back icon Back Insights 11/28/2022

What’s a Travel Club and Why You Should Care: A Primer for Associations

Associations are some of the most common membership-based organizations in existence. From trade groups to professional societies to service clubs, associations are groups of people with shared interests and common goals. And while those goals may be business-oriented – growing a professional network or promoting the prosperity of an industry – associations typically don’t have the transactional nature of other membership organizations like loyalty programs, for example.

Yet they often share the same mandates. To fulfill their missions, associations must offer value to their members, incentivize new membership and ensure the organization’s financial viability through revenue streams like dues or donations.

Beyond shared interests, club and association organizers need to offer tangible reasons for their members to stay involved and continue paying dues and fees. Attracting new members is how clubs and associations grow, so finding new ways to incentivize new sign-ups is a constant priority – and a consistent challenge.

Exclusive travel benefits through an association-branded travel club can deliver value to members, boost retention, and attract new members. But associations often start from a blank slate; most have yet to learn how to build a travel club, much less one optimized to help them achieve their operational goals.

There are some entities that exist solely as travel clubs, which have travel packages and discounts at the core of their mission–and are well-equipped to source and fulfill travel products and services. But most organizations like trade groups and professional associations aren’t in this position and need help on two levels: introducing the concept of a travel club as a delivery vehicle for travel benefits and implementing such a solution.

If associations want to use travel benefits as drivers of additional membership revenue or dues, they need a travel club solution that can offer recognizable value, provide suitable options, and be ready to deploy that solution “out of the box.”

So what is a travel club?

Many associations already offer members some perks beyond networking, educational benefits or other “core” features. Those perks could be as simple as providing a promotional code for a partner’s service or a voucher for airport lounge access. While those kinds of initiatives are great ways to thank association members for their support, they’re often one-offs and not part of a broader business or recruitment or retention strategy to keep the organization or association top of mind among members and deliver new revenue streams.

A travel club, on the other hand, is a sustained initiative that does both. On a practical level, it’s a dedicated travel booking component of an organization’s website, similar to what a consumer would expect from an online travel agency (OTA), except that it’s fully branded and seamlessly integrated with the association’s site and brand experience.

A travel club allows association members to browse and book deals and travel experiences. A highly effective travel club will go beyond traditional offerings with exclusive and flexible travel benefits members can’t find anywhere else—think the ability to package a cruise of their choosing with an add-on stay at a luxury villa or destination activities along with the purchase of a flight through the travel club.

If an association’s travel club can effectively meet members’ travel needs, it can also keep members engaging with that association instead of shopping elsewhere for travel. That creates an additional touchpoint for member-association interaction and deepens a member’s relationship with the organization. Over time, this translates to sustained dues-paying and membership activity, which leads to financially healthier associations.

Leveraging your association’s member base

But how can associations afford to offer a travel club to their members? Don’t discounts and exclusive travel deals have costs associated with them?

Yes, they do, but membership organizations have a built-in advantage: they offer exclusive pricing that isn’t available anywhere else and provide substantial travel discounts from their suppliers. Companies like cruise lines and resorts can extend special rates, fares and packages exclusively to membership groups without undercutting their broader public pricing strategy. With the right partner to help implement a travel club, associations can share in the margin differential; these special rates generate a new revenue stream for the organization. Associations can choose to retain a greater percentage of that margin as revenue or pass on more value to members, depending on their needs.

To enjoy the member engagement, attraction and revenue-generating benefits of a travel club, most associations first need to partner with a travel loyalty company to set one up. A partner with the right mix of extensive travel inventory and a technology solution that easily integrates with the association’s editing website is key to providing members with a satisfying, consistently valuable experience. This type of branded travel club gives associations the flexibility to deploy travel benefits in a way that aligns with their goals.

But there are only a few travel benefit providers that can manage exclusive pricing and fulfillment of travel inventory. Arrivia’s travel privileges platform lets associations launch a travel club under their brand with minimal implementation and set-up time, removing the technology barriers that keep organizations from innovating and providing greater value to their members.

To learn more about how arrivia can help your association set up a travel club for your members, get in touch with one of our experts here.