Hotel at WaterWalk joins rewards program

Hotel at WaterWalk has joined a program that allows its customers to earn points, allowing it to compete with larger hotel chains’ rewards programs.

Steve Butcher, asset manager for Consolidated Holdings, the company that owns the 88-suite hotel at 711 S. Main, said the partnership with Stash Hotel Rewards will give the hotel a competitive lift among guests who like to stay in independently owned hotels but don’t because of the absence of a rewards program.

“It’s definitely been one of those things that independent hotels have going against them,” Butcher said.

According to Stash Hotel’s website — — about 200 independently owned hotels in 38 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and the Virgin Islands participate in its rewards program .

Hotel at WaterWalk and Hotel at Old Town, also owned by Consolidated Holdings, are the only two hotels in Kansas that participate in the program, according to the website.

The program allows its members to earn points that accumulate and eventually cover the cost of a room at a participating hotel.

Jeff Low, founder and CEO of Stash and a former executive at online travel website Expedia, said in an interview Friday that there is a cost for hotels to participate. “Primarily they pay for the points given to travelers,” he said.

And not all hotels can participate in the program.

Low said to participate, hotels must be independently owned and generally be rated 3 1/2 stars, although Stash allows “exceptional” 3-star hotels. Low said Stash also considers customer feedback on websites such as TripAdvisor before accepting a hotel into the program.

“We look for that because it’s a much more accurate representation of a customer’s stay” compared with the entry in a three-year-old travel guide, Low said.

He said even though each hotel in the program is unique because of its independent ownership, they all share a common level of customer service, guest experience, amenities and quality of rooms. “What we’ve found is that our acceptance rate of hotels that approach us is about 16 percent now,” Low said.

Dean Headley, Wichita State University marketing professor, said he’s not aware of any other rewards programs for independent hotels, though “it makes perfect sense.”

“This adds a lot to the party, so to speak,” he said, in terms of independent hotels’ ability to compete with chain hotel rewards programs.

“If consumers know about them, and they actually work them, these programs are a good deal,” Headley added.

Hotel rewards programs seem to be used mostly by leisure, rather than business, travelers, said Bobbi Hansen, owner of Wichita-based Sunflower Travel Corp. That’s because business travelers are generally traveling on the company’s money, and the company looks for a hotel that’s more affordable and close to the location where the employee will be working, Hansen said.