60 Seconds – November, 19 2002

60 Seconds – November, 19 2002

InsideFlyer:
Tell me about your busy days.

Strebel:
We’ve been busy working on our loyalty program, Trip Rewards, which we will be launching in 2003. At this point it’s a soft launch in March with maybe one or two brands, and then a hard launch with all brands in April.

IF:
You have Ramada and Howard Johnson’s. I would think that those franchise owners would be receptive because they’ve been participants (in loyalty programs) for awhile, don’t you think?

Strebel:
Yes, you bring up a good point. When we’re looking at franchise acceptance and the actual serving of the program, Ramada is a good brand today that has quite a bit of impact with their Club Ramada. Howard Johnson’s is familiar with it. The Travelodges are familiar with it. Wingate is.

The two big brands that don’t have exposure to a points-based program are Days Inn and Super 8. Days Inn has 2,200 locations and Super 8, 2,200 locations.

IF:
Those are big brands — although the franchises are more of the mom-and-pop type owners, wouldn’t you say?

Strebel:
With the Super 8 brand, believe it or not, you have a high percentage of people who own multiple units. Days Inn I would have to say is more of an individual ownership.

But I think the message I would like to get out there is that we’re building a state-of-the-art program. We’re building one of the first budget and mid-scale category programs and it’s going to be turbo-charged. We believe that a lot of the people that we’re going to expose to loyalty programs — the huge percentage out there — are people that have been sort of overlooked. Most loyalty programs in the past have really targeted the business traveler. We are going to have a strong leisure spin on ours.

IF:
Best Western’s and Ramada’s programs have been around a long time. Where did you guys get the idea of needing an all-brand program? What caused this movement by Cendant?

Strebel:
Number one, we saw with the programs that we have running today that the members that are active are our best customers. Two to three years ago, loyalty programs really shook the industry up. So at that point, we looked at our programs and decided to invest in Club Ramada and invest in Travelodge, invest in Howard Johnson’s. And why do this in silos? Why don’t we just create this major program for all brands? I think that’s why it’s taken us a bit longer; We’re trying to get nine brands on board.

IF:
I would read into that a very subtle reference to other brand names, not just hotel programs. Are there going to be any alliances, anything else you have going?

Strebel:
The program is basically going to be a combination of a lot Cendant brands. Guests will be able to obtain points or miles with a variety of Cendant brands, not just hotel brands.

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