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by Donna M. Airoldi | February 22, 2011

Free Wi-Fi, complimentary room upgrades, continental breakfast, 75 percent bonus points on stays—all these perks and more are part of a revamped loyalty program from Carlson Hotels and Rezidor Hotel Group officially set to launch on March 31, 2011. The announcement came during the company’s annual global hotel business conference in Washington, D.C., last week.

Members of Club Carlson, formerly known as Goldpoints Plus, will be able to earn points on eligible stays at 1,071 hotels worldwide for the brands Radisson, Radisson Blu, Country Inns & Suites, Park Inn, and Park Plaza, including 42 resorts in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Asia, and Latin America.

“A key pillar of our Ambition 2015 growth strategy is to help our hotels grow their revenues,” said Hubert Joly, president and chief executive officer, Carlson, in a statement. “In 2010, we announced a plan to double the size of our loyalty program to 10 million members by 2013, and the membership grew by 24 percent to 6.3 million members during 2010.”

Key loyalty program changes:

New tier: Club Carlson will offer four membership levels with three elite tiers, including a new Concierge level reached after members complete 75 nights or 30 stays in a calendar year. Members who attain this level will be rewarded with 75 percent bonus points, 3,000 points for booking online, free continental breakfast, early check-in and late check-out, and automatic room upgrades. Starting mid-year, members also will be able to access a Concierge Service line for theater and sports tickets, and reservations at top-rated restaurants anywhere in the world.

Points earning structure changes: Members will earn 20 points per US$1 spent at all hotel brands worldwide, raising the earning level for properties that currently award 15 points per $1 spent (namely Country Inn & Suites). The extra points earned on European stays (20 points per Euro) will be eliminated as all awards now will be based on the U.S. dollar value of stays. First and second elite levels will earn 25 and 50 percent bonus points each, respectively. 

Free Wi-Fi: For Radisson properties worldwide and all Carlson hotel brands in North America.

Fewer points needed for redemption: Points needed for a free night’s stay drops from 15,000 to 9,000, at least for Category 1 properties. Members should note though that the number of hotels included in this category will be reduced from about 134 to 45.

Benefits for small businesses: A new extension of the loyalty program is specifically designed for small business owners, allowing both the individual traveler and the business to earn points for stays. Business owners can use their points to reduce future travel expenses or offer them as employee rewards.

No blackout dates.

New partner companies: Members can redeem points at CWT Vacation hotels, which include properties in Hawaii, Las Vegas, ski resort destinations, and cruises, and at 80 Club Med resorts, including the newly renovated Sandpiper Bay in Port Saint Lucie, FL. (Incentive soon will be writing about the new conference space opening later this year at the revamped resort.)

Elite rollover nights: Elite members will be able to roll over extra nights to qualify toward their next year’s elite status.

New retailers for redemption: Carlson has added 20 new retail and restaurant partners for point redemption options including Amazon.com, Best Buy, iTunes, and T.G.I. Friday’s.

Carlson is launching Club Carlson as a new iPhone and Android mobile application that will feature express booking for all Carlson hotels, personalization options, GPS mapping, and the ability to redeem points. The app also links to “Explore Destinations,” which stores more than 4.4 million points of interest from local restaurants to tourist attractions.

The company is spending $10 million to launch the new program. For more information, visit www.carlson.com or, once it is live on March 31, www.clubcarlson.com.