#516: Meliá Rewards Celebrates It's 30th Anniversary

Today’s episode is available in both audio and video format, as the “Let’s Talk Loyalty” podcast and on www.Loyalty TV.

We’re back in the hotel industry today with Meliá Hotels International, a Spanish hospitality group founded in 1956 in Mallorca (Spain).

Melia Hotels is one of the leading companies in resort hotels worldwide.

It was the first hotel company in Europe to go public in 1996, and the Group was also named the most sustainable hotel company worldwide in the last S&P Global Corporate Sustainability Assessment.​

Melia Hotels launched its first loyalty proposition for guests 30 years ago, so 2024 represents a year of celebration, evolution and further expansion.

Joining us today to share their journey is Sara Matarrubia, the Global Loyalty Director for Meliá Rewards.

I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Show Notes:

1) Meliá Hotels International

2) Sara Matarrubia

3) Meliá Rewards⁠

4) Watch the full interview episode at www.Loyalty TV

Audio Transcript

Paula: Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty, an industry podcast for loyalty marketing professionals. I’m your host, Paula Thomas, and if you work in loyalty marketing, join me every week to learn the latest ideas from loyalty specialists around the world.

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Hello and welcome to today’s episode of Let’s Talk Loyalty and Loyalty TV. I want to start by saying I’m not in our usual TV studio with huge apologies. Unfortunately, I’ve had some horrendous back pain this week, and it has literally meant that I can’t travel. So I’m working back at home in my home studio, and as a result, our lighting is less than perfect than I would like it to be. So just wanted to say that up front. 

More importantly, this conversation is a wonderful one.  We’re back in the hotel industry today with Melia Hotels International, a Spanish hospitality group founded in 1956 in Mallorca in Spain. Melia Hotels International now has a portfolio of more than 400 hotels throughout 40 countries with 10 different brands. And it is one of the leading companies in resort hotels worldwide. Melia Hotels was the first hotel company in Europe to go public way back in 1996. And they were also recently celebrated as the most sustainable hotel company worldwide in the latest S&P Global Corporate Sustainability Assessment.

Melia Hotels started their first loyalty proposition for guests 30 years ago. So 2024 represents a year of celebration, evolution, and further expansion. Joining me today to share their journey is Sarah Matarubia, the Global Loyalty Director for Melia Rewards. I hope you enjoy our conversation.

So, Sarah Matarubia. Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty and Loyalty TV. 

Sara: Thank you, Paula. Very nice to be here with all of you today. 

Paula: It’s a very exciting time. You guys are doing incredible work. And I confess, I didn’t really know a lot about Melia Rewards before we met we’re introduced to each other, but it’s quite a milestone you have in terms of 30 years of rewarding your customers and in such a competitive industry. So we’re here to learn all about what it is that the media brand, first of all, stands for and the role of loyalty, I guess, in terms of making sure that the business continues to grow and thrive. So thank you for joining us.

And let’s kick off with our usual opening question, Sarah, as you know we love to pick the brains of our guests to understand as a loyalty professional, what you admire and what you see as working for consumers in the current market. So let’s start off with that first question. Tell us, Sarah, what is your favorite loyalty program? 

Sara: Yeah, this is really the most different question I’ve been thinking about for, I mean, ever since I watched the program and I really would like to answer most as a professional, but also as a person that really enjoyed our program.

And I’m going to go for Amex, really Amex Cards and co-brand cards. So maybe say reward, whatever you want to call it, different versions. And why is that? Because I think they did such an amazing job of having a product that is really a financial product. So, you are having a credit card, and now you are relating very nice feeling around that profit because you can earn benefits because they go beyond the typical perks, these exclusive events, this experience money cannot buy, and all these things together. And also, they made very clear the value you have in the transaction, the way you need to enroll in the promotions, and then when you get the cashback experiences. So all these things together, I think is what I will call number one loyalty program for me. 

