Travel Loyalty Programs
Airlines Hotels Loyalty Travel

Will The Coronavirus Temporarily Improve Travel Loyalty Programs?

Let me start off by saying the Coronavirus outbreak is absolutely horrible and I wish it was not happening.  With this said, its a fact that any problems that happen like this, affect the travel industry in a negative way!

It is estimated that the US airline industry alone, will loose at least 5 Billion dollars just the first quarter of this year, which ends in just a month from publication. Another fact is that travel and tourism makes up about 3% of the US GDP.  With all this said, the travel industry does not like to loose money and will be looking anywhere and everywhere they can to keep people loyal and flying or staying with them.

The last several years, since the recovery of the Great Recession, airlines and hotels have been making money hand over fist and we have noticed several “tweaks”and “improvements to their “loyalty” programs, that are not always in the best interests of US, the loyal.

It is well known that “Loyalty” programs have great value for companies.  Marriott bought Starwood because of their loyalty program alone.  Starwood, SPG program was known to be the most valuable and have the most loyal guests.

Difference Between Intentional and Accidental “Loyalty”

If you follow me at all, be it here on my blog, on my twitter, instagram or newspaper column, you know that I have issues with “loyalty” programs not recognizing true loyalty , but recognizing, accidental loyalty instead.  What I mean by this is , I, and many others I know, ONLY fly certain airlines, and ONLY stay at certain hotel chains. We literally plan trips around if their airline (or partners) fly’s there, and if their hotel company of choice has hotels there.  Another indication, and one of the biggest is , I, and many others I know actually pay for our own trips, out of our own pockets.  Business travelers often do not have much say in who they fly or where they stay, furthermore, business travelers rarely pay out of pocket for their travel, their company does.  I know that companies are in business to make money, I am not against this, but I would argue that having a “loyalty” program should actually reward the truly loyal.

I also understand that us “intentional loyal’s” spend much much less than business travels, as well as use perks, tricks, and “travel hacks” to be able to travel as much as we do.  One has to ask themselves, what is the benefit to airlines and hotel companies taking care of us if we spend less? My answers are, we stay loyal good or bad economy, we tell everyone that will listen that our airline or hotel is the BEST, and truly have a stake in the health and growth of the companies we are loyal too.  I also hold stock in both Delta and Marriott, as many of my fellow “self-pay” loyalists do their prospective airline or hotel companies. Again, it’s because we truly do care about these companies, and want the best for them.

Why Economic Downturns and Crisis’s Help the Little Man

Again, it may sound bad to say this, but it’s the truth.  When the economy is bad, or when there is a world crisis, like what we are in with the Coronavirus, companies stop spending, and business travelers stop traveling.  Whenever this happens, these travel companies turn to the ones they know has been loyal and court more of the intentional loyalist from other programs , by sweetening the pot, and making things more loyalty focused, as it should be.  It is like the friend you may have that is distant and hardly ever around when things are good for them, but in a breakup or a bad time for them, they suddenly “need” you and want you around more.  I have always said, the pendulum swings back and forth, with politics and loyalty program alike.  The coronavirus is hurting many companies in the travel industry, and if it continues the way it has, these companies will soon be reaching out to the little guy, saying “we love you and need you now”, adding better benefits and taking away many of the “spend” and IMPOSSIBLE requirements they currently have in place that only business travelers can achieve.

Examples of Focus on Accidental Loyalty vs Intentional

There are many examples that come to mind, so I will list a few.

Hotels
  • Executive lounges closed on weekends at many hotels.  The reason behind this is many corporate travelers are not in house on weekends, and the Intentional loyalist with status and access to these lounges often get the shaft, as if we are not as important.
  • Marriott requiring $20,000 USD yearly spend at their properties, on top of 100 plus nights in order to achieve their top tier Ambassador status. This is virtually impossible for someone like me, and many others unless they are corporate of course, or very rich!
  • Discount codes and cheaper rates for many huge corporations.  Yes, we can use AAA, and a few others if we are not corporate, but it’s often not the same.
  • Offering special PERKS for corp[orate card holders that are not available to the regular person.  This is silly, as a corporate card has nothing to do with a persons loyalty, or even personal credit for that matter, it is only about the corporation (but they are people too, remember …Eyes rolling!
  • Offering unpublished loyalty tiers for people like me could never achieve.
Airlines
  • Requiring astronomical spend for ALL levels of their “Loyalty” tiers.
  • Offering additional benefits and perks if you are under a corporate account. Like upgrade tie-breakers, etc.
  • Corporate discounts.
  • Offering Special, Unpublished levels for big corporate sounds that are wholly unobtainable to people like me.

I do have to say airlines are a bit better about recognizing everyone than hotels are.

 

Wrap-Up

I want to finish up by saying, I am top tier with Delta, and Marriott (published tier anyway), and I usually always get astronomical treatment when things are working right.  It helps me that I own a home in Mexico, and I can bypass the Delta spend requirement for diamond, but again this is not possible for everyone as you have to prove you truly are a resident of that country, which I am!  My main home is there and m y farm, business and officers are in the USA.

I am not saying business travels should not get the shaft, or should they not be treated as loyal, all I am saying is there needs to be something in the calculations to balance out the money spent and the value of having die-hard loyalists there through thick and thin.

Like I previously stated, I feel like the current situation the world finds itself in with this horrible virus, will cause these travel programs to take more notice of us, until the pendulum swings back.

 

Whats your thoughts on this?  Comment below!

Thanks for reading, and PLEASE, TRAVEL MORE!

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