Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association


May 24 2013

3 Ways Loyalty Programs Can Still Pay

By David McMillin, Staff Writer

As more travelers turn to online price comparison sites to secure the best deals, the concept of brand loyalty has been steadily disappearing. Now, hoteliers and airlines are unveiling new reasons why guests should bypass online travel agents in favor of booking directly with the same chain stay after stay and flight after flight.

SEE ALSO: Do Loyalty Programs Still Matter?

While you may not feel like your loyalty points are paying off like they used to, some brands are delivering new incentives for you to keep racking them up. Here are three examples of programs that still pay.

1) A free connection.

While travelers are beginning to demand free Internet access wherever they are, many hoteliers aren’t willing to simply give it away to just anyone. However, InterContinental Hotels Group unveiled that it will provide a complimentary connection to all 71 million members of the IHG Rewards Club. When the company announced the news earlier this year, they cited a statistic that bears bad news for other hotel chains that haven’t begun offering some level of free Wi-Fi: 43 percent of adults would choose not to stay in a hotel that charged for Internet access.

SEE ALSO: 5 Reasons Why Free Wi-Fi Might Not Be the Best Deal 

2) A free full stomach. 

This week, Marriott announced that it will begin offering free continental breakfast for two to all Marriott Rewards Gold and Platinum Elite members seven days a week. Not hungry? The hotel chain will replace the free breakfast with 750 additional points as a gift for their business.

SEE ALSO: Take A Look Inside One of the World’s Biggest Hotel Brands

3)  A free bag.

As airlines continue to increase fees on bags, reservation changes and every other opportunity for add-on costs, Frontier Airlines is offering free checked and carry-on bags for Summit and Ascent-level members of its loyalty program, Early Returns. The company recently announced plans that will actually penalize customers who do not book directly through the Frontier website: those who book through OTAs will have to pay between $25 - $100 for carry-on bags.

But, Wait...

While no one is going to complain about freebies, today’s loyalty landscape will require more than a few opportunities to earn points - - particularly when those points may not be as valuable. Recent changes to programs at Hilton, Marriott and Starwood all mean that many properties will require more points for redemption.

“It’s clear that travel brands need to up their games if they want to drive genuine loyalty among consumers,” Adam Weissenberg, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and U.S. Travel, Hospitality and Leisure Leader, said earlier this year after digesting the results of his company’s survey on consumer travel behaviors. “With heightened competition and eroding customer loyalty, hotels and airlines, now, more than ever, need to focus on enhancing and personalizing the consumer experience.”

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