Paula: Well done. Yes. And we’ve never had American Express on the show. So we’ll put that on our wishlist. So is that the only one? Did you have a second one? I seem to recall that you wanted to mention another one as well. 

Sara: Yeah, I think I mean, I think really when you talk when you work for the travel industry, all the airlines and all the hotels, really, most of the programs that we all know, they are very, very good because there are a combination of points, benefits, levels. So really, they are very sophisticated. All of them. But I’ve been working very closely with the team, what they have done with the Iberia Plus or the British Airways Program. 

And in the last year, they can really make such a tremendous effort for you to get Avios is beyond what it could be the fly experience. So you can, you’ll take the C file or you buy, some ordering. Or you could like to borrow your Avios when you book a hotel. All these things together, really, I think they made a very compelling offer, and I think they really have done a great job. 

Paula: Yeah, I agree. And I think it’s the first time actually that Avios as a currency name for me is something that has really achieved that global recognition because they did have a rebrand and currencies having a name of course requires some education, but clearly from your side, you’re very familiar with the currency name.

Iberia of course is an incredible airline, particularly in your home market there in Spain. So I can see why you’re a big fan of Avios and the whole proposition there as well. 

Sara: Yeah, and I think they did a very good job, not just because they have the natural markets before it was in Spain, and then, you know, with the British market. But even if you go with Qatar, they are using apiaries. Which is really amazing. And the value they have put into the currency, really, I think it’s very well done. 

Paula: It’s doing super well. Absolutely. So well done to those guys. So let’s get into your work, Sarah kick us off first, if you don’t mind, with an introduction to the brand. Because as you know, we do have a global audience, whether they might be in the US or Australia or anywhere in between. And Melia Hotels is a beautiful brand but not as widely known perhaps as other brands. So please do introduce to that the whole company to us. 

Sara: Absolutely. I’m very pleased to. So, Melia Hotels International is the first hotel company in Spain and is the 13th in Europe and one of the leading in the world. We have 350 hotels in almost 40 countries, and we have nine different brands from them midscale into the luxury. 

So the name Melia really is our core brand that will be a luxury brand, bringing luxury brand. And then we have a Gran Melia hotels, which are hotels that are in historic buildings or top location. Then we have Melia Collection. We have the Paradisus brand, which is more in the Americas. This is luxury. All, and all included experience. And then the ME brand, which is more like an avant garde like the star brand. And then we have the Innside and when the sovereign and definitely like local. So, we have these nine brands. And in all these markets, and then Melia Rewards, really is kind of the few, that they kind of bond all these brands together. 

Paula: Okay, perfect. Great. And I know you’re very loyal to the company. You’ve been there a very long time, although you’ve said it’s only the last couple of years on the loyalty side, but would you take us through the history of loyalty in the business era?

I suppose it seems to be something that’s very core to how you’ve been Your whole brand operates in terms of taking care of your guests. Of course, the whole resort kind of positioning fits super nicely as well. And I know of course, you’ve always had some very loyal business travelers as well, but tell us about where did the loyalty journey start for you?

Sara: Really in my, talking about myself, I actually probably started in loyalty when I was starting as a front desk person that I have to enroll members into the program. 

Paula: Okay. 

Sara: And then I feel like a marketing director and having different positions for 15 years. And my role with the loyalty program was really more about I mean, working in Warsaw with them, trying to work with a value proposition, but it was really not something that I did in my core.

For the last three years, I’ve been leading the loyalty department, both for the B2C, what we call Melia Rewards for the consumers, and for the B2B, what we call the Melia Pro. And it’s been really, it’s been an amazing journey. It’s been kind of challenging one, because I mean, for a person like me, that I, in the last 15 years, I’ve done marketing more like in strategic brand marketing, product, e-commerce, PR, social media, anything that you can think of. And I’ve been 15 years, you’re kind of like a senior professional, right? You bring a lot of experience to the table. So I was the new one and I was really new in this loyalty arena and in all these conversations about technology and about the platforms that sometimes you can really get lost into. 

