|By Leon Stafford, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jul. 1, 2005 - Most hotel loyalty programs promise the moon through frequent flier miles, rebates or free accommodations.
Atlanta-based Jameson Inns is offering guests a little piece of the company.
In a move to differentiate it from the pack, Jameson will begin offering stock in the chain and its Signature Inns brand to frequent customers starting today.
"We were looking for something that was unique, easy to understand and cost-effective," said Chief Executive Officer Thomas W. Kitchin.
For every night a guest stays at the chain's 123 locations in 13 states in the Southeast and Midwest, 10 percent of the bill will be used to buy shares, which closed at $2.31 Thursday.
Loyalty programs began in the 1980s as a way to keep customers in an increasingly competitive industry, said Mark Woodworth, executive managing director at PKF Consulting, an Atlanta firm that tracks the health of the hotel industry.
"One of the challenges that these companies have since loyalty programs have become so ubiquitous is, 'How do I make mine different?"' Woodworth said.
Sign up on the chain's Web site -- www.jamesoninns.com -- stay three nights in a year and you're in.
"The traveling consumer today is looking for a reward," Kitchin said. "They have been educated that way."
The shares issued will be based on the stock's average closing prices for the last five trading days of each month.
The company has earmarked 3 million shares for the program, Kitchin said. The company has about 57 million shares outstanding.
The company is offering stock because to make frequent flier miles and free rooms work would require nationwide locations.
Jameson had to get special approval for the program from the Securities and Exchange Commission, which was concerned because the stock is administered solely via the Internet, a departure from traditional mail or broker correspondence, Kitchin said.
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