“IT’S A PRIVILEGE TO REALISE THAT, FOR MANY, PORTOBAY IS ALREADY A SECOND HOME”
One in every three PortoBay guests is a return customer. This is a metric that we are very proud of, as it reflects not only the level of our guests’ satisfaction but also the importance of the “Prestige by PortoBay” loyalty programme.
Driven by the responsibility to continue to value and recognise the preference for the experience that our brand offers, we began a process to optimise and redefine the loyalty programme, in order to provide a better experience to all our members.
In this interview, PortoBay Group CEO António Trindade explains the motivations for change and the path to follow in this programme that has brought together PortoBay and its guests for over 20 years.
IN: How long has the Prestige programme been operating?
AT: Prestige began in The Cliff Bay hotel in 1999. At the time, the PortoBay group was not yet official and we only had two hotels: The Cliff Bay and the Eden Mar, both in Madeira. Even today these are the hotels with the highest loyalty rates. The fact that we created a programme that gives benefits regardless of the booking channel was important for its growth, and for recognising the various partners that work with us.
What is the customer loyalty rate with PortoBay?
I remember talking about 18% in the early days. As we grew the loyalty rate kept up with us. We closed 2022 with 33% repeat guests. In the year to date, we have already reached 36%. Our guests are mainly from the leisure segment and it is the resort hotels that have the greatest loyalty. Madeira is the destination that has historically had the highest rates; at some times of the year, the loyalty rate gets to over 50%. In Portugal, the climate is milder than in the rest of Europe, so in the autumn/winter we get the greatest number of repeat visits. We have members who have stayed with us more than 30 times. Many of them go to all the destinations where we open hotels. They collect life-long memories through their experiences with us. It’s a privilege to realise that, for many, PortoBay is already a second home.
How important is the Prestige programme in PortoBay’s success?
It’s one of the Group’s strategic pillars. In our day-to-day management at PortoBay, we pay close attention to our guests' satisfaction and we fine-tune our experience through their feedback. We measure this feeling not only through our teams, but also using the more than 20,000 questionnaires collected annually. Returning to a PortoBay hotel is the most authentic form of satisfaction, and the Prestige programme brings that representation. But that's not all... we want to create experiences that continue to encourage new cycles of loyalty.
So the feedback has been taken into account…
A multidisciplinary working team was set up to redesign the Prestige experience and implement technology support solutions. This group’s first mission was to engage in an active research and listening phase, which was crucial in the process. Interviews and quantitative studies were conducted with over 1200 Prestige members of different levels, age groups and nationalities. Feedback from our operational teams was also highly valued. We have held, and will continue to hold, workshops to hear their suggestions.
What were the challenges of the current programme that motivated this change? Why now?
We had already decided that we would review the entire Prestige programme. The pandemic helped speed up that decision. In its 23 years of existence, Prestige had few fundamental changes. It has adapted and grown to new destinations, such as Brazil, Porto, Lisbon and the Algarve. It has adjusted to different guest motivations and to new distribution and communication needs. The results were always growing and positive, but we knew there was room to improve the guest experience and simplify operating processes. The main challenges were to bring greater flexibility in the mechanics of the customer progression, in the balance between urban and resort destinations and the consistency of the Prestige experience in different countries. In technological terms, the challenge lay in integrating recognition systems, in the activation processes for automatic benefits and progressions, in personalising communication according to preferences, in the visibility of the programme to members and in simplifying day-to-day management, which was still very manual.
In essence, what will the new Prestige programme bring to current members?
All current Prestige members keep their level and their benefits. The percentage discount awarded at each level now applies to all categories, from the accommodation to the spa. The new Prestige programme is more balanced. One of the changes concerns something that has long been requested: to consider in the progression not only the number of stays, but also the number of nights spent in a PortoBay hotel. The new programme allows you to consider the individual progression of all guests, rather than just focusing on the booking holder. Without wanting to spoil the surprise, we are also bringing some treats for very frequent repeat customers. The new Prestige is also more visible, more digital and more convenient. We have invested in a new platform where guests can interact more closely. It is accessible via a personal area on the PortoBay website or via the new app which we are finalising and will continue to add features to in the future. This path to digitising the Prestige programme also helps us meet carbon footprint reduction targets at PortoBay, in line with our sustainability policy. At this stage, much of the change is happening behind the scenes. The automation of many daily processes is simplifying tasks and allowing more focus on providing a more personalised experience. In essence, what we've done is adapt various aspects to ensure more flexibility and convenience for our guests, which has strengthened our commitment to: Care, Trust, Affection and Detail.
And for new members?
We have fine-tuned access conditions to the programme. The main change is the requirement for individual registration on the app or personal area of the website to be able to unlock the discounts and benefits.
This loyalty programme is already showing good results - what were PortoBay’s main concerns in the redesign?
More broadly, it is critical to ensure that Prestige continues to play an important and balanced role in the success of the business and its growth strategy. More specifically, to make sure that this overhaul maintains our current members’ level. Faced with a new method of progression, it was vital to take into account current members’ history. Despite some limitations arising from the use of different operating systems over the years, we managed to do this almost in full.
When does the new Prestige programme come into effect?
Two years after the beginning of this process, we are ready to start publicizing this new phase in the Prestige programme. We will start bringing out some new features this summer. But this is an ongoing process and new dynamics and features will appear over the next few years. The focus, in this first phase, is to prepare the groundwork for the future. A future where we want the loyalty programme to add exclusive and personalised experiences and, above all, to consolidate the bond that brings us closer to each of our many loyal customers.