I remember watching one of your programs that the one was called Blind Loyalty with Amanda. And she says something that I really love, that she say, radically simplifying the complexity of loyalty. And it really felt like it was subject to me, because you are a new person talking to loyalty. There are so many KPIs, there are so many partners, there are so many platforms. That is so easy to really get boss into that, that say, wow, what do I do next? And so, yes, it’s been three years, dedicated body and soul to loyalty. And now I really enjoy my position. 

Paula: For sure. And I think you’re not alone, Sarah. That was exactly my experience. When I moved into loyalty, also, I felt like a very, you know, seasoned digital marketer, had a lot of big brand experience, corporate and, you know, independent. And yet, as soon as I was asked to go in and run a loyalty program, I felt like I was totally drowning. And it’s one of the reasons actually for this podcast, because I always felt I needed more insights. And whether it’s something as important as what Amanda said exactly in that episode about radical simplification or any other comment that somebody might make.

One that I remember recently actually was again, a wonderful loyalty consultant down in Ellipsis in Australia. And he was like, you know, there are so many really brilliant people working in this industry, and yet we still have a lot of problems. So that makes me feel like I’m not the only one. So we’re here to share the learnings and to share all of what we’re doing. So, so three years into loyalty. 

And then I suppose media rewards itself, Sarah, tell us about, you know, its journey, because I know it’s a huge milestone this year for you guys with 30 years of this proposition, I know, under different brands, but take us a little bit back in terms of what you have been doing and what you’re currently doing.

Sara: Yeah, so really as we call it, you can see my background 30 years or reverse so really, in this 30 years, many things have changed. So, yeah, if I can think of the most significant ones. I think for, not for the very beginning, because I think very beginning, our program was more like a frequent guest program. So, it was more based on earning and and on bargaining points, but very soon we make a change into this emotional loyalty, this idea that really the customer is the center, and we switch into what we call collect emotions. So, the program kind of evolved into that journey that we, the following one that we have, the claim was Melia Rewards belonging means more because we really felt that customers first and foremost, they have like a loyalty to our brand.

They really like Melia Hotels. And Melia Rewards was the most, the smartest way or the most satisfied or the most rewarding way to really enjoy Melia. So we kind of, rub into that. And I think the last change that is really changing with really after the pandemic. After the pandemic, we have like a very balanced audience between business travelers and like the customers, and as you know, I mean, business traveling somehow is fun, but not at least as it was and not frequent as it was, so there are really many difference from. And there’s a customer on a business traveler. 

So, when we come back from the lockdown, we launched the new Melia.com website, and we also launched a new Melia Rewards website. So, what we did, we asked all the stakeholders, the hotels, the vendors, the franchises, but mainly we asked the customers. And what they say about Melia Rewards, they say, we really like the program. We would like it to be a little bit more exclusive. And sometimes we don’t understand or we don’t know what are the benefits that you’re offering. And sometimes your people don’t know the benefits that you’re offering. And it was more shocking to us if a lot of people that they claim themselves to be super loyal to Melia.

If you can see the typical loyalty standards, they were not. Because maybe they haven’t just settled once. But they haven’t trans the last 10 years with us. So, this whole thing is kind of flipped my mind, to be honest, and we started thinking that. Even though in Melia, we have always considered the nice space and the money you spend with us, like three different criteria to earn the different levels, we’re starting on thinking that the frequency that we have in the past is gone.

So we have to apply more milestone rewards in the middle, because if not, kind of reaching gold and platinum, it was extremely difficult, unless you have a credit card. And also, we need to somehow acknowledge these people, that they feel so loyal to us, when for the typical loyalty standard, they are not.

