The travel industry was a modern day pioneer in the field of loyalty with the launch of the first ‘frequent flyer’ programme in 1971.

Whilst loyalty schemes can be traced back to the eighteenth century, mass market loyalty came of age in the travel industry. Frequent flyer programmes are still with us and whilst they have been tinkered with and somewhat watered down to cut costs, they are still a very effective driver of loyalty.

As a reward currency, redemption for free or discounted travel and entertainment has always been a powerful motivator and as such, these industries are at the forefront of some of the most effective schemes. From airline travel to hotels and leisure organisations, the reward options offer a powerful incentive to attract and encourage customers to spend. LCUK has worked with a number of organisations from these industries.

Despite the wild success of travel and entertainment programmes, there has been a growing sense among both customers and marketers that some of these programmes are flawed. Schemes that were designed to create stronger bonds between customers and providers of travel and entertainment have turned into something else entirely — a source of frustration for the customer when they cannot get the redemption option they were looking for and perhaps surprisingly, a massive untapped revenue stream for the scheme operator. Whatever the case, the transition from the classic point or miles programme to a more engaging programme with realistic reward options is the challenge. Given that most people cannot be frequent flyers as they only travel for an annual vacation once a year, what about their rewards and their reasons to choose a particular operator. Given that a customers need to stay 20 nights to reach ‘Gold’ status in the hotel programme when they only ever stay four or five times a year, how are they supposed to stay loyal. These programmes have more to do and more to address.

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