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Where is the love? Investigating multiple membership and hotel customer loyalty

Lina Xiong (College of Business, Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia, USA)
Ceridwyn King (School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)
Clark Hu (Department of Hospitality Management, College of Business, Southern Taiwan University of Science and Technology, Tainan City, Taiwan)

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

ISSN: 0959-6119

Article publication date: 6 May 2014




The purpose of this study is to explore polygamous program loyalty in hotel loyalty programs and the relationship between members’ behavioral loyalty and their perceptions of the program effectiveness.


Descriptive statistics, discriminant analysis, ordinary least square regression and one-way ANOVA methods.


This study suggests that the flexibility to purchase points in a loyalty program is significantly associated with the polygamous program loyalty. Members will stay in only one program if they perceive such flexibility. Although members tend to emphasize purchasing accommodation from the loyalty programs’ hotels, they do not necessarily advocate or pay price premiums for the brand. Compared with basic members, elite members exhibit higher levels of loyalty behaviors in general, but not in terms of paying price premiums.

Research limitations/implications

The results suggest that how customers value a loyalty program can differentiate the number of membership(s) they have. Increasing the flexibility of point purchase in hotel loyalty programs encourages customers to stay in only one program. With a majority of the participants in the study being senior travelers, the results and implications should be generalized only in the senior market. A larger and more diverse sample is recommended for future research.

Practical implications

If loyalty programs seek to keep members from joining other loyalty programs, they should increase members’ likelihood to achieve their expected benefits such as increased flexibility of point purchase. In addition, loyalty programs should encourage, recognize and incentivize members’ reciprocal behaviors based on the norm of reciprocity to build a reciprocal chain in loyalty programs. However, in seeking sustained loyal behavior, loyalty programs need to demonstrate value beyond transactional rewards.


This paper explores the reason why customers join multiple loyalty programs (i.e. polygamous program loyalty) and identifies a broken reciprocity link in hotel loyalty programs. Many members primarily focus on the utilities of loyalty programs rather than contributing back to the program; therefore, the norm of reciprocity is suggested to improve loyalty program effectiveness.



Xiong, L., King, C. and Hu, C. (2014), "Where is the love? Investigating multiple membership and hotel customer loyalty", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 26 No. 4, pp. 572-592.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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