Hotels are looking to establish deeper connections with their customers in the face of growing competition from start-ups. So far, home rental services like Airbnb claim 12 percent of the traveler accommodations market, according to a report this year by the market research firm Mintel Research. But that share is expected to grow, especially among travelers who are 40 and younger, and that has prompted hotel brands to rework their rewards programs to cement loyalty with their frequent customers. “Hotels have started to feel the pinch from encroachment,” said Gina Cavato, an analyst for lifestyles and leisure at Mintel. “They are trying to boost loyalty programs by offering unique rewards options.” Marriott is trying to differentiate itself by focusing on self-improvement activities, in part because its own research suggests this is how people will increasingly spend their money when traveling. According to Marriott’s consumer research, younger travelers are willing to spend twice as much — or nearly $300 a month — on self-improvement, including bettering their sports or cooking skills. Get the full story at The New York Times