So, let’s say things that we are considering for the new Melia Rewards benefits that usually the points expire in a year. So, if you are a lazy traveler, let’s say one year you go on holidays in June and the following year you go on July. So, your points would have expired. So, we would like to change for 12 months into 15 months or things like, let’s say that you buy points with us. That is something that really we like in our program, you can buy points anytime during the booking process at any moment, but those points also, they do expire at the moment. One of the things that we’re going to change is like the points that you buy is going to be evergreen. They’re not going never to expire because it’s something different that you earn them because you actually bought them.

Paula: Yes, totally agree.

Sara: Yeah, so, and I think this, and this thing of considering always and foremost that we are in the hotel industry, that we are a hospitality business, and people come first. So, in our case, I have a sentence I always say with the things that they say. All people that are coming back for money or for love. Oh, for everything in between. 

Paula: Okay. Yeah. 

Sara: But we wanted to come back for love. 

Paula: Okay. 

Sara: And this emotional loyalty. So this turns into the business traveler, the sweet  from a digital customer that now goes directly to our channels and also I’m very important to acknowledge the travel agent. 

Some years ago, I’m sure you’re familiar with this, all the big companies, the hotel companies, we bet on our own channels. Melia.com, Wyndham.com, Marriott.com, whatever. So somehow the travel agents that they always with us in destination that let’s say that it’s very difficult to fly, or it’s not so easy for someone to actually, let’s say you go to Tanzania, it’s not so easy for you to arrange your package. So they say that we were a little bit unfair, that sometimes we rely on them and sometimes we didn’t. So the fourth thing that we’re actually doing is we recognize 100 percent travel agents always. It doesn’t matter if you book a hotel in Paris, that is very easy for you to book, or if you book a hotel in Tanzania.

And it doesn’t matter about what is the channel that you use, so we reward both. The travel agent and the member that is actually staying in our hotels. 

Paula: Nice. Nice. 

Sara: And the last thing that is also important is the people in our hotels that they do really the same that they’re saying that they didn’t really understand the proposition. So it’s, we make sure that our people are the brand’s brand advocates, are the brand that love the program and they’re able to communicate it to the, to the members of the audience or someone is come to our hotels. 

Paula: Yeah. Okay. So super comprehensive, Sara. Thank you for all of that. You know, it really has been an incredible journey. I think you told me last time that we met as well, that, you know, in the beginning back in, you know, 1956 and onwards, you know, it became, I suppose, more for the business traveler. And as you said, now with the focus on resorts, it really has become much more leisure focused. And again, as you said, of course, the pandemic changed all of those profiles. So your loyalty proposition does have to evolve in a way that even leisure customers who might come and have a resort stay once a year do have lots of reasons to engage, feel rewarded. And as you said, regardless of the channel, so very comprehensive.  And of course, the employees, we can never forget the importance of that moment of truth for people who are literally a guest in the moment and exactly how they experienced that. 

So, so can you give us a sense, Sara, of your numbers, your statistics, you know, how big the program has grown. Any penetration numbers in terms of, you know, how many of your guests are members? We’d love to get some insights. 

Sara: Absolutely. So one of the things that I started working on when I started working in loyalty was actually, what is the really the most important KPIs of the program? And I was really checking into the industry and we have this enrollment, the churn rate, all these ratios that you can think of. And I created, like my own KPIs with the data scientists that we have in the company. And there are the four things that I think are key and they keep us on track. 

So the first one would be our database, our numbers. So talking about numbers, we are a little bit more than 15 million people. 

Paula: Wonderful. 

Sara: We have one million elite customers. And we have like 80,000 new members per month. So that would be if we’re just thinking about numbers and enrolling people. If we go a little bit more into the customer, the way that they did behave one of the numbers that we always check is, did you have a Melia Rewards account before you made the book?

Because, you know, many times, especially in hotels that we kind of grant a member discount rate, many people said that people enroll in the program just for the discount. So, for me, it’s important to say, you just enroll in the program because you were making the booking. Which is good, because it’s for the first time, or you were already a member of the program.

So if we think of 2023, 49 of the people who made a booking in Melia.com, they were already a Melia Rewards member. 

