Red Lion Eliminates Points From its R&R Club Loyalty Program
An announcement from the Red Lion R&R Club frequent guest loyalty program contains an interesting message: that it is being transitioned “to a new dynamic customer recognition program” and has eliminated the earning and redemption of frequent guest loyalty program points — based on “member feedback and extensive insights from leading customer loyalty programs”, of course.
This may sound sacrilegious to a frequent traveler who lives to earn and use miles and points — but perhaps it is the right decision for the Red Lion Hotels Corporation, which has had quite an interesting history.
According to this article posted at Wikipedia, “business partners Tod McClaskey and Ed Pietz purchased the 89-room Thunderbird Motor Inn in Portland, Oregon in 1959, the first property in what was initially called Thunderbird-Red Lion Inns. In 1984 McClaskey and Pietz sold the chain—which, at the time, had 57 properties—to Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts & Co. for a reported $600 million.”
If Kohlberg Kravis Roberts sounds familiar to you, it should if you have been reading The Gate recently. Known as KKR, this is the company which earlier this month announced its intent to purchase Internet Brands — the company which owns FlyerTalk — for $1.1 billion.
In 1996, the Red Lion brand was then purchased by Doubletree Hotels, which three years later merged with Promus Hotel Corporation — which was then acquired by what was known then as Hilton Hotels Corporation, with hotel brands such as Embassy Suites and Hampton Inns becoming a part of the Hilton HHonors frequent guest loyalty program in 2000.
A different history is posted at the official Internet web site of Red Lion Hotels Corporation: “Red Lion Hotels Corporation was founded in 1937 under the name Goodale & Barbieri Companies (G&B). Between 1937 and 1976, G&B focused on third-party commercial and residential property management services and real estate development in Spokane, Washington. The Company’s history of owning and operating hotels commenced in 1976 when it purchased the River Inn in Spokane. The proprietary Cavanaughs brand name was established in 1980. In 1987, the Company founded G&B Select A Seat, a computerized event ticketing company, which now operates under the name TicketsWest. The Company completed its Initial Public Offering on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: WEH) in 1998. At the end of 1999, the Company completed its acquisition of WestCoast Hotels, Inc. and subsequently re-branded its Cavanaughs Hotels to the WestCoast name, as well as changed its name to WestCoast Hospitality Corporation.”
Hotel properties which were branded as Red Lion were sold to a company known as WestCoast Hospitality in the fourth quarter of 2001 — and FlyerTalk members suddenly could no longer redeem Hilton HHonors frequent guest loyalty program points at Red Lion hotel properties any longer. The strange part is that — for the short period of time in which Red Lion hotel properties were a part of the Hilton portfolio — you could not directly earn Hilton HHonors frequent guest loyalty program points at Red Lion hotel properties, as it had its own frequent guest loyalty program at the time from which one of the rewards was 5,000 Hilton HHonors frequent guest loyalty program points after staying a minimum of 12 nights at Red Lion hotel properties.
In September of 2005, the name WestCoast Hospitality was changed to Red Lion Hotels Corporation, which currently operates 53 hotel properties in ten states in the western United States and the Canadian province of British Columbia.
If Red Lion Hotels Corporation was a major lodging chain with affiliated credit cards, I might be inclined to state that this is probably not a wise move, as it has been demonstrated that selling frequent travel loyalty program points to credit card companies is big business these days — with this deal worth approximately one billion dollars between American Express and Delta Air Lines back in December of 2008 as an example. However, I must admit that I consistently confuse the Red Lion hotel brand with the Red Roof Inn brand — probably because I have always been based in the eastern United States. I understand that the quality and experience of staying as a guest in a Red Lion hotel property is typically superior to that of a Red Roof Inn property; but other than the word red in the name, I cannot explain my confusion — nor the inability to rid said confusion.
Perhaps my confusion can at least partially be attributed to the fact that FlyerTalk members rarely discuss either hospitality brand: there are a total of 20 discussions with content posted a total of 134 times regarding Red Roof Inn properties; while there are a total of 28 discussions with content posted a total of 147 times — not including the two aforementioned discussions located in the Hilton | Hilton HHonors forum — pertaining to Red Lion hotel properties.
In fact — at the time I posted this — no FlyerTalk member has yet to discuss this latest development with the R&R Club. I first read about it from this article written by FlyerTalk member sbm12 — also known as Seth Miller, who is the author of The Wandering Aramean weblog over at BoardingArea…
…but should you care? Does this portend the demise of the frequent travel loyalty program as we know it today?
Hardly. The trend seems to be more towards frequent travel programs based on revenue and not so much loyalty, as demonstrated by Delta Air Lines and then by United Airlines, in my opinion. They both have millions of members of their respective frequent flier loyalty programs — along with lucrative affiliate partnerships with credit cards and other entities.
Meanwhile, the Red Lion R&R Club loyalty program euphemistically “frees you from tracking your points while continuing to extend our most widely used member benefit, 15% off our best available rate through Lowest Rate, Period, formerly known as Member Advantage. We are building a program that responds to your insights and communicates with immediate gratification. Several principals guide the future membership program. We want you to feel recognized with tailored experiences that fuel your passions while providing surprise and delight experiences.”
Does this evolution sound exciting to you? Well, if you regularly frequent Red Lion hotel properties and want “immediate gratification”, then I suppose this is a true “enhancement” for you. I would not be surprised if other smaller lodging chains follow this format for their frequent guests — but I do not expect Hilton, Starwood, InterContinental Hotels Group, Hyatt, Marriott and other lodging chains to follow along with this model anytime soon.
Miles or points for overnight stays are no longer being issued effective as of May 31, 2014. If you are a Red Lion R&R Club member with a minimum of 10,000 points, you have until November 30, 2014 to redeem your existing point balance and reserve your overnight stays. Additionally, you can redeem points between now and November 30, 2014 for benefits with four airline partners or for gift cards with Costco, GC Incentives or Macy’s.