Hotel to Business Guests: Bring the Family

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La Quinta Hotels is trying to get its business guests to book their family vacations with the hotel chain as well.


La Quinta, Dallas, targeted all 550,000 active La Quinta Returns program members with an 8 1/2-by-5 1/2-inch postcard that dropped the first week of June. The offer was a free night as well as program points in exchange for three stays during the promotion period of June 9-Sept. 14.


"We've tied our summer campaign to our frequency program," said Carlos Adams, vice president of relationship marketing, "and we're gearing it toward family summer travel and leisure travel. We are looking for the business traveler to earn the credit and use the free night for their leisure travel as part of a family vacation."


Program members are 75 percent male with an average household income of $75,000 or more. Eighty-five percent of their travel is for business, usually within 300 miles of home, done mostly by car. Also, 90 percent are married with an average age of 55-60. They mainly live in the Sun Belt, with Texas and Florida accounting for a significant percentage of members.


"We analyzed the number of stays a member would have in the summer, and we are pushing them to stay one more time, or, in some cases, to stay twice in the summer after already having stayed once, to earn the incentive," Adams said.


The goal is a 10 percent rise in the number of stays by program members.


"Our free-night certificates are good seven days a week as opposed to just weekends, which is often the case with other hotels' frequency offers," he said.


La Quinta has mailed more than 12,000 certificates during the initial four weeks of the program, "a little above target at this point." Adams anticipates 100,000 certificates to be mailed.


The average stay at La Quinta by program members is 1.5 nights, or $85.50, based on an average room rate of $57 per night.


"It's very aggressive, and we know the offer is lucrative enough to push [members] and produce overall growth because of the free night and the points," he said. "We know it's driving behavior, and we're doing better than we anticipated, but it's early."


La Quinta tracks program members who book three stays during the promotion period, and their program points are automatically credited. The free night is provided through the certificate, mailed to their home after the third stay is completed. Certificates can be used through the end of March 2004.


For members who are constantly on the road, a maximum of three certificates can be earned, based on nine stays during the promotion period.


The image in the postcard is three smiling children enjoying themselves in a swimming pool.


"We went through many images, and [the kids in the pool] portrayed school-age kids in a classic summer setting with them in the pool -- happy and carefree," he said. "It emphasized the fact that the family is traveling and makes it very active with them having fun in the pool."


"THINK OF THE POSSIBILITIES. STAY 3 TIMES. GET A NIGHT FREE," appears on the postcard to the right of the image of the children. Copy on the other side reads: "Being part of La Quinta Returns just got better! As a La Quinta Returns member, you have been automatically enrolled in our 'Stay 3 Times. Get A Night Free.' Summer Promotion." The chain's toll-free number appears on both sides.


The postcard's cost per piece was pegged at less than 30 cents, including postage and creative. Marketing agency firstMarketing, Pompano Beach, FL, created it.


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