Feb012016

Isn’t guest recognition the whole point of a hotel loyalty program?

My stay last week at Best Western Leidse Square Amsterdam had me thinking generally: What is the whole point of a hotel loyalty program?

Points for booking free and reduced rate room nights are a big part of it, but the significance of earning points as a motivator for choosing hotels based on brand assumes a lesser proportion of the whole hotel loyalty scheme when the value of points diminishes over time. Devaluation is almost a universal axiom of hotel loyalty and frequent flyer programs.

How many more miles does it take to fly the same route and class of service with United Mileage Plus or Delta Skymiles than it did five years ago?

Hotel loyalty programs risk falling into that spiral too with only the factor of so much lodging choice availability for consumers reducing the pace of devaluation for hotel rooms relative to airline tickets. Low cost carriers force legacy airlines to increase competitive fare sales and Airbnb forces hotels to offer more hotel guest benefits.

My hotel stay at Best Western Leidse Square Amsterdam bothered me

My hotel stay at Best Western Leidse Square Amsterdam bothered me for making me realize that even with a technologically advanced country like the Netherlands and even with a global hotel loyalty program like Best Western Rewards, this Amsterdam hotel and the Best Western Rewards global reservations system did not seem to have any connection with each other.

My reservation was registered in my Best Western account for three days before arrival. Yet, the hotel check-in registration process was like I would imagine a Soviet-era 1980s hotel check-in process would have been like in Russia? Or perhaps is still like in Russia?

Anyway, I did not expect to get a Cold War style hotel guest registration paper form. I filled out my name, address, passport number, but I left one question blank:

“Are you a Best Western Rewards member?”

with two large boxes to check YES or NO.

Every hotel guest and couple in the lobby was speaking a different language when not trying to speak English. Certainly that question is for all those other guests who may have never stayed in a Best Western brand hotel before or even know there are hotel loyalty programs.

I hold Diamond elite status in Best Western Rewards. Certainly this hotel must already know my membership status with my Best Western Rewards guest profile attached to my hotel reservation booked through the Best Western mobile app?

Best Western Amsterdam Leidse Square hotel does not know its Best Western loyalty member guests prior to arrival.

In disbelief, I spoke with a few different front desk staff during my stay to ascertain that the hotel staff agree on the issue they do not have any Best Western Rewards member information for their guests prior to check-in. One staffer showed me a sample of their guest information form pointing out that there is no Best Western Rewards information on the form.

Another staffer told me they don’t really get Best Western Rewards Diamond members at the hotel and they do not offer any recognition gift, a benefit listed in the Best Western Rewards elite member benefit guidelines for Platinum, Diamond and Diamond Select members.

Best Western Amsterdam Leidse Square

Best Western Leidse Square sign   Best Western Leidse Square ext

Best Western Leidse Square lobby1   Best Western Leidse Square lobby2

Best Western Leidse Square is a fairly basic three star hotel in a great Amsterdam location behind Marriott Amsterdam. The hotel is a few minutes walk to Leidseplein, one of the city’s main entertainment and shopping areas. Vondelpark is around the corner, the main Amsterdam city park around 120 acres, or 47 hectares as they say in Europe. The hotel has a prime central location for easy access to Museumplein, about 15 minutes walk to visit Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum.

With my key in hand after guest check-in at 3pm, I walked through the breakfast room to find a small hallway behind the kitchen pantry with two, maybe three hotel room doors. These appeared to be the only guest rooms in this part of the hotel as there were no stairways. There was also a toilet door in the hallway on the opposite wall across from my room; for breakfast diners I presumed, after seeing my room included its own toilet. 

BW Leidse room

BW Leidse room-2

BW Leidse room 3

Best Western Leidse Square very basic guest room.

I looked around my 59 EUR per night room. Three photos basically covered it.

Perhaps this hotel did not know I was a Best Western Rewards Diamond elite member? I returned to the desk and asked. I questioned the front desk staffer if she knew about Diamond elite member benefits? She spent some time on the computer. I think she looked up Best Western Diamond benefits. A conversation with a colleague commended, two of them speaking in Dutch. Best Western Diamond were the only words I understood.

End result. I went to the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, worked at the desk and slept in the bed for 7 hours, then caught a tram to Centraal Station..

