HotelTonight considering a loyalty program


Building a loyalty program where you run the product is a challenge. Giving away free rooms or flights is much more expensive if you don’t own the hotel or airline, for example. But HotelTonight, a booking engine once focused solely on last-minute rooms, appears to be working towards a loyalty launch based on a survey I recently received.

There were two main sections to the survey, one about tier names and another about possible benefits. The names section was mostly awful to me:

  • Dusk, Night, Midnight
  • Blue, Purple, Black
  • Amethyst, Sapphire, Diamond
  • Club, VIP, All Access
  • Insider, Epic, Legend
  • Lobby, Mezzanine, Rooftop
  • Pregame, Party, After Party

At least three of those I wouldn’t know the relative values if you shuffled them. And the dude-bro style of some is awful to me. But the tier names mostly don’t matter. Call me anything you want so long as I get decent benefits from the program. And, unfortunately, it doe not appear that HotelTonight has a ton working in their favor on that front, either.

  • Priority customer support
  • Exclusive cocktail party at HotelTonight HQ (with the founders)
  • Better amenities: free WiFi, free breakfast, etc.
  • Get $ (ex. $10) back each quarter for spending money at the hotel (minibar, room service, etc)
  • Last-minute reservations at the city’s hardest to get into restaurants
  • Discounts on food & drink at cool bars, restaurants and events in the city
  • Exclusive HotelTonight merchandise (ex. custom barware sets, HT member-only t-shirts)
  • Room upgrades
  • Exclusive app features (ex. features that give you access to more deals, more hotels)
  • Surprise deals & coupons only available to your status level
  • Access to Aces Concierge (our in-app concierge) with all of your bookings
  • Free cancellation per quarter
  • Access to spontaneous challenges (for example, save $200 if you book a High Roller suite this weekend)
  • Better discounts because of your status level

Delivering the branded products/access is likely to be much less expensive than figuring out how to deliver room upgrades, especially with the large variety in the style of hotels on the site. I also question the ability to deliver well on last-minute reservations or discounts to venues on a global basis. If I’m using HotelTonight in Norwich, England (like I did last week) that’s a much lower value proposition than using it in a major city.

Better discounts, more deals and coupons are the type of thing that present real value. They’re also the most expensive to deliver on as they eat into margins. That adds up to a rough challenge in building and delivering for “loyal” users of the app. That said, the company may have to invest some real money to draw users to the site more frequently. In recent searches I’ve done it has not had exclusive deals. And booking direct at the same price gets me more value in most cases.

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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, LinkedIn and .

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