Paula: Okay. 

Sara: And all the things that we check into the members are the things that we, if you compare with no members, like for instance, the AVR, which is the average daily rate in a hotel is 21% more in a member than in a non-member or people spend around 18% more in our hotel press auxiliaries like restaurants or spas, or they book more time with us. Obviously, the acquisition is less, but that would be like the first and then also something that was very important for us to really become international. 

In the early years of the program, we were mainly a Spanish company with hotels abroad. Let’s say we open a hotel in Berlin and we fill the hotel with the Spaniards. So now, really, we’re thinking to the database, 75 percent of our members are not Spanish, not for any other country. So from Vietnam into the United States or Brazil, and this is something that is also very important for us when we penetrate in a new market.

So the second thing that would be what I call the demand generator. So I think the loyalty progress at first, the best way to know your member, to know your people, or But the second is really a demand generator. So if we think of that, 38 percent of our own channel sales are made by Malaria World members and 32 percent of all the bookings of the company. So a little bit of more than one third is done for loyal members, which is really amazing figures. We can go deep into those members, but I think it’s fine. 

So the third thing that for me is critical when I was really learning about loyalty, I found out many loyalty programs that in my opinion actually did not work because there are program based on you earn points. Those points kind of expire and people are very happy because of them, because they make a lot of money. But I think it’s such a source sided vision. So, the third indicator that I use quite a lot is what I call the activity within the program. 

So last year in Melia, we earned 9 billion points. And people reading 6 billion points, which I’m not sure maybe you have more insights for the program. I’m not sure if it’s good or bad because I don’t know, I don’t have anyone to compare with. But I think it’s pretty decent. And it’s much better than what we had in the past.

Paula: Indeed. And I don’t have an industry performance statistics around redemption rates there, specifically for hotels, because I think it would have to be a hotel comparison for you to consider it valid. But I know that you’re, you know, very good about connecting with the industry. So I’m going to What I can suggest if anybody wants to have that discussion with you offline, privately and just swap some at least some insights in terms of what they might think is a good redemption rate. Certainly to me, that sounds phenomenal at 6 billion out of your 9 billion were actually redeemed that looks like it’s absolutely meaningful to your members. And, but of course we always want it higher. 

Sara: Sure.

Paula: I’ve certainly in a coalition program here, like up to 90%, for example, so it is possible to get it higher. But again, I don’t have the hotel expertise even that you have or lots of other people listening to the show. So we’ll definitely keep that one open. 

Sara: Yeah, sure. Thank you very much. So you heard something. It will be very helpful. And the full thing that I don’t think the full thing of the first one really depends on the other you can think of, but it will be customer satisfaction and we measure two different things.

How is your satisfaction with Melia in united speaking and what is your satisfaction with the program? And these things are, it really is we have 81 percent satisfaction with the program, which I think is a very good number. But again, I don’t know how to compare with, but if I go into the NPS that I’m more familiar with that, our platinum members are our top tiers. They have a 62 percent satisfaction in NPS, which I think is an amazing figure. So this is for things like database, performance, activity, they just put it that way and customer satisfaction. That will be the KPIs, the sources that we’re following. 

Paula: Brilliant. Yeah. Super. So the next piece I wanted to ask you about was some of your propositions you talked to me about, which I think are very unique to Melia. One is the pay with points which I know you, you explained is incredibly flexible and dynamic. And then I know you have an emotional loyalty proposition as well that you’re going to share with our audience. So would you mind talking us through those? Because again, that’s where the innovation, I suppose, and the inspiration is coming.

Sara: Thank you. Yes, very pleased to do that. So, if you go to any or most of the hotel or the programs when you try to redeem, there is like kind of redeem rates, put it that way. So depends on if low season, mid season or high season. So for a room like this, you have to pay 10,000 points, if not 20,000, if not 30,000. And usually it’s something that is kind of set up. You can have like different tiers, but it’s not completely flexible. 

