back icon Back News 09/07/2021

Membership has its (Travel) Privileges

With global travel depressed by the COVID-19 pandemic for nearly eighteen months, demand for mainstream and niche travel options is forecast to surge this year and next. The impact of the Delta coronavirus variant will likely determine whether the majority of the surge occurs in 2021 or 2022, but a rebound is coming. That’s obviously good news for airlines, hotels and travel agencies – and travelers. It also creates opportunities for other organizations to tap into this once-in-a-generation demand spike. Even organizations that don’t consider travel a central aspect of their offering or operations.

Membership-based organizations looking to increase enrollment, keep current members active and engaged, and reduce member attrition can use travel benefits to achieve those goals. By offering members the ability to access exclusive travel discounts as a perk, they can capitalize on the travel rebound while meeting their membership goals. But to do so, they will need proven, turnkey booking and fulfillment solutions in place to offer these services to their members.

There are plenty of organizations out there that can use the power of travel privileges. The Power of A, the research arm of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), identifies 63,866 trade and professional associations and 1,237,094 charitable and philanthropic organizations currently operating in the US. Pure travel clubs – organizations created for the sole purpose of offering travel discounts or exclusive travel-related experiences to members – are also on the rise, fueled by growth in both the luxury club segment and more accessible travel subscription services.

The first thing all membership organizations have in common is the imperative to grow by bringing in new members and keeping current members engaged (and paying dues, etc.). But they also share a unique feature – their closed user groups – that enable them to offer travel discounts that public-facing organizations cannot. This combination of factors makes membership organizations particularly well-suited to providing travel privileges as a perk.

Discovering growth incentives
Attracting new members is how clubs and associations grow, so finding new ways to incentivize new sign-ups is a constant challenge. Incentives can be baked into the group’s mission; for instance, trade associations are designed to provide connections and networking opportunities for members working in the same profession, and that’s the main incentive for joining. Other organizations need a more varied suite of benefits to encourage sign-ups, and that’s where travel benefits can be effective.

Travel is both inspirational and aspirational and almost universally appealing. And the components of travel – the flight, the hotel room – are typically expensive enough that people easily recognize the benefit of a discount. So if an organization offers access to exclusive travel discounts as an incentive for joining, it can be quite effective.

The caveat is, those benefits need to deliver recognizable value and suitable options. If members can find the same discounts on Expedia, there’s no added value there. And if they can’t book the destination they want, they won’t use the service. A membership organization’s travel benefits solution needs to offer both

Want your members to stay active? Give them a reason
Once prospective members are converted, club and association organizers need to offer tangible reasons for them to stay involved and continue paying dues and fees. For these organizations to meet their acquisition, retention, growth, and engagement goals, they need to articulate their professional or social value to members and deliver actual value. That can take the form of exclusive travel benefits.

If a travel benefits program is robust enough, it can become the first option members think about when they’re planning their next trip. That keeps them engaged with the organization, interacting with the brand and visiting the website often. But to do that, the travel benefits program needs to have a variety of travel options and booking capabilities on par with publically available OTAs and traditional travel agencies. Most importantly, it needs to feature discounts unavailable anywhere else. And that’s membership organizations’ secret weapon.

Take advantage of your built-in advantage
Membership organizations have something that most for-profit companies, service providers and travel entities don’t: they’re closed user groups  (CUGs). That means they’re eligible for massive travel discounts because travel inventory providers can offer “private” rates to organizations with a proscribed set of members. It might seem self-explanatory, but one of the upshots of having a members-only organization is getting access to members-only pricing.

That is an incredibly valuable tool for clubs, associations and groups. The discounts can be substantial compared to publically available fares and rates, often as much as 80% below list prices. It gives organizations the flexibility to offer tiered discounts or incentive-based discounting, or even to offer sign-up bonuses or giveaways funded by the margin between the discounted rate of a travel product and its booked rate. With travel inventory offered at variable CUG pricing, organizations can also harness travel bookings as a revenue stream. The power of CUG pricing is something too few membership organizations currently take advantage of.

In part, this is because there are only a few travel benefit providers that can manage CUG pricing and fulfillment of travel inventory. To get the most out of the travel rebound, organizations need a travel partner with CUG experience. They also need to do the following:

Arrivia’s exclusive travel benefits, including members-only pricing/discounts and a wide variety of travel inventory, help private clubs, member-based organizations and trade associations deliver more value to participating members, reinforce affinity to their group and attract new members.

1) Recognize the perceived value of travel benefits and discounting to both prospective and current members
2) Explore ways to engage current members that relate to travel discounts and booking
3) Implement travel booking capabilities that offer a fully branded member experience and include the breadth of options members will find valuable
4) Understand and leverage the power of closed user group pricing to deliver value to members

Contact us to learn how we can help your membership organization today.