In brief

In brief

  • Travel companies are loyalty pioneers. But strategies that worked for years are out of touch with the needs and expectations of travelers today.
  • What travel players need are loyalty programs that balance perceived value to travelers with cost to the business.
  • Our research shows that what travelers perceive as valuable in loyalty isn’t always the most costly to the business.

Loyalty pivots to leisure travelers

Travel loyalty programs have traditionally been designed for business travelers who could meet the high thresholds to qualify for status. Yet in a post-pandemic world, business travelers aren’t traveling like they once did. Earning points for perks can take much longer to achieve.

With the dynamics of the travel industry so complex, no one can be fully certain of the future. But global leisure spending is outpacing business travel for now. And because leisure travelers have different desires and behaviors—travel loyalty programs should look very different.

2 out of 3

consumers are likely to get back to pre-pandemic travel levels regardless of budgetary pressures1

Value for travelers—and the business

Transforming loyalty programs should focus on ensuring that loyalty investments translate into value for travelers—and for the business. Building perceived value for travelers is critical to creating profitable loyalty programs for travel companies. The more that travel companies can widen the gap between consumer perceived value and cost to the business, the better they can monetize loyalty programs.

"Loyalty comes from having a really good product to start with. I want to feel like my needs are being met and that a company understands my preferences. I also don’t want to jump through hoops when it comes to customer service."

— Jonathan, Traveler

Delivering what travelers want

We conducted qualitative traveler research to help travel companies rethink travel loyalty programs. The research reveals three expectations that travelers have of loyalty programs.

The power of now

Don’t make me wait for the rewards I want

Flexibility my way

Show that you know me, but give me choices

Tried and true experiences

Prove to me that I can always rely on you

View All

Travel companies should prepare for travelers’ needs, desires and behaviors to shift and evolve. The more they do this, they more insights travel companies have to reclaim their role as loyalty pioneers, transforming the value proposition, innovating supporting program structures, and enabling experiences at scale.

RELATED: IHG’s digital experience upgrade


1 Accenture Q2 Consumer Pulse Survey: February 2022

Liselotte de Maar

Managing Director – Strategy, Travel, North America

Nicole Clemente

Senior Manager – Strategy and Consulting, Travel

Gretchen McNeely

Interaction Design Senior Manager – Accenture Song


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