In our case, it’s 100 percent flexible and dynamic. There are no blackout dates. There are no hidden costs. There are nothing like this. So it doesn’t matter how many points that you have. Every combination you can think of is done. So it’s really in the process of Melia.com, in your app, or in the contact center. You can redeem in whatever is the quantity that you have. But not also in the booking process, which is something very unique. Channel brands have done something similar, but not as flexible as ours, because it’s really, it could be just as a currency, really.

But also, when you are in the hotel, if you would like to pay your dinner, or your spa, or your upgrade, or whatever, you can pay in every hotel in the company, in the restaurant, or in the front desk, for everything that you have charged into your account. 

Paula: Wow. 

Sara: And this is very funny. I remember, I was running our hotels in Dominican Republic. And, you know, this is a luxury hotel, this is a non inclusive hotel, but even in non inclusive hotels, people do have some expenses, like they have gone to the spa, I think. So it was, they were doing the checkout, and the lady in the front was saying, Miss Wilson, or whatever that was, you have to pay 90 dollars or, would you like to play with points? And she was like, I with my points, yes, you made. And she paid nothing. So the smile on their face of this woman that was about to pay 90 dollars for a spa massage and pay nothing, it was really amazing. And in the other way around, there’s some people that are very loyal to us and you tell them that they can pay with points, restaurants, and they say no, no, no. I wanna keep all my points. Because it’s like a savings for me, and I would like to pay for my next holiday. So this super flexibility, I haven’t seen anything like it, really, and in any hotel company, anything like it. It’s something similar and close to it, but as flexible as we are, and as dynamic as we are, I haven’t seen it before.

And the second thing that I would like to share with the audience, we were reviewing the comments of our guests about our program, about how much they enjoyed the program, but sometimes they didn’t get the feeling that they were so special. So, we thought in thinking, what is the most special thing that we do?

And actually, the most special thing that we do is when we open a hotel, and we invite the press to present that hotel. So we do something amazing, there is a work, a chair, blah, blah, blah. So we started to invite customers to that event. And we call that meaningful moments. And they were really meaningful.

So someone from the Melia Rewards team joined that table and they really would like very much to be part of that, to be part of how we launch a new hotel, how we launch a new service or a new campaign. So with this idea in mind, we started thinking, how can we spread this to a broader audience? So we are starting thinking about is a price is a quiz, what that is, and we have written an article about what they call the surprise and delight effect that I know other people have mentioned in the show.

And it’s following neuroscience, when you receive a reward that is expected, the effect that have in you is exponential. Well, we started to thinking about that and we launched a campaign in summer that it was called the Melia Rewards Effect. And we have some result credit into that. And we as the hotels to do something nice for at least one hotel during the summer. And you have like a budget for a hundred. So starting with this, we both a little bit of proposition and right now what we have piloting in 30 hotels is like, this idea, you listen very closely to. And you do something surprising to them and I’m going to put you some two samples that they are very nice and very emotional to me, to be honest.

So, first one was there is this lady in one hotel in Sao Paolo, Brazil, and she’s talking to her friend in the check in. And she is an author. She’s about to present her book this very same day. And she was very nervous. She was telling her friend, I’m not sure if people are going to show up, I’m not sure if I’m going to do it right, oh my God, something like that. So she went to her address and she went back to the room, and in the hotel they had sent her a very nice cake with a very nice note saying, Miss blah blah blah, we are sure you are going to rock it, we are sure that it’s going to be a great success, you have all the support for an hour, very good luck, by the Melia Rewards Effect. And later, there is this lady with uploading a story on Instagram, almost crying, because she was that nice at the moment. 

