60 Seconds with Loews Hotels YouFirst

60 Seconds with Loews Hotels YouFirst

Loews Hotels recently relaunched its loyalty program. The revamped YouFirst program replaces the LoewsFirst program and offers modified benefits at all member levels (see “LoewsFirst? No, YouFirst” in this issue’s InsideEdition section for full program details). We spoke with Nancy Mendelson, SVP Marketing, Loews Hotels about the new program.

InsideFlyer
Why did Loews decide to change the LoewsFirst program to YouFirst?
Nancy Mendelson
It’s been coming for quite a while. The change is basically based on our members’ input, the changing marketplace and on the changing economy. We looked at what is valuable to a guest in 2008 as opposed to 12 years ago when the program first started. The change to YouFirst was made because we wanted to keep the program fresh and evolve, based on the changing demands and needs of our guests.

IF
How long have you been working on the new program and what are some of the steps you took when designing the program?
Mendelson
It’s been in development for quite a while but formally went into effect on July 15. We did customer research, looked at our market metrics and we did studies with research companies. We looked at the economy and took the pulse of what was going on in the travel world. We looked at what was changing with airlines and what people wanted, finding out what was of value to them, like free Internet, and finding out that airline miles were of less value to people now than they were years ago. Basically, we were interested in spotting trends, trying to get out in front of them and researching what our guests wanted.

IF
Why did you end your partnerships with American, Midwest and Amtrak?
Mendelson
Previously under LoewsFirst, a member could opt to earn American Airlines or Midwest Airlines miles, Amtrak Guest Rewards points or American Express Membership Rewards points. We eliminated the travel partnerships because through AMEX Membership Rewards, a guest could utilize their points for travel if they chose to. Also by eliminating those partnerships, we were then able to offer amenities that were much more meaningful to our guests, as told to us by our guests, like free Internet access. We could also open up the program to group and volume corporate guests, whereas in the past and as is the case with most membership hotel rewards programs, they aren’t open to group stays. We’ve been getting lots of correspondence from members asking, why doesn’t my stay count if I’m staying at Loews as part of a group or meeting? By ending those partnerships, it allowed us to take those costs and put them into those things our guests told us were more meaningful.

IF
What are the biggest changes to the program?
Mendelson
Free Internet and counting volume corporate stays as qualifying stays are big changes. And platinum members get a $100 credit that can be used for golf, spa or food and beverage. We’ve moved to a purely stay-based program and we now have a partner page where members of YouFirst have access to exclusive partner discounts from day one. There are no blackout dates — it’s a more nimble, flexible and customer-centric program and an easier to manage program for our guests.

IF
How have members responded so far?
Mendelson
So far so good. There are always those people who don’t like change and have a hard time embracing change. We’re just gearing up and with any kind of technology-based enterprise, you can plan and dot all your i’s and cross all your t’s, and you push the button and it doesn’t always work out the way you envisioned it. We’re ironing out a few kinks and once you explain that to people, they’re very supportive. There are those people who don’t like losing their miles and all we can say is we hope you give this program a try. Change is difficult for anybody, but the changes were made based on overwhelming demand by our membership.

IF
Do you plan to add airline or car rental partners?
Mendelson
We’re moving away from those type of partners. Car rentals, maybe, sometime down the road. It hasn’t even been a month yet since the new program launched and we need to live with it and see what the response is. Our guests are very vocal and they communicate with us — they are not shy about giving us ideas or telling us what interests them — so we’ll take our cues from our guests and members.

IF
Why did you change the criteria for elite qualification from number of nights and stays to just stays?
Mendelson
It was easier to manage for our guests and us. It just makes the program a much more nimble program.

IF
Can you tell us more about your future plans for the program?
Mendelson
What we’re working on is offering really amazing packages and a component of those packages will be access to a major event. The plan is to have these really exclusive, dynamic packages that are only offered to YouFirst guests.

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