Loyalty the key to Hotelclub turnaround

Loyalty the key to Hotelclub turnaround
By admin

Accommodation booking site Hotelclub is clawing back its place in Australia’s online landscape after years of decline, with a revised customer proposition behind the shift.

Created in 1996, the site was one of the first in the local travel space with members paying for the “club” privileges it offered.

“But over time, we lost relevance,” president Nicolas Chu told Travel Today. “We became more or less like other sites – a booking engine selling hotels online with no strong point of difference, and probably with less people and less resources.”

But in the year since Chu took on the top role, the focus has been on distinguishing itself from ever increasing competition from other online players and hoteliers themselves. A new management team and new strategy has seen Hotelclub “go back to its roots”.

“We had a very strong loyalty program so we decided to build on this and give the club benefits so the whole value proposition of the company now is it’s a travel club, not another online booking site,” he said.

Although customers will have access to the same inventory and rates offered by others, they will also be offered a range of specially negotiated perks such as free wifi, or room upgrades at various properties with membership at no extra cost. They will also receive a credit worth 7% of each booking to redeem on a future hotel stay. Last year HotelClub members redeemed close to AUD $5,000,000, Chu revealed.

“It’s a marketing cost but we see it as us giving back to our customers,” he said. “It’s important to understand that nowadays hotel online booking has become a commodity and if you don’t add any value, there’s no reason for people to book with you – there’s no loyalty in this space.”

Hotelclub relaunched in June with a new site, logo and brand promise and the feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Chu.

Figures support the claim with the firm posting eight months of “healthy double digit growth” after several years in decline. It has also seen its customer base increase “significantly” to its current tally of 5 million members globally with Australia representing a “big chunk”.

Although the company is strongly pushing into Asia with new offices in Hong Kong and China, Chu insisted the Australian market remains a priority.

“Asia is a real focus but so is Australia. The growth will come from Asia but a big chunk of our revenue is still coming from Australia,” he said.

“We have a real tendency to forget about Australia but there’s huge potential here still.”

Meanwhile, mobile continues to rise in importance as a booking channel. This year to date has seen a 300% rise in downloads of the Hotelclub app. Mobile accounts for around a quarter of all bookings but Chan expects that to rise to a third by the end of the year.

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