Title

Back to the future: progress and trends in hotel loyalty marketing

Document Type

Article

Abstract

Purpose: In 1999, Shoemaker and Lewis declared customer loyalty as “the future of hospitality marketing”. This paper aims to evaluate the state of research and practice in hotel loyalty and reward programs in the subsequent 15 years to determine if the tenets set forth have occurred. The loyalty circle provides a conceptual framework within which to evaluate progress and trends in hotel loyalty marketing. Design/methodology/approach: Three approaches were used: a comprehensive review of hotel loyalty and reward program literature from 2000 to 2015, a classification and analysis of program benefits for major hotel companies and in-depth interviews with industry professionals. Findings: The literature shows a progression from process-focused research to a greater emphasis on brand relationships. Communication is neglected compared to the other loyalty circle components. Reward programs still depend largely on financial benefits but have added greater flexibility and customization of rewards. Research limitations/implications: The literature search was limited to hotels and did not consider other hospitality segments. The sample of interviews was small and may not represent the opinions of all loyalty professionals. Practical implications: The findings have practical implications for developing more effective loyalty programs and theoretical implications for expanding research horizons. Originality/value: Shoemaker and Lewis (1999) was a landmark article that led to a period of prolific research on hospitality loyalty. During that time, loyalty programs were progressing and permeating the industry. This study applies the loyalty circle to provide a framework within which to evaluate both research and practice in hotel loyalty marketing. © 2016, © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.