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2024 Travel Loyalty Outlook report uncovers changing consumer sentiment around travel priorities, planning and loyalty programs

Arrivia

The new report from arrivia explores how consumer attitudes toward travel have evolved since 2021, alongside travel brand and loyalty program goals amid continued increases in travel.

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. – Findings from arrivia‘s comprehensive new 2024 Travel Loyalty Outlook report include a clear intent by American consumers to travel more in 2024 and increased focus on value-seeking around travel planning and shifting expectations when it comes to utilizing travel loyalty program offerings.

In addition to changes in consumer sentiment around travel planning, the new report from arrivia, a travel technology company that provides travel loyalty, booking and marketing solutions to consumer-facing companies, also analyzes how loyalty program goals have shifted since a similar study of program professionals and American consumers was conducted in 2021.

Based on findings from a September 2023 survey of more than 2,200 U.S. consumers about their 2024 travel plans and the role of travel rewards and loyalty programs, combined with a concurrent study of over 100 loyalty decision-makers about their program strategies and priorities for the upcoming year, the 2024 Travel Loyalty Outlook report compares differences between the 2021 and 2023 responses while highlighting current trends among brands that offer travel rewards programs and the consumers and members that use them.

The full report builds upon The Pathway to Program Profits, a preview of the survey findings designed to assist loyalty program administrators during 2024 planning. It contains complete results and analysis of value to a wide range of travel brands, industry participants, suppliers, and loyalty professionals. Representatives from financial services institutions, airlines, membership-based organizations, hotels, resorts, cruise lines, and those seeking to add or improve travel rewards tied to other loyalty programs can benefit from report takeaways.

“While 2024 is looking to be another banner year for leisure travel among American consumers, our report identifies both challenges and opportunities for brands when it comes to meeting changing traveler needs,” says Jeff Zotaraarrivia Chief Marketing Officer. “Those travel brands and loyalty professionals that pay attention to what consumers are asking for in today’s economic environment – including greater value and more options – and adjust loyalty strategy to address these needs will benefit from a distinct advantage in the months to come.”

The 2024 Traveler Perspective

Consumers, including those who belong to loyalty programs, remain eager to travel, but value for money is their chief consideration, as inflation and high travel prices weigh on their decision-making processes.

  • “Price/value for money” was ranked #1 by consumers when asked about their top consideration when trip planning, with 37% of consumers saying that is their biggest priority.
  • 72% of consumers said the rising cost of travel is impacting their plans for this year or next – yet only 23% called out using their miles/loyalty points to defray the cost of the trip as a potential solution.
  • When booking a trip, loyalty members expressed frustration that prices are too high overall (44%), while 23% responded that they are never sure they are getting the right value.

Both pricing and overall value proposition are driving forces when booking travel in 2024. Today’s consumer is looking for a variety of ways to reduce travel costs, including redeeming points to lower the overall expense of their trip (46%), booking discounted travel through their program’s booking portal (31%), and using their membership to secure discounts with travel providers (29%).

The Evolving Goalposts for Loyalty Programs

One of the most notable changes in loyalty program goals between the 2021 and 2023 surveys is the shift from member attraction and retention to profitability goals – including encouraging existing members to move up a tier, increasing total spending through the program, and introducing new rewards or redemption options.

  • The size of program membership has also increased since 2021, particularly in the one to nine million range, from 10% of companies polled to 21%. Consequently, rewards programs with fewer than 10,000 members have sharply declined, dropping from 30% to 11% in the past two years.
  • A larger proportion of 2023 respondents offer travel rewards (95% vs. 65%), and programs with direct travel booking capabilities on their platforms have significantly increased, soaring from 61% to 84%.
  • Many of these companies (84%) also plan to offer new travel rewards or benefits soon, up from 63%.
  • Meanwhile, challenges around introducing new redemption options have also grown (from 9% to 14%), as have maintaining appropriate customer service levels (21% to 26%).

While overall program membership is thriving, especially among larger providers, survey results illustrate that demonstrating the value of rewards remains a struggle across industries, with one in five loyalty program providers citing this as a significant challenge in both report years.

Connecting with Today’s Consumer – Opportunities to Drive Engagement and Customer Lifetime Value

Survey findings illustrate that brands aiming to increase engagement and profitability must focus on value. That means improving the variety of rewards available through their programs, making it easier for members to redeem them, and highlighting their discounted rates.

  • 43% of consumers want discounts on everyday purchases vs. 25% of businesses who think that’s what their members value most.
  • 19% of providers think consumers value status perks, while the survey indicates the actual number is less than half on the consumer side.
  • 20% of brands say poor website user experience is what they think members find most frustrating about loyalty, while a small fraction (5%) of consumers cite this as their main frustration. By comparison, 21% of consumers are more frustrated by the difficult or complex processes of earning/redeeming miles.

In addition to incorporating more reward options and reducing friction around reward redemption, strategies outlined in the report for bridging these disconnects, and others identified, include deeper discounts, offering more flexible loyalty currencies, more effective communications around discounts, travel rewards and booking capabilities, and catering to niche travel segments prime for expansion opportunity, including the cruise market.

“Travel rewards have become a core component of many loyalty program offerings, largely due to their popularity and ability to drive revenue,” added Zotara. “However, consumer demand is no longer enough to meet program goals given increased competition and options available; brands must provide greater value in more ways than before, including the ability to personalize the experience with more feature- and option-rich offerings on more flexible and responsive user-friendly platforms.”

Co-Founder & Managing Director - Travel Media Applications | Website | + Posts

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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