For most consumers, the pandemic hasn’t affected loyalty to their favorite travel brands. This according to a new survey of more than 2,000 consumers from ValuePenguin, a personal financial website.
While the research revealed three out of four respondents (75 percent) said the pandemic didn’t impact their loyalty either way, 14 percent said they became more loyal and 11 percent less so.
In an effort to maintain their loyal customer base, travel companies responded to the downturn caused by the pandemic by making their reward programs more flexible. Many have extended points expiration and waived annual fees and flight change fees, said Sophia Mendel, a travel writer at ValuePenguin.
“Now that travel is back on the table, people are glad they’ve still got points and miles to burn with their preferred airline and hotel loyalty programs,” Mendel said.
Among survey respondents overall, 41 percent are members of a travel loyalty program. Surprisingly, the research found business travelers who take three-plus trips per year are much more likely to be members than leisure travelers who take just as many trips (78 percent versus 63 percent).
In fact, those who do the most business travel (six-plus trips per year) are more than twice as likely to be part of an airline loyalty program as those who travel only for leisure (44 percent versus 19 percent).
Airlines and hotels are equally popular rewards programs, with nearly a quarter of consumers (24 percent) signing up for each.
Other survey findings include:
- A quarter of the consumers asked (25 percent) said they have a preferred airline. Southwest had the most loyal followers, Delta was second and American third.
- While Generation Z – those in the 18 to 24 age group – has higher participation in loyalty programs in general, Boomers – age 56-plus – are more likely to belong to an airline, hotel and/or rental car loyalty program than other generations.
- Two-thirds of consumers with six-figure household incomes are members of a travel loyalty program, compared to less than one in five (19 percent) who earn less than $35,000 per year.
- Among travel loyalty members, two-thirds (66 percent) say they hang onto their rewards, while only one third (35 percent) frequently cash them in.
Although the majority (82 percent) of those who are members of a loyalty program say they are worth joining, over half of respondents overall (54 percent) think travel companies could be doing more for their members.
Specifically, consumers would like to see more rewards issued per dollar amount spent (44 percent), more upgrades (41 percent) and more exclusive deals or offers (40 percent).
For more details about the ValuePenguin survey, click here.