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The Mature Traveler

10% Off, Period--and No Fine Print

November 09, 1986|BILL HUGHES | Hughes is a 30-year veteran travel writer living in Sherman Oaks.

Finally a major hotel chain has created a senior discount program for mature travelers that eliminates such nit-picking restrictive phrases as "the program is good at participating hotels" or "offer subject to room availability."

Quality Inns International has just started what it calls Prime Time, a straight 10% discount for guests 60 years or older or who are members of a major senior organization such as the American Assn. of Retired Persons.

The program is simple. The discount is offered at more than 900 Quality Inns, including Quality Comfort Inns and Quality Royale Inns, 713 of which are located in the U.S. Senior discounts are also offered at Quality's international properties, as high as 20% in Mexico and 25% in New Zealand.

365 Days a Year

Further, there is no set limit to the number of rooms each property sets aside for senior rates. The discount is offered at every room and every hotel and inn. There are no blackout periods and the offer is available seven days a week, year round.

Another nice touch: no membership fees, no club to join; just be prepared to provide proof of age if requested.

It should be noted that Quality previously had a senior discount rate program that did include the objectionable "participating hotels" and "subject to availability" clauses, although the offer was available at more than 80% of the chain's properties.

"It took a while but we learned," said Bill Todd, director of marketing for Quality Inns International, who added that the chain spent more than $50,000 in research and development of the new Prime Time Program.

"One of the first things we learned was that when hotel chains promote discounts for seniors while limiting the availability of discounted rooms in individual hotels or none at all at some properties, it can have a negative impact on many consumers.

Word of Bad-Mouth

"Our research showed that if any senior was turned away from what he or she thought should be a discounted rate, they turned around and told eight to 10 people about their experience.

"So it's really very simple," Todd added. "If a hotel chain's senior discount program is to be effective and credible, it has to be consistent. That's why Quality Inns International has the first unrestricted leisure travel discount program for seniors."

The 10% discount marks the chain's first step in an aggressive marketing program aimed at the senior market. Starting early next year, the chain will offer a variety of vacation package plans that will include not just lodging but meals, tours, discounted amenities at hotels and sports activities.

"We've had such packages as a general offer to the public for some time," Todd said. "But when our research found that mature travelers represented as much as 30% of sales, we decided to offer packages specifically designed for seniors."

Another aspect of the Prime Time program will include discounted coupon books at all hotels and inns.

The discount coupons will vary from property to property but will include such items as a free bottle of champagne upon check-in for mature travelers, unlimited greens fees at inns with golf facilities and perhaps a fourth night free after a three-night stay. This program is still under development and will be fully implemented soon.

On a more singular scale, the Hotel Bedford in San Francisco will offer a "Silver Dollars" promotion for mature travelers 60 years and over starting Saturday and running through March 15, 1987.

For $50 a room for one or two guests, seniors receive deluxe accommodations, a welcome gift upon arrival, complimentary wine each weekday in the lobby, plus a VIP Package to San Francisco's Pier 39.

In addition to discounts at many of the specialty shops and boutiques, the VIP package includes a bay cruise and entry to the San Francisco Experience Theater.

For more information, call toll-free (800) 652-1889 (in California) or (800) 227-5642 (outside the state).

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