And other example that I can think of well, one hotel in Orlando, Melia Orlando, and we have this family came from Spain. And the little kid was flying with a beaded, a Winnie the Pooh, like a bear, you know, like a puppy. And he lost it in the luggage changes. So, the little boy was crying. So, the front desk again, they realized the situation. They went to the park. They bought the hoodie they put, and they put it in the room. And the kid was like, oh my God. And the good thing about this is not just what I really like about this is when we talk about the people that are piloting this, it’s like when you when you prepare a surprise for, think about your family or your partner or whatever. You receive that is nice, but the way that you prepare it. I think it’s even nicer. The emotion that creates in you, prepares something special for someone is truly creating this magic, this energy.

So, last week, I went to Palma, and we had to wake up around 5am, and someone from my team, they brought me a sandwich, because we didn’t even have time for breakfast, and she said, here you have a Melia Rewards for you. So this whole project, we really, really love it. And we were thinking about putting some goals or not, so you have to do two, three or four. So, but we wanted to keep it completely open. So, depending on the hotel, if it’s one per day, one per day, if it’s two, because what is true about this is that it’s really genuine and it’s time for listening to the customer. So, I’m very proud of that. I’m very, I’m looking forward to roll it out in the whole hotels.

Paula: Wonderful. Yeah. Super authentic. And obviously as a guest, you know, they feel really seen and it’s a, it’s the very epitome of emotional loyalty, which I know is something that you’re very passionate about because of course, all the transactional pieces covered. And members understand that, but when you go that extra mile and really see them, I think they do really kind of go, you know what, and then the advocacy as well, of course, Sara becomes like, that’s you know, actually immeasurable, but as marketers, we know we tell our friends, our family, we talk about it on podcasts, the effect of surprise and delight. I mean, it’s hard to manage. It’s hard to scale. So I think as loyalty professionals, we all know that, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t try.

And again as loyalty, you know, professionals, I guess we really want to have those extra moments beyond the basics where we can create those wow experiences. So I’ll be dying to hear how that scales up when you do roll it out over time. 

Sara: Yeah.

Paula: So the final piece then is, I suppose, what are the challenges that you see either now or going forward? Because we all know that we are in this quite complex business you know, with so much changing, whether it’s, you know, the economy or whatever, I don’t need to tell you. But what do you see as the biggest challenges that’s keeping you, I suppose, inspired in terms of continuing to evolve?

Sara: I think there are many things that can be challenging and think that the most important thing is be true to your true proposition. I think the most important thing is main, the main thing, be the main thing. So, if we are here because we would like our customers to keep on coming back, to keep on bringing loyalty, this should be every single time in our mind when we prioritize. I think one of the most challenging things right now for every marketer is how many new things there are, how many new platforms there are> How many the customer is really expecting that.

For a second, we are super efficient, but we have a personalization. So I think this one of the main challenges that we are encountering, for instance, we’re talking about artificial intelligence. We are piloting a capital solution, but right now they are not ready, really, we have to kind of check everything these things are, these kind of robots are doing.

But I think kind of the way that you manage and balance between things that there are, like, really super transactional and super efficient. And kind of engage with different audiences. I was talking to you then, we will talk about when we prepare the show that, we want to be very close. 

So my team or what is really helping the customer where you have a problem in our hotel. Well, you don’t see your points in your balance. And it’s called the Member Care. So we have him in a team spin that when we something has happened with a customer. We kind of talk and try to say, Hey, I will do that, I will do everything. 

So we have this this guy that has been in our hotel for something 25 years or something like that. And usually in the past, when we have something like that, you took the phone and you talk to the customer and they really love it. And I did that myself and he was like paralyzed and we cannot talk right now and he kind of, did you mind to send me a WhatsApp? So, I sent him a WhatsApp and we were WhatsAppping, you can say it like that, for half an hour, so he was available, but he did not want to talk to me.

And so we were talking about personalization and personal and trust. Sometimes when we go the extra mile, not because I know I listened to you in the front desk telling that you were going to present a book, but it’s information that you have in your profile. We could just stay in another hotel. Most of customers don’t like it.

