back icon Back Insights 07/08/2022

Great expectations for travel value

Is your brand giving customers what they want?

Alongside most everything else, travel is getting more expensive. But that hasn’t curtailed demand — at least not yet. After more than two years of COVID travel restrictions, consumers are eager to make up for lost time and are flocking to airports like never before. But that doesn’t mean they’re willing to travel at any cost. Though they may be willing to pay more for a vacation in 2022, consumers are still looking to get as much value as possible from their travel booking. According to a recent arrivia survey on American consumer attitudes about cruise travel, almost half of respondents said value for money was the most important factor impacting their decision to book. Our 2022 Travel Loyalty Report also indicates this is true across all travel touchpoints.

Businesses delivering that value to customers can leverage this once-in-a-lifetime travel demand to engage their audience and grow their business. But as costs rise, how do companies achieve this, and what do consumers really mean when they say they want value?

Driving value through rewards and benefits

You don’t have to be a travel provider to tap into the emotional appeal of travel as a reward. You just need a travel rewards and benefits platform. Any organization with a dedicated audience or member base — think associations, employers, loyalty or subscription services — can partner with a rewards technology and fulfillment company like arrivia to create a dedicated travel booking platform exclusively for their members or customers.

Think of it as an exclusive travel club for your brand, allowing your audience to access member-only travel deals that far exceed the savings they’ll find on public forums like online travel agencies (OTAs). As an organization, you also derive value from this platform: you can become the go-to travel provider for your customers, enabling you to better engage with them more frequently and understand their preferences and behaviors. Another benefit? Your organization can earn additional revenue on each booking made by your members or customers.

But a travel rewards and benefits platform is more than just a booking tool. It’s a loyalty ecosystem that can be leveraged as a valuable incentive and engagement tool. Depending on your business, this can take many forms.

Travel as an employee incentive or new member sign-up reward

If you’re a large employer that has introduced travel to your benefits package, you could offer each new employee a points-based signing bonus as part of your recruitment strategy. A credit union could offer points to members for each new referral or celebrate specific milestones like opening a new investment account. Because travel is so prized and is considered a high-value item, the reward aspect is almost limitless and far more impactful than more commonplace rewards like a magazine subscription or a gift card to an online store.

Travel rewards platforms are proven, too. Many organizations, particularly financial services and travel companies, already offer customers loyalty programs with points that can be used for travel and discounted travel options. But many current programs fail to provide their members with recognizable value, especially compared to the glut of publicly available discount travel sites.

According to our recent survey on the intersection of travel rewards and loyalty, 24% of American consumers say their rewards don’t seem valuable enough, while 28% of loyalty program managers say they struggle to demonstrate the value of their rewards to members. These numbers indicate that existing travel rewards platforms need to do a better job of advertising their unique value proposition and leveraging their exclusive member base to deliver the best possible discounts and rates for customers and members.

It’s not (all) about the money

When consumers say that their loyalty programs don’t seem valuable enough, what are they really saying? While they do cite value for money as a top priority, that doesn’t mean all they care about is booking a trip for the least amount possible.

To get value from their travel rewards programs, consumers want options and a great customer experience —something they say is lacking. In our travel loyalty survey, 32% of respondents said they were bothered by the lack of redemption options among the programs they signed up for, and 29% said the earning and redemption process was too complex. Other pain points they mentioned were “irrelevant or superfluous recommendations and marketing,” “poor customer service,” and “poor website user experience.”

When a member logs on to their rewards booking website, they should be able to book the trip they want without facing a bevy of restrictions or limitations. That’s why only 26% of consumers we surveyed said they first turn to their loyalty programs when shopping for travel deals. This number could be much higher if those loyalty platforms delivered value on every front, not just in straight discounting but by meeting customer expectations for variety of options and service as well .

Consider the travel options available through the rewards platform for purchase and points redemption. If a member or customer wants to book a cruise, but your brand only offers flight and hotel options, they might find it inconvenient or too complicated to book through your service and instead turn to another source that can accommodate both. To turn your travel rewards program into an engine of growth, you need to provide members with the travel options they want to deliver the value they demand.