Leading Hotels' Leaders Club Signs Up Many Followers

The Leading Hotels of the World Ltd. has seen active members in its refurbished Leaders Club loyalty program rise from 15,000 to 25,000 in the past six months thanks in part to a database marketing system implemented last summer.

Leading Hotels represents more than 420 hotels, resorts and spas including The Beverly Hills Hotel, Los Angeles; The Ritz Hotel, London; Villa D'Este, Lake Como, Italy; and the One & Only Palmilla, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Based in New York, the company provides marketing and reservation services through 24 regional offices.

In 2003, Leading Hotels decided to revamp its 9 1/2-year-old loyalty program. But the company first needed to organize all of its data into one database. Though it had a database vendor, the program was not organized in the best fashion.

“We had disparate data sources as a result of many channels used to book reservations and a lot of bookers entering the system,” said Allison Cripps, director of loyalty marketing at Leading Hotels.

In addition, each regional office had its own customer database and collected only certain pieces of data. The company needed one, integrated database that would let regional offices enter reservation data and other information from existing Leaders Club members that hotel members could access anywhere. And it wanted to be able to access the data easily.

The company outsourced the database job to Quaero SpringBoard, a hosted customer relationship marketing system. Quaero, Charlotte, NC, has clients like Marriott and Starwood Resorts. Leading Hotels also worked with Loyaltyworks Inc., Atlanta, which offers loyalty and relationship marketing consulting. The companies began work on the database/loyalty program in early 2004, and it was operating by July 2005.

The new Leaders Club offers special recognition and service when members book their hotel stays through Leading Hotels, including a room upgrade, early check-in, late checkout and a welcome gift. Members also receive access to a new Web site with more offers, priority reservations, access to a department for worldwide assistance and a newsletter and e-newsletter “Expressions” with information and offers.

The program also offers a fee option level. For $300, members can join Leaders Club Access, which provides concierge service and a special rate guaranteeing an upgraded room. For $2,000, and by invitation only, Leaders Club Unlimited members gain access to a full-time concierge. Cripps said 25 percent of members are in the paid levels.

Direct mail is not part of the marketing mix because Leaders Club members aren't at home enough to get their mail. The typical member travels 63 nights a year. Also, “our audience is from so many different countries and speak so many different languages, direct mail would be cost-prohibitive,” Cripps said. Ten percent is from Asia-Pacific, 45 percent from the Americas and 45 percent from Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Earlier this year, Leading Hotels' Web site had a waiting list so members could join the new Leaders Club. People had to give their names and e-mail addresses to join. One reason the program increased membership was because it let the organization send targeted e-mail to people who had made a reservation with one of the hotels. The organization now regularly sends various Leaders Club acquisition e-mails.

When members join, they also get education-oriented e-mails detailing their benefits, and they are regularly sent promotions for the hotels and Leading Hotels' partners, such as Lufthansa, American Express and Crystal Cruises.

The member hotels are sent stay-based communications so they know details about a member before the arrival date. Preferences are collected for Leaders Club members when they sign up for the program, and they can change them at any time at the Leaders Club site. The software notifies a hotel about a guest's preferences 72 hours before arrival.

Melissa Campanelli covers postal news, CRM and database marketing for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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