Chris Holdren, SVP, Starwood Preferred Guest

Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) was the first hotel loyalty program to introduce a crossover program with an airline and elite members of both SPG and Delta SkyMiles receive benefits with the Crossover Rewards program. We recently had a conversation with Chris Holdren, SVP of SPG for Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

InsideFlyer

SPG was the first hotel loyalty program to introduce a crossover program with an airline. Can you tell us how this partnership came about?

Chris Holdren

Starwood and Delta have a similar philosophy, culture and spirit of innovation focused on delivering an exceptional experience for travelers. This shared spirit, combined with a complementary global reach, brought us together to begin discussions on how we could partner in a deeper way to create great value for members who belonged to both programs.

Crossover Rewards marked the very first time SPG and Delta SkyMiles extended recognition and benefits outside Starwood’s hotels and resorts and beyond Delta’s planes. Frequent travelers receive benefits throughout their trip including SPG priority check-in, late checkout and complimentary high speed Internet access at any of Starwood’s more than 1,100 hotels; and priority Delta check-in and boarding, one free checked bag at the airport and eligibility for upgrades on Delta flights.

Finally, travelers no longer have to choose miles OR points— they earn both on flights and nights. By choosing to fly Delta and stay at Starwood, Crossover Rewards members will receive the biggest benefits.

IF

Why do you think this type of crossover program hadn’t been introduced before?

Holdren

While offering similar benefits for travelers, hotel and airline loyalty programs actually have very different models and structures. Though it may sound easy to link the two, this truly required both companies to think differently and find new ways to make it a reality. We both invested significant time and resources on fully integrating the systems to ensure the benefits and earnings of Crossover Rewards are seamless for those enrolled in the program. 

IF 

Do you expect to add additional benefits to the program?

Holdren

Delta is one of our most strategic partners, and we continue to deepen the relationship through new initiatives like Westin Heavenly In Flight.

IF

Why partner with Caesars hotels instead of opening more Starwood hotels in Las Vegas?

Holdren

SPG and Total Rewards, the loyalty program of Caesars Entertainment, are two of a kind. Our similarities brought us together. Like Starwood, Caesars is dedicated to providing guests with exceptional service and experiences. By partnering, we are able to provide our guests with access to the most luxurious global hotel portfolio and the best gaming entertainment in Las Vegas and beyond.

IF

Why does the Caesars partnership not include elite recognition for SPG members when staying in Caesars hotels?

Holdren

This partnership gives all of our members a new way to experience Vegas. SPG members receive access to the best Las Vegas experiences brought to life by Caesars Entertainment’s resorts, from world-class restaurants to the best in gaming and entertainment. Elite members of both programs are also being rewarded with dual points on all of their stays.

IF

Do you expect to partner with any other hotel groups or airlines in the future? Or are there any other creative partnerships in the works?

Holdren

We are focused on ensuring the success of our existing strategic partnerships; however, we’re always looking at innovative ways to deliver great experiences for our members.

IF

What kind of research was done to discover if these partnerships would be welcomed by SPG members?

Holdren

We have built a strong relationship with our most loyal guests. We constantly listen to their needs and even consult them on initiatives before they launch to ensure we’re not just meeting their needs, but exceeding their expectations.

IF

What more can SPG members look forward to in 2014?

Holdren

In 2014, SPG members can look forward to more great experiences being delivered through the program—from new places to visit around the world to great partnerships with companies like Delta and Caesars and even more amazing experiences through SPG Moments. We have a lot in store for 2014 on behalf of our members.

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