IF: Are you still looking for additional hotel partners? I see this as an alliance; you see it as a partnership. Give me an idea of how this came about.
Weyman: Hyatt and Hawthorn have had a history of working together. They have a reservation referral agreement, and we have done some other things together. That’s the foundation for starting to work together. And Hawthorn was extremely interested in becoming part of frequent guest program.
IF: Is that true Jon, you were considering a program of your own?
Leven: Starting your own program, even with 130-150 hotels, is still difficult to be competitive. You want to bring other customer to the program and give other customers the opportunities for both earning and redeeming. Our goal all along was to become part of a larger program. Hyatt is a natural fit for us because we’ve had a long-standing relationship with them. We’ve done some reservation referral with them in the past, which we continue to do today.
IF: Was there any ‘dating’ around with any other programs?
Leven: No, it took a little while to work out some of the internal and corporate issues on both sides but everybody had the same goal in mind.
IF: The big question is, as an affiliate of a hotel chain that currently doesn’t have a frequent guest program, the infrastructure to running a program isn’t easy sometimes. Will this be an automated process, if I’m flashing my Gold Passport card at Hawthorne will it be a manual process?
Weyman: It will be fully automated. It will operationally work the same way it does with Hyatt Hotels. All they will need to do is provide their Gold Passport number at time of reservations or at check-in. All their activity will be automatically tracked. Hawthorn will also be accepting all awards electronically.
IF: This is a partnership for hotel usage, its not related to elite level benefits?
Leven: Not today, We’re going in with a simple operation. If you look, for example, at Residence Inn with the Marriott program there are a number of things that Residence Inn does not do, it just doesn’t make sense. But as we grow we will certainly look at those.
IF: Your members currently earn five points per dollar with Hyatt, but I understand members with Hawthorn will earn three points per dollar over at Hawthorn Suites.
Weyman: Correct. We think we’ll be among the richest point accrual for extended stay properties in the industry as Hawthorne positions themselves as an upscale extended stay product.
IF: In airline alliances it’s not unusual for airlines to extend certain elite benefits back and forth, since this is hotel to hotel is there any discussion about benefits your elite members would have available with Hawthorn, is this an earn and burn partnership.
Weyman: I think initially we’ve chosen to begin a pure earning and redemption relationship, but I think there is an opportunity to expand beyond that in the future.