Comment piece Stuart Evans, General Manager of ICLP
New research indicates that membership of Frequent Flyer Programmes (more usually referred to as a Loyalty Cards or Programmes) is a key factor in determining the choice of hotel or airline for both business and leisure travellers.
Only 30% rated it as unimportant whilst a staggering 70% believed it to be fairly or extremely important in deciding their choice of carrier or where to stay.
Stuart Evans, General Manager of ICLP, the loyalty specialist agency that initiated the research says: "It would appear that those who are members of FFPs rate them extremely highly and recognise the inherent benefits of membership."
Gratifying for companies associated with such programmes is the finding that 63% of members would also consider booking a last minute break due to an impromptu communications by the programme operator; 36% believed
it would not influence them at all and 1% said that they did not know.
As Evans of ICLP explains: "Members of programmes seem to be more receptive to offers than those who receive unsolicited offerings."
The research used the Priority Pass database and over 1,200 members were questioned.
Priority Pass is the world's largest independent airport
VIP lounge programme and members get access to over 500 VIP lounges in more than 90 countries and 275 cities world-wide, regardless of which airline they are flying or their class of travel. The vast majority of members are regular business travellers.
More travel purchased from the web
For both business and leisure airline travellers the airlines' home pages are singularly the most important medium, with 81% using it to source leisure travel, from accommodation and flights, and 68% of business travellers doing the same.
In addition, 45% of leisure and 36% of business travellers use third party web sites, such as lastminute and Travelocity, to source and purchase their travel; this compares with only 23% and 9% respectively for High Street travel agencies and retailers.
However, bookings made direct with the airlines via the phone are relatively insignificant with only 14% of leisure and 12% of business travellers ever using this option.
Yet a further 12% (leisure) and 10% (business) also phone through requests via third party operators such as Trailfinders.
There are still considerable quantities of bookings using company travel agents, which traditionally source the best deals and have a seamless and one stop arrangement.
Evans says: "The significance of the power of the internet can not be underestimated. It is singularly the most powerful marketing tool that the airline industry possesses.
The internet has become, in a short period of time, the preferred method for sourcing information and booking travel arrangements.
"The high street is losing its appeal and kudos; where once it was the main point of contact for travellers it is now a less important destination and is losing ground fast to the new mediums."
The size of the business did not impact too much on the preferred methodology of sourcing and booking travel arrangements.
The only significant disparity was with companies that employed over 1,000 people. At this point a company travel agent was the most used method for organizing and purchasing travel, even outstripping the internet.
Slightly less significant were companies with employees between 101 and 1000, where the internet was still the most popular, although closely followed by company travel agents.
Main purpose of travel
From those 1,200 respondents 42% travelled for meetings with clients, whilst a further 18% did so for meetings with their regional offices, and 10% for attending trade shows or conferences. Only 10% of travel was for vacations.
Evans says: "Business travel is still the main stay of much of the airline and hotel business. Ensuring loyalty and thus regular purchase of a carrier or accommodation should be at the heart of brands marketing strategy."
Number of airline and hotel programmes held
Nearly everyone questioned belonged to at least one airline or hotel programme, with under four percent belonging to none. Conversely just over four percent were members of more than ten programmes.
The most held membership was the British Airways Executive Club card which 67% had; its nearest competitor was the Hilton HHonors with 37% and Priority Club Rewards with 32%.
Most commonly, respondents held two airline or hotel programmes, 16%; and 67% held between one and five programmes. A further 2% had six to nine programmes.
The next most held branded programmes were Marriott Rewards 28%; Virgin Atlantic flying club 26%; KLM Flying Blue 25%; Starwood Preferred Guest 22% and bmi diamond club 21%.
Those below 20% included Lufthansa Miles & More, Air France Flying Blue, American AAdvantage and Emirates Skywards.
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