At World Travel Market London earlier this month, Wanup released the findings of its European hotel survey.
While focused on business travellers and their perceptions of hotel loyalty and reward programmes, there are several emerging trends that reflect travellers’ overall attitudes.
The company spoke to 6,000 frequent travellers aged 25-55, including consumers from the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, all of whom had travelled for business at least six times and stayed in a hotel three times or more over the past year.
"A subscription to Amazon Prime (31.2%) and Netflix (26%) are the two top services that respondents would like to receive free or discounted for being a loyalty club member"
Speaking at a session entitled “Travel loyalty trends: what do millennial business travellers really want?”, Brian Garvan, regional director – Northern Europe of Barcelona-based Wanup, said: “Google is at the nexus of the travel distribution network that has increasingly added cost for suppliers in the past two decades. “Understanding and exploiting loyalty is so important because it helps hotels and travel suppliers of all kinds to reduce the dependence on third-party distribution and associated costs [such as online advertising], rendering customers more profitable and allowing them to deliver more value to their customers.”
With millennials set to make up 50% of business travellers by 2020, understanding what they want from the hotel experience is vital. What makes them loyal to a brand? And how should hotels and travel suppliers adjust their reward programmes, and utilise new technology to better meet their needs? Of the people surveyed in its European Travel Loyalty Report, 62% are part of loyalty programmes (25% belong to three or more), and of that number 45% said they were not fully satisfied with their primary programme.
In-stay perks such as a free breakfast or room upgrade are the most important incentive for joining a rewards scheme, said 36% of respondents, while 24% wanted immediate cashback, and just 22% preferred reward points redemption. The difficulty of claiming rewards because their points had expired was bemoaned by 73.6% of respondents.
Compared with their continental counterparts, UK travellers were the most likely to be part of a large hotel chain’s loyalty scheme (69.5%), and they were also most critical of their schemes – 45.9% expressed dissatisfaction compared with, for example, 31.6% of German respondents.
The 38% not part of a loyalty club cited not knowing what a loyalty club is, finding them hard to understand, and lack of hotel variety as reasons for not joining a scheme. A cash incentive or reference by a friend would motivate 79% and 53% respectively to join. Almost 80% of respondents would sign up if hotels knew their specific needs and offered a more personalised service. In spite of data security concerns, 7 out of 10 respondents declared that they are prepared to share their consumer habits to get tailored services via mobile push notifications.
A subscription to Amazon Prime (31.2%) and Netflix (26%) are the two top services that respondents would like to receive free or discounted for being a loyalty club member. Generation gaps Wanup’s research highlighted some behavioural differences between millennials and Generation X when it comes to business travel, with millennials more likely to use mobile technology during their travel, with 70.3% booking transport via an app compared with 57.9% of Gen X. Instant messaging tools such as Whatsapp to communicate with the hotel during their stay would also be welcomed by 50.3% of millennials versus 38.9% of Gen X.
However, among both groups there is strong support (80.6% of millennials; 75.3% of Gen X) for reward programmes which offer experiences that reflect their lifestyle and hobbies rather than traditional rewards such as points and miles.
“Hotel loyalty programmes today lack variety from the traveller’s perspective, and the potential for integrating crossover rewards presents a strong opportunity to make loyalty programmes both more personalised and more unique,” Garvan said.