Hyatt looks to freebies for loyalty, acquisition

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In a customer acquisition and CRM initiative called “The Big Welcome,” Hyatt has launched two customer contests and expanded its Hyatt Gold Passport loyalty program. The contests began April 2.

The contests, intended to build buzz for the brand and further engage customers and prospects, offer a total of 31,095 free Hyatt nights as prizes. One contest is a sweepstakes, which will award one free night to 30,000 people. The other contest asks participants to submit an essay describing how they would create an “unforgettable Hyatt experience.” After being judged by Hyatt employees in a preliminary round, the finalists will move on to a semifinal round, in which visitors to initiative's microsite,, will be asked to vote. Winners — one from each of 3 global regions — will receive 365 free nights and 1 million airline miles.

“We have had sweepstakes before, but this contest is a great vehicle for us to provide authentic hospitality to a wide number of people,” said Farley Kern, director of brand public relations, Hyatt. “A lot of people are probably already loyal customers, but we think it will drive new people to the program, who are pretty likely to become loyal customers.”

Travelers ages 25-49, with an average household income of more than $75,000, are the target audience for these promotions. The Gold passport program already has close to 9 million members.

The contest entry process, which asks participants to enroll in Gold Passport or supply their existing member number should also help Hyatt in future marketing schemes. Once participants are identified by a Gold Passport ID, the site asks a series of questions about their travel habits before continuing on to contest entry; Kern said the data gathered here will help Hyatt send more relevant marketing messages to members in the future.

In addition, the contests are expected to help spread the word about the Gold Passport changes. Hyatt's redesigned Gold Passport program now offers complimentary Internet access, suite upgrades and no blackout dates on standard rooms, as well as expedited check-in.

“It's part of a long-term strategic effort, but with the current economic environment this is a great time to have some good news and a great time to remember that if we focus on what we do best — which is to provide authentic hospitality — we will be extremely well-positioned when this difficult time is over,” Kern said. “I think that the timing of a program like this, which is light-hearted and fun and interesting, stands out in a climate like this.

“We view this as an investment in our most valuable customers,” she added, “because the more loyal we are to them, the more loyal they will be to us.”

Hyatt is promoting the changes and the sweepstakes through messages on, e-mails to existing Gold Passport members, print ads and the Big Welcome microsite.

Global Hyatt Corporation operates more than 370 hotels in 44 countries worldwide.

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