La Quinta Putting Might Behind Military

 Hotel Business Journal | March 2013

LAS CROABAS, PUERTO RICO—One of the key initiatives over the next year for La Quinta Inns & Suites will be an all-out effort to embrace members of the armed services, as well as veterans and veteran-owned vendors.

Describing the military-friendly concept for some 1,300 attendees here at the midscale chain’s annual conference being held at El Conquistador Resort, President/CEO Wayne Goldberg said it would range across a variety of strategies, including hiring, community giving, marketing and recognition.

“We want to hire more veterans and military spouses because they are quick learners and have demonstrated leadership qualities and to designate La Quinta as a ‘Top-25 Military Spouse Friendly Employer’ for 2013,” said Goldberg. He noted the company recently was cited by GI Jobs magazine as a military friendly employer.

In addition, Goldberg said the chain’s community-giving efforts have enabled it to form strategic partnerships with several leading military non-profit organizations, and in working with these groups “Our [loyalty program] Returns members will be able to donate their Returns points to a fantastic philanthropic cause: the military family,” he said.

EVP/Chief Marketing Officer Julie Cary said the organizations include Fisher House Foundation, Operation Home front and the Armed Services YMCA.

“Fisher House has a program called ‘Hotels for Heroes,’ a program that helps military-family members who have urgent, last-minute travel needs,” said Cary, indicating the donation of Returns points is a simple process. “The donated Returns points go into a central account managed by the Hotels for Heroes team, who can then redeem them for stays at our hotels,” she said.

Although the program is just getting off the ground, approximately 125,000 points already have been donated.

Beginning in May, La Quinta will launch a new tier within the Returns program that will offer active-duty military, military spouses, caregivers and veterans the opportunity to join the program and receive an accelerated tier status similar to the loyalty program’s Gold tier.

The La Quinta Returns Military Rewards program also will include: 2,000 Returns points on the first stay; two King Room upgrade certificates; 20% bonus points on all stays; a dedicated, exclusive customer service and reservations telephone number; a personalized welcome kit; and a 12% discount when military identification is shown.

Goldberg added the chain’s efforts to recognize military members would include giving them a key-card sleeve at check in that recognizes their service.

The CEO told attendees there was one non-cost aspect of the program that could and should be implemented immediately.

“Train your front desk [staff] and everyone at your property to recognize and thank anyone in uniform. When your employees see a member of the armed forces in uniform, they should immediately go up to the individual and thank them for their service to our country,” said the CEO.

The military initiative, which Goldberg said was inspired by consultant Lee Dushoff who works with the chain, is being spearheaded by Derek Blake, La Quinta’s VP/partnership marketing.

The CEO also said the chain would look to increase its support of vendors that are veteran owned. The company presently works with approximately 22 such vendors.

Media support targeted toward the military will launch in May and include print and online efforts, said Cary.

Goldberg felt La Quinta’s military initiative is more comprehensive than other programs and offers the chain a competitive advantage. “More importantly, it’s the right thing to do,” he said.—Stefani C. O’Connor