By Lise Alves
Global Flight's 19th Loyalty & Awards Conference was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this past week. This is the first time the event has been held in South America and Global Flight's managing director, Ravindra Bhagwanani, says the change in venue was very successful.
"We took a certain gamble by coming down to South America. We've always rotated between more traditional locations in the Northern hemisphere, but delegates told us that it has been great because we've had a good mix of local, Latin American content and international content," the Global Flight executive told The Wise Marketer.
According to Bhagwanani, Brazil has one of the three largest loyalty markets in the world, along with Australia and the UK.
"Participants are discovering how strong and how evolved loyalty programs are in Brazil and Latin America as a whole," he says, adding "I think that has opened the eyes of a lot of people. They will go back with lots of inspiration."
Along with deep dive workshops and network opportunities 28 industry leaders spoke about trends, mishaps, and opportunities in the sector. Among the speakers at this year's event, were executives of several Latin American companies, including Latam Pass Brasil General Director, Martin Holdschmidt (LATAM airlines), VP Loyalty and AMVacations' Rodrigo Sandoval Piemonte (AeroMexico) and CEO Abhi Shah (Azul Airlines).
For Bhagwanani, one of the highlights of the event was the richness of the global content brought by speakers.
"The feedback I'm getting from delegates is: 'This is inspirational. These are topics I have not thought about. Hey, let me start to think about them," he says.
One of these topics is the concept of subscription programs. Three of the speakers at the Conference spoke about experiences with subscription loyalty programs.
"Subscription programs were born in Latin America and are not yet on the minds of European carriers. But now this [concept] is starting to spread or, at least, likely to be discussed," he says.
Although the Global Flight director admits, not everyone is going back home and starting a subscription program, 'they can start to think about things they have heard here'.
"It will not be the right fit for everyone but at least they've heard discussions about this option," notes Bhagwanani.
Among the highpoints of the event are the personal exchanges participants have with other loyalty professionals, says the director.
"This exchange of ideas is irreplaceable," he notes.
"We just took a picture of representatives of three Mexican carriers together on stage. They are enemies in daily life, but here they are talking to each other like old friends. You know that they are going back to work tomorrow and start fighting again, but today they are having fun together," he adds.
Deliberations on how technology might influence or change loyalty programs were also present at the Rio event, although the issue is not as advanced as one might think.
"Artificial Intelligence, NFTs, ChatGPT, all of these are upcoming trends but they are not as far along as many consultants might make you want to believe. If you are at the beginning of these or not very far along, the discussions here have shown you don't have to worry too much about it," explains the executive.
Bhagwanani says when looking at best practices in loyalty programs, one should not limit themselves to view what is around them.
"Look at other markets, look at what is going on in the rest of the world. Even if it is only to gain knowledge, it is good to know what is going on elsewhere and this is what this event is for: to give access to content that participants were not fully aware of," he concludes.
Winners of this year's Golden Loyalty Awards, include Aegean (Marketing), Etihad (Technology), Global Hotel Alliance (Management) and Accor (Partnership). The Supplier of the Year award went to Loyalty Juggernaut while Randy Petersen (FlyerTalk, BoardingArea, InsideFlyer) received the Lifetime Achievement Award.