Hotels.com today announced a re-tooling of their loyalty program, welcomerewards. Welcome Rewards was announced in October 2008 and was (or is) the first robust frequency program offered by an online travel agency. Maybe it was a little too robust.
welcomerewards offered a simple proposition: Stay 10 nights, get one free. Each stay had to be $40 or higher and you could use your free night for up to a $400 hotel stay. In other words, a really good deal.
Today, some enhancements were announced such as extending the expiration of credits and a removal of the $40 minimum rate requirement. (Handy for those $18 rooms in Vegas)
However, the big change was on the redemption side - no longer will members be able to claim a room valued at up to $400.
Instead, Hotels.com will average the room the room rates over the ten stays and offer that amount as a credit towards a future booking. For example, if a customer buys five room nights at $75, two at $200 and three at $100, they would now be eligible for a free night valued at up to $107.50 rather than the previous $400.
We are not totally surprised by this change - the program seemed almost too good to be true when launched - Welcomerewards was a better offering than anything the chain hotels offered through their loyalty programs and certainly the broadest redemption possibilities. Compared to Starwood Preferred Guest, for example, the same spending levels in the example above (for a non-elite member) would have earned 2150 StarPoints - yes, enough for a free weekend night at the lowest of the low redemption categories - but certainly not a $400 value. I doubt that any of the Starwood SPG Category One hotels ever see an ADR of $400!