision as being good for customers.

The problem with many point-based loyalty programs is that they generally require members to earn their status and tier level before receiving earned benefits. Fundamentally, we believe a more hospitable approach is in order. We believe it is up to us to earn the loyalty of our guests. And we very much intend to earn your business throughout every stay. Having listened to our most frequent guests and their desire to be recognized as an individual who stays with us on a regular basis, we set out to create a program that makes our guests stand apart from the crowd and treats everyone as an individual.

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Apparently their best customers don’t want to earn points. Details on the new program are quite thin right now; only one benefit is still officially on the books, the 15% off rate for members.

The future Red Lion loyalty program is not your typical points-based membership with status and tiers. It is about recognizing and rewarding our members for doing things they already love to do. The future Red Lion loyalty program frees you from tracking your points while continuing to extend our most widely used member benefit, 15% off our best available rate through Lowest Rate Period, formerly known as Member Advantage.

And that is a significant benefit, to be sure. But it also means that the other benefits, like free internet access

We are building a program that responds to your insights and communicates with immediate gratification. Several principals guide the future membership program. We want you to feel recognized with tailored experiences that fuel your passions while providing surprise and delight experiences. So, look for more information as we transition R&R Club to the future Red Lion loyalty program.

Other benefits, like waiving the pet fee for guests with elite status in the program seem to be disappearing. So does the concept of status, it seems. Or points at all, given that guests will now be freed from needing to track them.

I certainly don’t expect any of the major hotel chains to copy this approach and wipe out their loyalty program, but it is definitely interesting to see a chain essentially shut down their loyalty scheme. Maybe things really will be useful in a few months as they re-launch but I’m not holding my breath. Even the delay in launching the new program makes me wonder if they’re serious about it. Then again, given how weak the program was anyways it is hard to believe that it was a driving factor for guest bookings. Maybe the costs of the program really weren’t worth it for them.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

6 Comments

  1. It would be nice if they could use correct grammar when eviscerating their prrogam:

    ‘Several principals guide the future membership program.’

    I think they meant several ‘principles’ as opposed to individuals. 😛

  2. The driving factor for guest stays at Red Lion are their locations in towns where they tend to be the best hotel around for a city like Eureka, California and Red Lion Lewiston, Idaho.

    I held a conference that came to an abrupt end in 1992 after being shook by a 7.2 earthquake at Red Lion Eureka and I had drinks at the brewpub in Red Lion Lewiston in 2003 where the hotel picked me up at the airport on a three hour layover to have dinner and beer at their hotel and then drove me back to the airport for my flight. That is customer service.

    Red Lion looked at selling their hotel chain and then pulled back from the decision. I doubt the hotel loyalty program changes will be a major impact on this small hotel chain.

  3. Who are the principals who govern their new program? Alternatively, did they mean principles?

  4. Maybe they will start a new loyalty program and this is just a way to get rid of the old points, etc.

    1. They have suggested that there will be a new program based on recognition on-property during the stays, plus the 15% discount for direct bookings. But with no further details and the note about no longer being distracted by needing to keep up with points I’m not too optimistic about that working out.

  5. Haha. I can finally cut up that card! Stayed at their Boise property almost 10 years ago on a priceline bid. Signed up on their program but never even earned a point. Maybe too many like me…

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