Rotana Rewards goes global

Regional chain Rotana Hotels has launched a new rewards scheme with a global reach tailored to meet guest demands, with discounts, points and gifts

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By  Sarah Campbell Published  May 16, 2005

|~|DanielHajjar.jpg|~|Rotana Rewards is different to other rewards programmes, says Hajjar|~|Rotana Hotels, Resorts and Suites launched the latest edition of its guest loyalty programme Rotana Rewards in April. The Rotana Rewards Exclusive programme combines discounts, points and alliances with frequent flyer programmes, and can be used at Rotana properties across the region. The Exclusive programme took six months to devise, with Rotana undertaking market research of similar programmes being used worldwide, as well as surveying its repeat customers, in an effort to come up with a unique offer for loyal diners and hotel guests. The differentiating factor? A rewards scheme that gives points that are redeemable against non-hotel related rewards, such as mobile phones, perfumes and household items. The new rewards programme shows that, once again, the regional chain is holding its own against international companies. “After six months of preparation and study, Rotana were able to devise a programme launched under the name of Rotana Rewards. It is very unique in terms of its features and generosity, and can be used at Rotana everywhere in the Middle East,” says Imad Elias, executive vice president, Rotana Hotels. The Rotana Rewards Exclusive programme has a membership enrolment fee of Dhs. 750 (US $200). The programme itself operates on three levels. Firstly, it is a discount card for diners and hotel guests. Diners holding a membership card can dine for free for one year, when accompanied with a paying guest. The programme also entitles diners to a 15% discount on beverages, and a discount on room rates. Second, Rotana has teamed up with loyalty programme company Airmiles to offer Rotana Rewards members points on every dirham spent, which can be redeemed for over 700 gifts. Members will receive two points for every one dirham spent. Third, the programme offers ‘Double Earnings’ with the members earning miles and points from Rotana’s partner airlines’ frequent flyer programmes when staying at Rotana properties. Rotana Rewards Exclusive joins Rotana Rewards Classic, a programme that rewards hotel bookers. A third Rotana Rewards category will be launched later this year. “In 1997, we were the first regional hotel company to launch an F&B dining card with our Preferred Choice Rotana loyalty card. Everyone else has launched similar programmes since then,” says Daniel Hajjar, vice president sales & marketing, Rotana Hotels. “So we researched the market around the world to come up with a programme with three cards under one Rotana Rewards brand. The Rotana Rewards Classic card was launched a year back to target the administration staff at companies we do regular business with. It was to reward bookers for pushing the Rotana brand. We currently have 6,000 members, and last year this programme generated Dhs. 30 million (US $8 million) in revenue. “Since then, we have taken it a step further. With the Rotana Rewards Exclusive cardholders can use the card in any restaurant for one year and eat for free, when accompanied by a paying guest. There are also discounts on beverages, and on rooms. The card entitles the bearer to guaranteed discounts,” says Hajjar. “We thought this is not enough, and asked ourselves ‘What else can we do?’” So we decided to offer a late check out, enabling cardholders to keep their room until 6pm at no extra charge. “However, Imad Elias, executive vice president, Rotana Hotels, said it was still not enough! So we came up with the points system, and this was where the programme really became unique,” Hajjar explains. Rotana has partnered with Airmiles to offer over 700 gifts, including mobile phones, jewellery, and travel packages. “This is where the programme is very different. As a package, we feel this will be very well received by the market,” Hajjar maintains. In addition, Rotana is entering into an alliance with Thistle Hotels so that Rotana Rewards members can receive points when staying in hotels outside of the Middle East. The card will be accepted in 50 Thistle hotels in the UK, as well as 60 other hotels in Scandinavia and 15 in the USA. Karl Lupson, loyalty & partnership programmes director, Rotana Hotels, was brought in to devise the programme. “There is an annual membership fee of Dhs. 750 for the Exclusive package. However, members will get their money back each and every time they dine,” he explains. “Something that is new is a special one time dining certificate with a value of Dhs 250, which can be used in restaurants, lounges, bars and cafes at Rotana properties. What’s more, when you join, the points programme is immediately credited with 1,000 points, and members earn 500 points as a referral bonus for each friend that joins,” he adds. Members will be able to receive gifts and complementary stays once they have achieved 4,000 points or more. “We found that the guests wanted gifts that are not always related to the hotels. Those are still included, but there are 650 other gifts to choose from. Generally, these are gifts that people can use on a daily basis, like jewellery, perfumes and children’s toys. Most of our competitors give prizes that are related to the hotel company, so we will be competitive in giving points and prizes,” Lupson remarks. Rotana hotels enjoy a repeat business average of 40%, which is why devising the right kind of rewards scheme was so important. Rotana hopes to receive 10,000 members in the first year, and see an increase of 15% each year after that. This is in line with the hotel company’s expansion in the region. Today, Rotana operates 20 hotels, with four hotels opening in 2005 and 12 opening in 2006. The portfolio will reach 35 hotels in the next two years. Rotana Hotels recorded an average occupancy of 80% in 2004. The group forecasts an increase in occupancy, average room rate and yield in 2005. “2004 was our best year ever and trading continues to go great in the UAE,” says Hajjar. “In 2005 we are looking at a 22% increase in 2004 figures. This is because the UAE is still performing exceptionally well, and because we are opening four new properties across the region, with two opening on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, a hotel opening in Damascus in May, and a 600-room spa resort opening in Egypt in July.” ||**||

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