Points Expert Highlights Flexibility Amid Travel Rewards Programs
PHOTO: Traveler waiting at the airport. (Photo courtesy Thinkstock)
We live in a world wherein travelers expect tremendous flexibility in so many facets of their life that its bound to reach their expectation in regards to their mounting loyalty rewards.
Thankfully, there is a trend towards offering more versatile returns on your growing points and miles.
And we had the pleasure of speaking to someone who knows about such things recently. Christopher Barnard, President at Points, offered some thoughts on the state of the industry and some glowing examples of companies that get the plight of the modern traveler.
For example, La Quinta earlier this year announced along with Points its aim to infuse flexibility for some its more prolific members.
It allowed returns members the ability to use their points for, “thousands of luxury hotel locations across the globe.”
This was just one example as Air Miles now allows its members to savor the sweet delicacy that is extra miles if they book hotels through its platform.
Barnard first delved into loyalty and its value and legacy in the industry: “Loyalty has become very popular in the last couple of decades. There are literally billions of accounts in the world in terms of people’s frequent flyer, hotel credit card, retail programs. And programs are growing more quickly and customers are becoming more engaged mostly, I think, because it works.
As for travel loyalty programs, Barnard offered, “Our experiences with the travel related programs are the most aggressive in that space, the most valuable currency that customers are keen to earn more of.”
And on the topic of shining beacons like La Quinta, the president had this to say: “That’s definitely a trend. The core of any good loyalty program is the combination of where I can earn the points and miles and then how I can use them. So it’s an earn and burn cycle.
We are definitely finding that all the programs are very focused on allowing their users to earn more currency, earn more miles and points. And a growing trend, facilitated by it being much easier online, is the ability for them to let their members use their miles and points in different ways.”
But the sentiment is hardly new: “If you look at the hotel brands, for example. There’s a very longstanding part of the industry where you can take your hotel points and transfer them into frequent flyer miles.”
Barnard explains that it helps all parties. If you use your points for miles and then jet off to Hawaii, chances are you are utilizing that exact same hotel brand from a perspective of loyalty and a need to gain more of that same experience.
That is the power of such programs, the almight aspirational component. Travelers want to, well travel, and it’s these programs that utilize the exact value of the brand.
What was most striking is that gift cards and the like are certainly an option in many respects, but it’s not exactly what is driving this part of the industry.
Barnard explains: ““The value any program can give is much higher inside its core business. So an airline can always afford to get you on a flight much easier than it can afford the cash value of an Amazon gift card.”
When it comes to a free flight, there is hardly a better feeling in the world.
Now, there are more examples of brands flexing its versatility muscles. Points helped Delta issue a program that gives members the option to turn in rewards for fantastic wine or free Wi-Fi.
It’s all about meeting the demand for a mass of travelers, each with their own desires and peccadilloes.
Barnard ends, “Again, as people start leveraging our technology and being able to drive some of these new partnerships shows how they can open up their program to make it more engaging.”
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