Technology has transformed travel. From the ever-evolving online channels, to desktops to mobile phones and Internet-enabled devices such as smartwatches, booking hotels online is a booming business.

The hotel industry has been on the front lines of the evolving digital landscape for decades, partaking as one of the first industries to move the entirety of its products to the online marketplace in which hotel and lodging businesses now make up 15 percent of all online commerce on the U.S. internet, to the tune of 500 online hotel bookings per minute.

The hospitality model

Indeed, the hotel industry embraces a highly competitive business model that drives innovation, new technologies, and new methods to continuously improve the guest experience while connecting with millennials and future generations. With so many new ways to book a reservation, loyalty and rewards programs have become an effective way to build relationships with consumers, ensuring guests get what they want and need. Booking directly with the hotel helps ensure hotels meet their guests’ expectations, and guests get the personal connection that they desire.

As a guest-centric industry focused on superior customer service and ensuring guests have an exceptional experience from the beginning of their booking process to well after they leave, the value of rewards and loyalty programs has never been higher.

A survey conducted by GfK “KnowledgePanel” found that over half (54 percent) of Americans who have booked hotel rooms in the past year participate in a rewards or loyalty program, with the vast majority (84 percent) satisfied with them. Of those travelers participating in rewards programs, the most (70 percent) common reason was to accumulate points for free rooms and a majority (60 percent) confirmed they have saved money by being a member.

“... book-direct programs are a key way to integrate new customer experiences into a seamless stay ...”

Increasing personalization

Not only do rewards programs offer consumers opportunities to earn points for amenities, such as free rooms or upgrades, but they also enable hotels to directly interact with the consumer, customizing their wants and needs before they walk through the door until they walk out, and improving that one-on-one engagement to provide exceptional and personalized service.

With hospitality’s key focus on innovation and delighting customers with new experiences, book-direct programs are a key way to integrate new customer experiences into a seamless stay — everything from customized digital art in your room, to personalized robotic butler services — booking directly with a hotel will make traveling, staying, and enjoying, easier and more technologically connected than ever before.

In today’s ever-changing digital landscape, the hotel industry is morphing with the times and recognizes the need to find new standards, new sets of conveniences, and new innovative technologies for guests. Building that loyalty through personalized and tailored customer experiences is the guiding principal behind a successful loyalty program. There is fierce competition among all industry players, and direct booking and rewards programs have the capacity to promote consumers and put hotel guests’ first.