Expedia Group to merge loyalty programs across brands, expand benefits
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Powerhouse of online travel Expedia GroupIt plans to consolidate and increase customer loyalty program offerings across its brands.
This move will bring about the Expedia Group’s “most complete travel rewards offering,” says the Seattle-based company. Members can earn and redeem points on hotel and cruise bookings as well as discounts, vacation rentals, cars rentals, or flights.
Expedia, Hotels.com and Orbitz are among the travel brands affected.
On a corporate basis, this step solves a problem which has been a hindrance to consumer loyalty. American Airlines was the first company to launch a loyalty program in 1981. Since then, other suppliers have introduced dozens of similar schemes to increase consumer loyalty.
The problem is that while certain consumers stick with one airline, hotel chain, or rental car company to earn reward points, others sign up for multiple companies over time, resulting in low loyalty points and a variety of other programs.
Companies often partner with programs that are compatible from different firms to address this issue. Expedia Group, which has more than 145,000,000 loyalty members worldwide, is using the Expedia Group model.
“I have a stack of logins and loyalty cards, and soon it just won’t be necessary because I’m going to earn benefits whether I’m renting a car, booking a flight or reserving a hotel room,” said Jon Gieselman, president of Expedia Brands.
All four existing main programs across Expedia Group brands will join the brand-new global rewards program, he noted. Although an exact date for launch hasn’t been announced, a spokesperson from Expedia Group stated that rollout would be “within one year.”
“Our loyalty program will offer members the opportunity to earn and redeem points across all Expedia Group brands, even those brands, like Vrbo, that didn’t have loyalty programs before,” Gieselman said.
“A customer will be able to earn points for their Vrbo vacation rental and redeem it on an Expedia car rental, for example,” he added.
He explained that if you book a hotel room through Hotels.com you will be able to use the loyalty currency you earned six months earlier from Expedia.
“It’s better for travelers, and there’s an added benefit of making our partners’ inventory more visible to new customers for future bookings,” Gieselman said. It will be easier and more flexible.
Expedia Group will offer a free membership to the loyalty program “unified and enhanced”.
The new program will offer seamless service to both existing and new members. However, current members can still use their old programs. Gieselman said that some details, including redemption parameters and expiration dates, remain to be worked out.
Expedia Group will continue to offer existing benefits like member pricing and reward boosters as well as upgrades and other social amenities at thousands of properties around the world. The company claims its Member Only Deals as well as loyalty rewards from legacy programs, have so far saved customers almost $10B in travel expenses.
Expedia Group anticipates that there will be a lot of redemptions due to the Covid lockdown and pandemic, and it has increased its customer service operation to deal with this.
“There’s no doubt there will be a rush to travel and to use loyalty points as soon as the world opens up again,” Gieselman said. “We added hundreds of agents on the phones, introduced a virtual agent and developed a one-click cancel tool.”
A major goal of the new unified program is to educate Expedia Group customers about the relationships between the company’s brands and how to leverage them, “which will make life easier for travelers.”
Gieselman explained that at one time, our brands had to compete in the marketplace. This was part and parcel of our strategy. We are now focusing on customer satisfaction and creating a more cohesive experience for all our brands.
“Loyalty” is an important piece and huge step toward that goal.
Expedia Group’s brands include CarRentals.com. CheapTickets.com. ebookers.com. Expedia Cruises. Expedia Group Media Solutions. Expedia Local Expert. Expedia Partner Solutions. Hotels.com. Hotwire.com. Orbitz.com. Travelocity.com. trivago.vrbo. Wotif.