A ‘Genius’ program from Booking.com: The Genius idea that changed it all

by | Sep 5, 2021 | Loyalty Programs, Rewards, Status Tiers

As my list of “places to visit once lockdown is over” extends, so does my curiosity about how to get there, where to stay, and what to do – and how to save or earn with loyalty and reward programs of course. Read my Club Jetstar article to find how to get there. This article focuses on where to stay, and more specifically where to book accommodation.

The Dutch Online Travel Agency (OTA), Booking.com, is a major player in the online travel bookings space. Although Booking.com holds a large share of many markets around the world, there is some tough competition in the industry from the likes of Expedia, Airbnb and Webjet.

In a move to increase their member base, Booking.com updated their Genius loyalty program to provide member benefits right from the get-go.

A few clicks to sign-up

Sign-up for a Booking.com account using Facebook, Google, an email address, or an Apple ID.

Then, a prompt to enter a name and mobile number appear, but this can be skipped.

Ta da! Account created and immediate benefits are ready for members who make a booking.

Lifetime benefits

The Genius program has two levels. Once reached, each level is maintained for life.

  • To access Genius level 1 – Sign up.
  • To access Genius level 2 – Complete 5 stays in 2 years.

Genius Level 1

  • 10% discount: on the price of a stay before taxes and charges.

Genius Level 2

  • 10%–15% discounts: on the price of a stay before taxes and charges.
  • Free breakfast
  • Free room upgrade

Not all accommodation is created equal

Previously, to reach Genius Level 1, a member was required to complete two stays within 2 years. This was considered a low entry level into the program. Now, it’s even easier! A member can sign-up in a few minutes and receive the same 10% discount on future bookings – for life. Great value for members.

Not all accommodation providers participate in the genius program. To be eligible, a provider must have a rating of 7.5 or above. In any case, providers are not obliged to participate.

When browsing, there is a ‘Genius’ label to indicate an accommodation providers program participation.

It’s also important to note that not all Genius Level 2 benefits apply to each stay. For example, a hotel could choose to offer a 10% discount for a Genius member and a free room upgrade but is not obliged to offer a free breakfast.

Einstein level loyalty design?

Some may throw around the word ‘genius’ to describe Booking.com’s program. The program generates a loyal member base, and the accommodation providers foot the bill. Why? In the hopes of better visibility on Booking.com, of course. As Genius’ popularity rises, providers will have to join the program and take on the discount to at least maintain their current visibility.

For Booking.com, Genius enables growth and protects share of wallet in a highly competitive market, it helps build a database on who is travelling, when and where, and drives advocacy for the brand – given members are happy with the savings and the experience (considering members will stay at highly rated accommodation by design).

Genius sits in a sweet spot for less frequent travellers. A program tailored to those who may not travel enough to earn rewards from the big hotel programs, such as Marriott Bonvoy or Hilton Honors, but are willing to make infrequent bookings from the same OTA over time (if it means they are rewarded). It also caters for those who want to stay at different types of accommodation across different brands.

Enticing members to use the product once, and then five times in two years, may induce behavioural commitment. The question is can Booking.com can turn this into attitudinal commitment? If they can, that would mean that members don’t opt for a competitor when a better deal comes along.

All in all, Genius is a win for travellers and the OTA. Unfortunately, it is the lowly rated accommodation providers and the margins of accommodation providers in general, that will take a hit.

Hunter Murray is a Loyalty Account Executive at Loyalty & Reward Co, Australia’s leading loyalty consulting agency. He has worked in several roles across the financial services, strategy consulting, and customer service industries. As a Loyalty Account Executive, Hunter applies his skills across all aspects of the business, including loyalty program design, member engagement and client management, and underpins the implementation and operation across a range of B2C and B2B projects.

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