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Wyndham adds new levels — and, with those, new perks — to its hotel loyalty program

Wyndham adds new levels — and, with those, new perks — to its hotel loyalty program
Do you believe you can fly? You can at iFly in Orlando, Fla., one of the new perks of the Diamond level of Wyndham's hotel awards program. (iFly)

Wyndham Hotel Group's generous loyalty program gained about 5 million new members last year, which was its first year of a simplified rewards program.

What do you do when you've achieved that kind of success with Wyndham Rewards? Make it even better.

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"We are adding [to the program]," said Noah Brodsky, senior vice president of  worldwide loyalty and engagement for Wyndham Hotel Group. "We are taking away absolutely nothing away.

"We are throwing down the gauntlet on what a rewards program should be."

CardHub chose Wyndham, which has 16 brands, from the swank Wyndham Grand to the budget Super 8, and 7,800 properties, as the top hotel loyalty program in 2015 for travelers of every budget. In this loyalty program, when you accumulate 15,000 points, you can stay free at any of the group's properties.

Now you can start picking up other perks under a program unveiled Thursday.

The program now has categories of travelers: Blue (which you become upon enrolling), Gold (five qualifying nights get you to this level), Platinum (15 nights) and Diamond (40 nights).

Those aren't just bragging rights. You get cool stuff. Some examples: As a Blue, you get free wi-fi. Gold gets late check-out. Platinum early check-in. And Diamond two free tickets to local experiences.

There should be a drum roll on that last category. Among the experiences: indoor skydiving in Orlando, Fla.; an architectural tour by boat in Chicago; a Champagne trip on the London Eye, a Great Wall tour outside of Beijing.

The awards will be available in 25 markets to start, said Brodsky said.

These perks (and more) are often used for family travel, he said. The business traveler who is away from home can give back a bit to his or her family by vacationing at one of Wyndham's top-tier hotels and sharing those perks with their loved ones.

Awards programs can be tricky business. More than 3.3 billion people participated in loyalty programs in 2014, Jeff Berry, research director for Colloquy, which studies such programs along with consumer behavior, writes in a report titled "Customer Loyalty in 2015 & Beyond: Are You Wasting Your Money?"

But, he notes, "Active participation in those programs continues to decline. Our Census revealed a stagnant market in which more than half of members – 58% – don't even bother to participate, much less become engaged and enthusiastic members."

Among Berry's antidotes for loyalty program fatigue: "Keep benefits simple and clear cut" and "Personalized rewards based on what motivates members."

Which is, Brodsky said, what Wyndham is doing. It won members by keeping is program simple. Now it's motivating members by providing rewards that can be shared with the family.

The business traveler, Brodsky said, wants to be the hero to his or her family, partly as thank you for bearing their absences.

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