It's a tough time for independent hotels. The anemic recovery may just have stalled. Lenders won't return phone calls. Competing for frequent travelers has never been tougher, as big brands creep into the independent's backyard with new mass-produced boutiques like Aloft and Indigo. It's enough to keep an independent hotelier up at night. And there may be reason for that insomnia. Hotel broker Atlas Hospitality estimates independents represent 71% of the California hotels in foreclosure.
Just 18 months old, Stash has already become the largest independent hotel loyalty program in the United States. And it's getting bigger. Fast. In the past 6 months, 50 more hotels joined the network, with 167 hotels throughout the United States and the Caribbean now participating in the program. In the last month alone, 18 hotels joined Stash—more than 1 new hotel every 2 days.
What's driving this rapid adoption? Stash partner hotels report the program increases bookings and guest frequency. Denihan Hospitality Group, with six of its Affinia hotels in Stash, analyzed the behavior of their repeat guests. Prior to joining Stash, those guests stayed 2.8 times a year. After enrolling in Stash, they stayed 3.3.times a year, an increase in frequency of nearly 20%. "Enrolling guests in Stash can mean the difference between seeing them 3 times a year instead of just twice," said John Moser, Chief Brand & Marketing Officer, Denihan Hospitality Group.
Hoteliers joining Stash also say they find the program's flexibility, low cost, and minimal commitment appealing...and a significant departure from joining a chain. Brigette Breitenbach, co-owner of Milwaukee's The Iron Horse Hotel, said her hotel was heavily courted by the big brands. "The overriding issue with the chain programs was cost," said Breitenbach. "The idea of giving 6-7% on rooms we would have sold anyway didn't make a lot of sense."
The chain's marketing and operational guidelines were also a concern. Breitenbach wondered if The Iron Horse Hotel's edgy style—with its motorcycle rentals and special places to hang helmets and leathers—would survive under a chain. She didn't have those concerns with Stash. "Stash is subtle in its branding," said Breitenbach. "It's like a seal of approval versus the chain boutique brands which are more overarching, like joining a big conglomerate."
This latest wave of new partners opens the door for Stash members to earn and redeem points in 29 new destinations, including Honolulu, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Houston, Brooklyn, Nashville, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Cleveland, and Newport, RI. New Stash partners range from Viceroy Miami—a chic high-rise with a Philippe Starck-designed spa, to Hidden Pond—a collection of plush Kennebunkport cottages, to The Strand Hotel—with a glassed-in rooftop terrace and a stunning view of New York's Empire State Building.
New Stash partner hotels include some of the most-loved hotels by travelers, with an extraordinarily high average TripAdvisor recommend rating of 86%. Many rank #1 in their markets, including Glidden House (Cleveland), Iron Horse Hotel (Milwaukee), Hotel Murano (Tacoma), John Ascuaga's Nugget Casino Resort (Sparks, NV), The Hotel Veritas (Cambridge, MA), Delamar Greenwich Harbor (Greenwich, CT), The Lodge at Woodloch (Hawley, PA), and The Olde Mill Inn (Basking Ridge, NJ).
Travelers can join Stash for free at www.stashrewards.com. Stash members earn 5 points for each dollar spent on eligible room rates and can redeem them at great independent hotels across North America, including the Caribbean and Hawaii. Stash points never expire, and redemption is simple, without blackout dates or category restrictions found in many chain programs. Stash partner hotels also provide members with exclusive travel deals.