They seem like kind of very made. And so I think all these new technologies. The cookie less environment, data protection, and the way that we address to the new generation by still being true to yourself, to your own essence as a brand, and also there is kind of a lack to to have professionals, not so much in loyalty, but in the hotel, like waiters and things like that. But I think probably the rapidity and the change, and it’s very important to, to kind of stay focused. And sometimes, kind of forget a little bit about the noise, so you are aware of all the new trends, but catch a trick on track and move forward. 

Paula: I like it. Clear focus, Sara. Amazing. So it sounds like you have an incredibly busy year ahead, obviously very focused on particularly, as you said, the Melia Rewards Effect, building your emotional loyalty, scaling everything up, leveraging the idea of 30 years of rewarding your guests. So definitely an exciting year ahead. We’re really excited to be able to share the story from our side. Is there any other kind of big thing that you think is important for our audience, Sara, that I haven’t asked you about that you wanted to talk about today? 

Sara: I think we kind of cover the most important things. I think people that we are loyalty professionals, the last thing that probably we’d like to say is I would like to thank you, Paula, because really, you’re so, for me, that I’m very new into the loyal arena, is being really my sort number one, and for my team, we have this thing that every week, it’s one of our team members, I kind of, listen the whole podcast and send some briefing to all the teams and we pick up always ideas.

So I will recommend everyone to listen to this podcast and also to participate in this year. There are many events ahead, like in Dubai, the Loyalty & Awards, in Bangkok.  And yeah, I put especially in Spain, there is nothing like a loyalty club. I just saw in the European Loyalty Association, but I think really loyalty professional, we need to move a little bit forward into the clarity anywhere mentioned in the hotel industry for many years, we have the SDR and other KPIs that people we do serve, so you know, more or less what you’re doing, but in loyalty, at least with the people that I’ve been working with, people do not share much. I’m not sure about any other countries. I’m not sure about any other industries. But in the hotel industry, it’s something like a mystery. You know what everybody does, as you can see in websites or but we don’t share much. So I think this kind of network that we’re creating is very fulfilling. And I would like to thank you for that. 

Paula: Aw. Thank you. Yeah, honestly, Sara. Yes, you’re almost reading my mind where we’re doing as much as we can on the content front. But you know, clearly, as you’ve mentioned, there’s so many events. For example, Loyalty Connect is coming up at the end of April, and I’m supporting that event. I think that’s the biggest one in the world this year for loyalty professionals. But in addition to that, I do feel that there’s an opportunity for us as a community, as you’ve said, to share in a safe way, because you know, otherwise, how does any of us know, you know, what does success look like? So I think there’s a lot of value in our community and definitely keen to make sure that we get opportunities to connect. 

I’m always trying to travel myself to as many events as possible. I’m certainly going to Amanda’s event in South Africa this year as another one, and also down to the Australian Loyalty Association. So new markets and conferences. I haven’t attended before with exactly that same purpose there. I want to connect with other people and learn from them because I think the job of learning is never done. 

And from my side the education and innovation that’s going on around the industry is something that I know our audience loves to hear. So thank you for listening and thank you for having your team to listen. It’s very inspiring to us. We’re only a small business, so we’re definitely trying to keep As much of this content flowing so that we all kind of learn from each other. So listen on that note, I’m going to let you go. So it’s been a wonderful conversation.

So Sarah Mattarubia, Global Loyalty Director with Melia Hotels International. Thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty and Loyalty TV. 

Sara: Thank you. Bye bye. 

Paula: This show is sponsored by Wise Marketer Group, publisher of the Wise Marketer, the premier digital customer loyalty marketing resource for industry relevant news, insights, and research. Wise Marketer Group also offers loyalty education and training globally through its Loyalty Academy, which has certified nearly 900 marketers and executives in 49 countries as certified loyalty marketing professionals.

For global coverage of customer engagement and loyalty, check out thewisemarketer.com and become a Wiser Marketer or subscriber. Learn more about global loyalty education for individuals or corporate training programs at loyaltyacademy.org. 

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