Study reveals new travel loyalty trends
Priority Club Rewards, the frequent guest loyalty programme of InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), has published the findings of its latest global travel loyalty study, revealing several key trends among frequent travellers around the world.
The study of more than 10,000 frequent travellers, all of whom who were members of loyalty programmes from IHG and other hotel companies in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, were also used to develop the new look and market positioning for IHG's Priority Club Rewards programme.
Among the top trends identified by the survey:
- Hotel loyalty programme points have displaced airline frequent flyer miles as a preferred currency. Frequent travellers said they now place a higher perceived value on hotel loyalty programme currency over frequent flyer miles, as airlines' imposition of fees, decreased reward seat inventory, and greater restrictions have weakened consumer trust. At the same time, of course, most hotel programmes have added additional redemption options, including access to airline inventory.
- Business travellers value loyalty more than price. Loyalty programme membership has become a stronger predictor of hotel selection than price or location among frequent guests who stay at least 20 nights per year, regardless of their preference for midscale or upscale brands.
- Travelers across North America, Asia Pacific and Europe are equally conscious of loyalty currencies. The value that loyalty points hold as currency - both when earning and redeeming - was ranked as the highest priority for hotel selection by frequent travellers globally. This was ranked even higher than special perks, privileges, or benefits within the hotel.
- The global economy is also an indicator of consumer activity in loyalty programmes. The overall health of the global economy has an inverse correlation to driving hotel loyalty members to use point redemption options rather than stockpiling. This is perhaps due to loyalty points' perceived cash value. For example, during a single month in 2008, Priority Club members redeemed points for US$1 million worth gasoline card vouchers as rising oil prices inflated gas prices.
According to Don Berg, vice president of loyalty programmes and partnerships for IHG, "Based on the insight gathered from the study, the re-launched Priority Club Rewards loyalty programme is now better equipped to meet the needs of today's frequent traveller, and continues to be a key business driver for IHG."
While the programme already features a distinct lack of points expiration, no blackout dates, a points-plus-cash redemption system, access to airline ticket inventory (through Flights Anywhere) and non-IHG hotel rooms (through Hotels Anywhere), the programme is making several other changes during 2011, including:
- A redesigned Priority Club Rewards membership card, in a new blue colour palette with inspirational imagery from destinations around the world;
- A new, easier-to-use new website rolling out globally by late April 2011;
- Custom photography included in member communications, advertising and marketing materials;
- A more informative member e-statement;
- A new Priority Club Rewards logo
- Further expansion of redemption options, including hotel nights, airline miles with more than 40 partner airlines, vehicle rentals, gift certificates, hundreds of products from the programme's rewards catalogue, and a Personal Shopper programme that allows members to exchange points for items not found in the rewards catalogue.
During 2010, the programme enrolled an average of 600,000 guests per month, with the total membership now standing at some 56 million. Enrolment in Priority Club Rewards is free.