IF: David, it looks like you have a lot of new stuff coming out with GCCI, what are the two biggest things that you’ve introduced for members?
David: The two biggest things would be a global free night award and also elite tiers. The global free night award is a very generous award, since with our average rate it takes a little over 10 nights to earn the award and there are over 900 hotels included in that category. The global free night award can be redeemed at over 4,000 hotels in 83 countries. They are fully transferable meaning that if the member earns it and wants to give it away as a gift, he or she can do that. In addition, the award can be used on a weekday or weekend. So it can be used seven days a week.
IF: Can you tell us more about these elite levels, which haven’t been a formal part of GCCI before?
David: They have not been, but the elite-tier fulfillment has already been done. The folks that qualify for elite tiers have already received their credentials and their new cards. They can begin using them and receive benefits and recognition as a result. The rewards are that they get bonus points. The top level, the Diamond, earns 15 percent bonus points. The second level is Platinum and earns 10 percent bonus points. And they are also going to get quarterly gifts from us with a thank you letter. On top of it, they are going to get exclusive offers from us. They also get dedicated service and support; there is an 800 number they can call for assistance with reservations or redemption of awards or whatever. They can do point pooling within the same household. If members of the same household belong to the program and they want to pool their points together to redeem an award they can do that. They are going to get complimentary upgrades, late check out, early check in privileges when available.
IF: Isn’t it kind of unusual to give quarterly gifts? I don’t know of another program out there that does that.
David: I don’t think there is any program out there that does that.
IF: I guess it shows that maybe it’s the direction you are taking GCCI?
David: Yes, we want to build better relationships with our customers and our members. We believe that the frequent reminder that we value their business is important and there’s a small token of appreciation that goes along with it. I think it is important in building a relationship.
IF: A lot of people tend to overlook Best Western, I don’t know if they fully understand the depth of your network of hotels — you mentioned 4,000 properties. What, in your mind, are Best Western’s two biggest strengths that would attract members who are interested in a frequent guest program?
David: I think number one is the fact that we have distribution. We are the world’s largest hotel chain, we have hotels wherever people want to go and that is a huge strength. We like to make sure that people are aware of that. A lot of programs have only a couple hundred hotels and it’s very hard to earn points that way for frequent travelers. I think that the other thing is to make our program competitive, not only with the big boys. I think that with the introduction of our new enhancements, we are very competitive with the big boys but also far superior with the elite-tier programs.
IF: With most hotel programs there is that segment of the membership base that collects points for hotel use and then there is another segment of the membership base that collects points to redeem into airline miles. It looks like GCCI has one of the best transfer rates of points into miles in the frequent guest industry.
David: That is positively true, we have competitive research on several dimensions. With the airline mile conversions and the Diners Club and American Express point conversions, you’ll find that our program is one of the most generous if not the most generous.