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Resorts Leverage Impact Of Repeat Guests With Help Of Loyalty Programs

Friday, June 08, 2018
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While operating casino resorts may be more complex than traditional hotels, many of the factors driving success are very much the same, not the least of which is the ability to attract repeat guests. The good news for many casino resorts is that casino guests inherently tend to visit their properties more often looking to cash in.

Angie Groeneveld, director of hospitality operations, Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino Resort in Maricopa, AZ, maintained that is certainly the case for a property located in what she describes as a “frequency market” and she detailed some of the challenges as well.

“Destination markets like Las Vegas, Atlantic City and New Orleans these are properties that get guests two, three, four times a year. Our property welcomes our guests two, three, four times a week. When you come to a property often it almost becomes like your second home so the expectations are higher because you always want to see something bigger and better,” she said.

Groeneveld went on to emphasize some of the benefits of those frequent visits.
“The beauty of it is we know our guest so well because we see them all the time. They come so often that we know them by name. We know their families and their pets. We know when they’re here and when they’re not here and if they are local or if they’re snowbirds. We know so much about them,” he said.

Meanwhile, Michael Bonakdar, general manager for North Star Mohican Casino Resort, noted the Wisconsin property straddles the line between a destination market and frequency market.

“We are definitely a little of both due to our location and customer base. In addition, we operate within a very competitive market and are consistently protecting our position and working diligently to increase our visitation…In comparison to other surrounding hotels and casinos we are known as a destination with great amenities and customer service,” he said.

When it comes to repeat guests, loyalty programs continue to be a huge factor and they have evolved significantly within the gaming industry, according to casino hotel operators.

“Here’s the big change in the gaming industry, the loyalty program was strictly for gaming only. It’s only been in the last year to two that that program has changed to also be for hospitality. So you can earn points by staying in the hotel or dining in the outlets, where in the past it was only for gaming,” said Groeneveld.

She further touted the impact of such a program on a property which is part of a large parent company like Caesar’s Entertainment, which includes more than 40 casinos as part of its Total Rewards program.

“We are very fortunate that people do love our loyalty program. They want to come here because they know that we are part of a much larger group of casinos and they can earn here and play somewhere else or vice versa. Our loyalty program is very powerful,” commented Groeneveld.

Bonakdar reinforced the point while underscoring the importance of advances in technology. “Loyalty programs within our industry have consistently evolved over time. Many of them tend to be cookie cutter or copies of industry model programs due to competition. Our program has had numerous face lifts within the last two decades and with the help of customer management systems, player portals and mobile apps they are much easier for us and our guests to manage offers, rewards, notifications and redemptions,” he noted.

Not unlike the traditional hospitality industry, casino hotel operators cited labor and staffing as key challenges in the current environment. “The economy is doing so well we are challenged,” said Groeneveld.

Bonakdar added, “We operate within a very stagnant market that’s highly competitive and with a limited labor force…To stay competitive I am relentless in making sure our friendly team members are recognized and work as a team to remain engaged and enthusiastic. In addition, the recognition of our team members and the changes we made with our employee orientation, benefits and training programs are allowing us to develop and groom our future work force,” he said.

Bonakdar further added that the work force tries to remain attuned to the needs of all guests. “We have learned a lot about our gaming and non-gaming guests over time. They are both unique and they both have a mix of demographics and exhibit certain customer behavior that we capture and utilize to improve our operation, amenities and to market to them. Over time we have been successful in satisfying both guest types and ensure we have a great mix of events and amenities to attract them to visit us more often. It really comes down to knowing your customer segments and how you can motivate them to explore additional amenities to elevate their experience while they visit us,” he said.

“Every guest is important, regardless of gaming or non gaming, or even different levels of gaming,” concluded Groeneveld.

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