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New travel loyalty survey finds awareness gap in travel rewards’ perceived value

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A new report from arrivia reveals that while consumers are keen to earn and redeem travel rewards through loyalty programs, many feel rewards don’t provide enough value.

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - American consumers are ready for travel, ready to redeem and ready to earn travel rewards, according to a new survey report released by arrivia, a leading travel loyalty and booking technology platform that serves consumer-facing companies worldwide. The report, Where travel meets loyalty, reveals that U.S. consumers are looking for value when it comes to travel and that travel rewards have the potential to deliver that value. The report also shows a significant gap between what customers expect from their rewards and what loyalty providers offer.

Between December 2021 and January 2022, arrivia surveyed 2,150 American consumers and 204 industry decision-makers about the role of travel rewards in the post-pandemic travel resurgence. Almost 50% of the consumer respondents said the ability to earn points on travel is important. In comparison, 42% have redeemed points to lower the cost of their trip and one-third expected to use their loyalty points to cover the entire cost of their journey.

These findings suggest that loyalty programs that enable members to earn and redeem travel rewards can leverage the recent surge in travel demand to capture more of their members’ spend, incentivize new sign-ups and better engage with existing members.

Travel rewards are key but are often lacking
While travel rewards programs can be effective loyalty engines, they often fall short of expectations. Both industry decision-makers and consumers agree as to why. Almost a quarter of travelers said their rewards don’t seem valuable enough, while nearly a third are frustrated by the lack of redemption options, and roughly the same amount say it’s difficult or complex to earn and redeem points.

Industry leaders recognize that their loyalty programs are lacking, with 27% admitting they fail to offer enough variety when it comes to travel options, and 28% report that they struggle to demonstrate the value of their rewards.

What’s even more worrying for loyalty administrators is the number of respondents who say that none of their loyalty programs offer travel rewards (54%), compared to 65% of industry leaders who say these redemption options are available. This apparent disconnect means loyalty providers should emphasize marketing their travel rewards and better communicate their value.

“Loyalty providers that want to use their travel rewards program to help grow their business must give members what they want. As our survey results indicate, that means delivering the right rewards and offers to the right people at the right time,” says Jeff Zotara, arrivia Chief Marketing Officer. “Expanding travel options, making it easier to redeem travel and providing a seamless booking experience backed by flexible technology are all important to increasing the real and perceived value of travel loyalty programs.”

Technological capability remains a barrier to closing the value gap for many loyalty program providers; 39% of loyalty programs don’t allow members to book travel directly through their platform. Another 31% say booking conversion rates would improve if they could offer more exclusive discounts.

Other findings from the survey include:

  • 63% of industry respondents plan on offering new travel rewards or benefits in 2022, including exclusive travel options, deeper discounts and experiences or activities.
  • 30% say attracting new members to their loyalty programs is their biggest challenge
  • 26% of travelers turn to their loyalty program platforms first when travel planning signaling that deals can influence decisions
  • 59% of millennials say it’s either extremely or very important to be able to redeem points or miles when planning a trip.

Focus on travel loyalty programs for financial services brands
Though the survey included respondents from different industries, including hospitality, travel and education, the report reveals that financial services companies have the most to gain by upping the value proposition of their travel rewards programs.

More than half of credit cardholders belong to a loyalty program that includes travel benefits, and roughly 80% belong to five or more loyalty programs. That means they are more likely to be familiar with various reward structures and more attuned to the relative value of rewards, while loyalty providers in this sector must stand out from the crowd to differentiate their programs from traditional types of travel rewards.

“Offering travel rewards is a good first step; we know they resonate with cardholders and consumers,” added Zotara. “But if credit card companies and financial institutions want to become their customers’ go-to for everyday purchases and capture more of their travel spend, they need to get to the next level by providing exceptional, exclusive discounts combined with streamlined redemption and whole-trip booking capabilities.

“That’s how brands can not only meet the expectations established by online travel providers but exceed them and become their customers’ first thought when planning to travel.”

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