The only other notable aspect of the room was its location next to a construction site with the jackhammer starting at 7am, out competing  in volume over the voices of the breakfast serving staff standing at the doorway of the small corridor talking, about 10 feet away from my room door.

This is the best Amsterdam Leidse Square Hotel could do for a Best Western Rewards Diamond elite in an 89-room hotel?

Isn’t guest recognition the whole point of a hotel loyalty program?

This Best Western Amsterdam hotel stay reminded me of why I became significantly involved in hotel loyalty programs 16 years ago. I had already amassed sufficient frequent flyer miles to fly around frequently in international business and first class with Oneworld and Star Alliance. A year of travel, flying in jetsetter style and staying in three star unpredictable quality hotels when booking non-chain hotels based on low rate alone or landing in the most undesirable rooms in 3-star and 4-star hotels booked on Priceline provided too many disappointing hotel stays.

Hotel loyalty programs, especially with high elite status, reduced the number of disappointing hotel stays I have had these past 15 years by a large degree.

Hotel loyalty programs made those nights of being in the hotel’s most undesirable room a faded memory. Best Western Leidse Square brought back those memories of traveling to hotels with no guest recognition.

BW Leidse Square ext2

Best Western Amsterdam Leidse Square Hotel 

I took a chance with Best Western Leidse Square after staying at Best Western Premier Amsterdam Hotel Couture on this same trip. I wanted to compare the Best Western hotel choices between staying at a higher market segment 4-star Amsterdam hotel with a more distant location (15 minutes to Leidseplein by Tram 2) at a slightly lower price (58 EUR) to a centrally located 3-star Amsterdam hotel close to Leidseplein at a comparable rate (59 EUR).

For me, the total lack of Best Western Rewards elite member recognition by Best Western Leidse Square made my final evaluation easy.

Next time I’ll go with the vastly superior room and amenities available at Best Western Premier Amsterdam Hotel Couture and spend an extra 15 minutes on the tram going to and from the more distant hotel.

Best Western Leidse Square TripAdvisor.com ranking = #171 of 358 Amsterdam Hotels.

Best Western Premier Amsterdam Hotel Couture TripAdvisor.com ranking = #40 of 358 Amsterdam Hotels.

Best Western Leidse Square reward category = 28,000 points     February to December 2016.

Best Western Premier Amsterdam Hotel Couture = 24,000 points February to December 2016.

Loyalty TravelerBest Western Premier Amsterdam Hotel Couture hotel review (Jan 31, 2016).

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

More articles by Ric Garrido »

Comments

  1. No offense. But you spent $60 on a hotel room. Best Western Choice and Wyndham are clearly known for their lack of loyalty programs.

  2. Great post Ric!

    I think regardless of where a BW hotel is located around the world, if it is part of a branded franchise it is the responsibility of that particular BW to uphold and respect the terms of the program that is in place for frequent hotel travelers. Hope you share your experience with BW head office.

  3. @Sean – Is there a lower room rate at which loyalty benefits do not apply?

    The following night I stayed at Holiday Inn Leiden on a 36 EUR per night rate. I was greeted by front desk staff as an IHG Rewards Club Platinum member and received a room upgrade with an elite member welcome amenity choice of a free drink at bar or 500 IHG Rewards Club points.

    Best Western Rewards has recently announced changes to improve its program for 2016. A program is only as good as its individual hotel delivery system for guests.

  4. Similar to Sean’s comment – I would have low expectations for a 60EU room, and what you are reporting is consistent with those low expectations. If I had spent 200-300EU for the room (e.g. Paris, London, Washington DC), then yes, I would have something to complain about, but for such a cheap rate, I’d be happy to have a bed, heat, and running water in the bathroom. Based on your photos and my personal travel experience, I certainly have paid more money for a smaller room with less amenities.

  5. @ric, you missed Sean’s other point when addressing. Best Western is known for not rewarding it’s elite members. I too am diamond and have been conditioned by BW to expect nothing.

  6. Choice Privileges is a highly valuable loyalty program for my travels. I received several room upgrades in Canada, Denmark and Norway as Choice Privileges Gold. For 2016 I am Choice Privileges Platinum, but have not stayed at a Choice Hotel since earning Platinum status.

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