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Travel & Loyalty Behaviors

COLLOQUY recently released a report on consumer attitudes towards travel, identifying key trends, and exploring how marketing and loyalty programs influence travel behavior throughout the journey, from planning and research to sharing the experience via social media. They surveyed over 2,000 U.S. consumers about their travel lifestyle and found that we love to discover new places, use technology and social media along the way and be rewarded for loyalty. Mobile and personalization are definitely the way forward and programs need to be easy to use and convenient.

What you need to know
55% of Americans have taken a flight (business of leisure) in the last two years.

Hotels are consolidating properties under one umbrella to leverage cross-selling opportunities and brand recognition while also driving more direct bookings and spreading out costs.

Technology continues to influence customer expectations, and in turn creates the opportunity for travel and hospitality providers to deliver on these expectations. Additional revenue streams can be created by helping consumers make decisions and make choices, as well as customize experiences. Deal breaker: technology that isn’t easy to use. It must improve the experience, not frustrate the user.

One example of using technology to facilitate fantastic customer service is Hilton Worldwide’s Conrad Concierge program, where guests can use their smartphones or tablets to customize their hotel experience. They can select their rooms from a digital floor plan, then purchase upgrades and select various amenities to be delivered to their room ahead of arrival.

76% of Business travelers said they would extend their stay for a leisure component if hotels incentivized them with additional nights discounted or the chance to have a guest join them at a lesser rate.

Convenience and personalization gets Business Travelers attention – 92% said ease of redemption, 84% convenience of schedule and 73% value the ability to personalize in-flight services. Service was very important to business travelers, with 81% saying it had an impact on their evaluation of a loyalty program.

Driven by the millennial generation, experiential travel is most desirable – often at the cost of making sacrifices. For example, 34% of millennials were willing to pay more for luxury car rental versus 25% of other age groups, special dining (63% versus 59%) and events (57% versus 53%) BUT half of millennials told Hipmunk they would accept less leg room on a flight to save a few dollars, while 33% said they would stand on a flight to pay less.

But inspiring travel experiences were appealing across all age groups with 40% of those surveyed by COLLOQUY saying they place a premium on access to special events. 63% valued destinations with cultural or historical significance, 45% wanted to visit large metropolitan areas, 40% look for sporting activities like scuba diving and hiking, and 49% want to attend festivals or regional events.

74% of people start thinking about a trip when they see a great deal and when they feel they need to get away from the pressures of daily life. Escaping the hum-drum, and that can also mean children, was fairly important, with 39% saying they wanted to enjoy a child-free vacation. Another 32% said that their most recent trip was as family vacation. It is at this planning phase that poor customer service, frustrating technology experience and negative reviews on social media can have an adverse impact on decision-making. User-generated reviews on sites like TripAdvisor can have a strong influence on people at this stage, with 53% indicating that once they have made the decision to take a trip, they turn to social media for ideas on where to go and what to do. Hotels and travel loyalty programs would do well to reward social sharing with incentives or status upgrades to ensure increased revenue and more meaningful engagement.

Website functionality is key – here is what would drive them away.
25% ineffective online presence
27% pricing not displayed
23% site did not allow booking
Other deal-breakers included not having a website at all, and added charges when booking with loyalty points (19%)

Would travelers use site operated by a Loyalty Program?
75% if it allowed easy itinerary adjustments
83% if easy to use
69% if it allows for paying all travel expenses with loyalty points
59% if it has mobile app
69% if it provided info about planned travel destinations
64% if it kept track of travel preferences
56% if it provided personalized travel recommendations
53% if it offered customization of in-flight amenities

Social media in the decision-making process

Over 50% look to Facebook for travel information, while 47% get personal recommendations from friends and family. The figure for millennials jumps to 68% when talking about travel, and 57% use Instagram to collect travel inspiration compared to only 21% of the general U.S. population.

At last, booking the trip
It’s a tech-savvy market, travelers have a wide array of choices to select from, and travel and loyalty operators need to be competitive to survive.

According to recent Expedia research, travelers will search an average of 48 times on eight sites before booking a flight. 92% said that they like the flexibility of booking their own flights while 38% would prefer to ask a travel professional for help with specific experiences.

Mobile is becoming an increasingly popular method of booking travel. 71% would like to book flights and hotel rooms via their cellphone, and the share of mobile bookings worldwide went from 12% in 2014 to 23% in 2015, according to the 2015 Criteo Travel Report. Another interesting statistic – SITA Passenger IT Trends Survey cited 47% of same-day hotel bookings were made using a cell phone.

How are Travel Brands responding?

They are investing in new technology to sync member profiles with online search histories, travel behaviors and accommodation reviews. Travel Loyalty is growing as online travel agencies and other third party programs are developing their own enticements. One example is MGM’s M Life Loyalty program, which has permission-based access to member’s social profiles so that they can personalize their presence and target audience on Twitter and Facebook thereby delivering more relevant ads. This strategy has resulted in 300% revenue growth in three plus years.

How can hospitality companies and loyalty operators enhance customer service, deepen engagement, boost rebooking and additional revenue while also influencing user-generated content on social media?

  • Let the guest know about special events, like an added performance of a popular Broadway show or extended hours at an amusement park
  • Share transportation-related information about traffic issues, Uber driver strikes and subway platform closings
  • Create informative messages about neighborhoods, monuments or museums

Interactive and solution-orientated mobile apps, websites and technology will facilitate superior customer service that is user-friendly, especially when it comes to communicating problems and resolving issues – before it gets onto social media.

Location-based Geotargeting is a powerful medium for sharing highly relevant special offers, discounts and rewards to travelers as they explore a new city, hotel or even at the airport. A beach-bound traveler could receive a special offer from the sunglasses kiosk near his gate, or a business traveler may receive a reminder to pack an international adapter. Airports are the perfect landscape for any engagement or experience opportunity that makes the trip a little smoother.

How do travelers use mobile once they have reached a destination?
73% Check hotel reservations
71% Navigate a downtown area
66% Find attractions
54% Search phrases in local languages

Data access can be a problem in some destinations but several travel apps require either no internet connection or only intermittent connection. For example, Tripit will manage an itinerary, monitor email for travel updates and flight information, car rentals, hotels etc without data connection.

Recommendations:

  • The customer experience should be free of frustration and seamless
  • Personalization and customization is key, from geotargeting to customized messages and marketing offers
  • Create detailed customer profiles using robust data analytics and comprehensive knowledge of each program member along the entire travel journey
  • Stay ahead of technology advances, but only make use of the ones that make sense for your brand, program and customers
  • Communication should be easy, especially if you want to resolve problems before they get aired on social media
  • Reward social media sharing, and make sure that you have an influence on your storytelling
  • Keep it fun, whether the trip is for business or leisure, everyone wants to have a little fun

Based on the report, “Travel and Loyalty: On a Journey Together” by Jeff Berry, editor-in-chief of COLLOQUY

COLLOQUY surveyed 2,000 Americans in April and May 2016 with a margin of error for the research of +/- 3% with a 95% confidence level.