When Hoyt H. Harper II joined ITT Sheraton as vice president and director, marketing programs and partner marketing, Sheraton was not yet part of the Starwood Hotels & Resorts portfolio. But Harper had already spent 11 years in the travel industry, honing marketing expertise that would eventually help lead parent company Starwood, which purchased Sheraton in 1998, to inspire a number of company–and industry–changes.
In 1993, ITT Sheraton became the first upscale international hotel company to join AT&T’s International Hotel Plan as part of a three-year, $60 million partnership. “Making long-distance calls around the world while traveling on business is a standard procedure these days, and allowing our guests to save money and get special services when they make calls makes good business sense,â€ reported Harper, now a senior vice president and global brand leader of Sheraton Hotels & Resorts.
By 2000, Harper had helped the company reposition hotel customer loyalty programs. “An airline mile was an airline mile, so you knew how many miles it would take to get a free airline ticket, but the hotel programs had their own different rules and people found them too complicated,â€ Harper explains. “When we launched our “Preferred Guest,â€ we changed all that. Our program had a currency people understood and we eliminated all blackout dates and capacity restrictions. All of a sudden we had this big win on our hands and in its first year it was voted the best in the industry.â€
(Continued on next page)