Why it’s Time for Marketers to Rethink Travel Loyalty

Last year the U.S. Travel Association reported $1,036 billion in spending by resident and international travelers and that the high-value traveler purchased an average of seven airline trips and nine hotel bookings. With all that potential revenue in the marketplace and the nearly endless booking options at customers’ fingertips, marketers need to find distinctive ways to stand out.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a person who is not familiar with travel loyalty programs, where you earn points to use for flights, hotel stays and more. Historically, these types of programs have driven massive loyalty sign-ups year after year across multiple travel verticals, which is why companies continue to offer them. A majority of high-value travelers — 87 percent — have status with at least one airline or hotel brand, according to research from Google and Greenberg.

However, as individuals sign up for multiple loyalty programs and spread their travel costs across brands, loyalty programs no longer spur the same level of spending with a single hotel chain or airline. And according to Think with Google, these loyalty programs are not even one of the top three considerations when choosing a brand to book travel with.

The most important factors for travelers are customer service, an easy-to-use website and online reviews. Armed with this data, how do travel/tourism marketers adjust their strategy to earn lasting loyalty?

Attitudinal vs. Behavioral Travel Loyalty

It is essential that brands understand the two different types of loyalty that travelers display: attitudinal loyalty and behavioral loyalty. According to Think with Google, “Attitudinal loyalty relates to how loyal a traveler feels, and behavioral loyalty refers to how loyal a traveler acts.” Once brands understand this, they can start to craft separate messages to earn both types.

Attitudinal loyalty comes from what people associate with your brand, the total customer experience. Businesses need to be aware of how the traveler is experiencing their brand on site, on the phone and online. Making your customer experience memorable and enjoyable will keep your brand top of mind when travelers are doing their initial research.

Behavioral loyalty is less about the brand and more about what is happening at the moment the traveler is searching. Tailoring content to the audience across channels and devices to create a personalized experience will provide the value to the traveler that they are seeking and could be the difference between you and your competitor.

This shift in strategy will not happen overnight. It’s a massive undertaking to be sure, but using these concepts can drastically change a travel/tourism brand’s marketing effectiveness. Keeping the types of loyalty in mind, marketers can build strategies to find, win and retain high-value customers throughout the travel journey.

Read the full Think with Google article.