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Expedia Group, a leading online travel company, plans to standardize and expand the range of customer loyalty programs across its brand portfolio.
The move will result in “the broadest range of travel rewards in the industry,” according to the Seattle-based company, with member discounts and rewards earning and redeeming on flights, hotels, vacation rentals, car rentals, cruises and activities at all levels of Expedia brands. Group.
Affected travel brands include Expedia, Hotels.com, Orbitz, Travelocity and Vrbo.
The move addresses an enterprise-level issue that has plagued customer loyalty efforts. Since American Airlines was the first large company to introduce a loyalty program, the AAdvantage frequent flyer plan, in 1981, travel companies and others have launched numerous similar programs to promote consumer loyalty to their brands.
The problem is that while some consumers will stick to an airline, hotel chain, or car rental company for award points as intended, while many others will sign up with multiple companies over time and end up with many low scores in a variety of competing loyalties Programs.
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Nowadays companies often encounter this problem by working together with compatible programs from other companies. The Expedia Group applies the model to a large number of brands, some of which are competing, with a total of more than 145 million members of the loyalty program.
“I have a stack of logins and loyalty cards and soon it won’t be necessary because I deserve benefits whether I rent a car, book a flight, or reserve a hotel room,” said Jon Gieselman. President of Expedia Brands.
All four existing major programs from all Expedia group brands will join the brand new global rewards program, he noted. An exact start date has not yet been set, but a company spokesman said the rollout is expected “in the coming year”.
“Our loyalty program gives members the opportunity to earn and redeem points with all brands in the Expedia group, including brands like Vrbo that did not previously have loyalty programs,” said Gieselman.
“A customer can collect points for their Vrbo vacation rental and redeem them for example on an Expedia car rental company,” he added.
When you book a room on Hotels.com, you’ve earned loyalty money on that vacation package you booked on Expedia six months ago, he explained.
“It’s better for travelers, and there is an added benefit that our partners’ inventory becomes more visible for future bookings to new customers,” said Gieselman. “It’s getting easier and more flexible.”
Membership in what the Expedia Group calls the “Unified and Enhanced” loyalty program is free.
New and existing members will have a “seamless” experience after the new program launches, although current members will continue to use their original programs. Some details of the new program, such as the parameters for the redemption and expiry of points, are still being hatched, according to Gieselman.
Expedia Group plans to build on existing program benefits such as membership rates, bonus boosters and upgrades, and social amenities offered at thousands of hotels around the world. (To date, the company says its customers have saved nearly $ 10 billion in travel with its Member Only Deals and loyalty rewards in legacy programs.)
With the Covid pandemic and lockdown forcing many travelers to postpone their plans until recently, the Expedia group is expecting a flurry of redemptions and has ramped up customer service for them.
“There is no doubt that there will be a rush to travel and use loyalty points as soon as the world opens up again,” said Gieselman. “We added hundreds of agents on the phones, introduced a virtual agent, and developed a one-click cancel tool.”
A key goal of the new unified program is to educate Expedia Group’s customers about the relationships and usage of the company’s brands, “making life easier for travelers”.
“There was a time when our brands competed in the marketplace and that was part of the strategy to some extent,” said Gieselman. “We are now fully focused on delivering the best customer results and delivering a more consistent experience across all of our brands.
“Loyalty is a big part of it and a big leap towards that vision.”
The Expedia Group family of brands includes CarRentals.com, CheapTickets, ebookers, Egencia, Expedia, Expedia Cruises, Expedia Group Media Solutions, Expedia Local Expert, Expedia Partner Solutions, Hotels.com, Hotwire.com, Orbitz, Travelocity, trivago, Vrbo and Wotif.