At the Great GM Debate advisory panel meeting, Abjar Hotels CEO Abdellah Essonni said loyalty programmes are a good thing, and added: “We work with the Sheraton and with SPG, which is one of the best loyalty programmes, and if anything, it brings direct business as opposed to business through OTAs. Because if you are an SPG member and you book through you don’t get any of the SPG privileges. Members know that and they tend to book directly. “And as an owner it costs me less than if it were an OTA booking. Which is why we see in the recent years brands investing in and promoting their loyalty programmes a lot more, and rightly so.” Viceroy Hotel Group regional vice president and Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi general manager Andrew Humphries said that while the programmes may seem expensive, the returns exist if they are well-run. “It’s one of those potential hidden costs. On balance if it’s driving sufficient volumes through lower commissions or no commissions, then it’s a pretty compelling argument.” Get the full story at