Traveler behavior continues to evolve and it is challenging loyalty programs to pick up the pace. Brand awareness is great to help travel agents sell more product, but tangible rewards would be even better to help them earn a higher commission.
The Travel Corporation has merged its six brands into one Global Tour Rewards program, with brand awareness behind this seemingly vanilla approach to loyalty. Trafalgar, Insight Vacations, Luxury Gold, Costsaver, Brendan Vacations, and Contiki are now aligned under one rewards program.
All very different brands appealing to unique travel customer bases, but now offering the same benefits. It includes a five percent discount on tours, that can be used with existing deals such as group tour discounts. Customers will also enjoy exclusive access to new trips and member-only events. And a final benefit is listed as special recognition from Travel Directors during their next trip.
While some travellers might value the guaranteed five percent discount, does a special nod on a trip count as a benefit? It certainly doesn’t, if it’s only lip service.
Only 6 Percent Cross-Brand Booking
Melissa Da Silva, President of TTC Tour Brands North America, who has been looking after the brands for the past 10 years said, “Our goal is to try and get better recognition from our guests and our travel agents so that they can use these benefits across all the different brands.”
“Trafalgar’s 50 percent repeat rate shows they love our brands. But if you look at the data of how many people travel between brands, it’s only about six percent.”
The type of traveler that books with the company does so because they have brand trust, but they won’t book with the same brand every year, added Da Silva. Now the company wants to offer more diverse choice, irrespective of age or lifestyle.
“Somebody may want to take a family vacation with Trafalgar. But the following year, I use myself as an example, I celebrated my 50th birthday last year and I wanted to do something special with my girlfriends. So I did a private chauffeur vacation with Brendan Vacations,” said Da Silva.
Easier for Agents to Cross-Sell to Guests
The merge also means agents are in a better position to re-engage past guests and to cross-sell brands within the portfolio as TTC Tour Brands in-house booking engine has been customized to list all available deals in one place. Previously agents would’ve had to go to the Trafalgar agent site to look for Trafalgar or the Insight agent site, to look for Insight Vacations.
According to one Club Travel advisor Stephan Nieuwoudt, who has more than sixteen years experience in the business, taking the administrative headache out of searching travel product across 6 different sites is fantastic. Offering customers five percent discount not so much, never mind the in-trip shout out.
Using an example of a Britain and Ireland Delight Cost Saver tour at $1 096 for an 8-day itinerary, the five percent saving would be about $54. “That kind of discount isn’t a deal breaker when it comes to booking complex trips,” said Nieuwoudt. Customer are willing to forgo small discounts if they believe they can secure top quality products.
“If you sell as one standalone product then the five percent matters. But we add on flights, visa, travel insurance and consulting fees. It would be better to pass the 5 percent saving on to me as the travel agent, that would certainly get me booking your product more.”
That’s one way to turn customer retention and brand loyalty on its head.
Travel Corps’ more affluent Trafalgar brand and its youth tour operator Contiki share similar brand satisfaction scores of 4.6/5, according to the company’s enlisted reviews and insights platform. However retention rates are quite different.
The youth brand, with its market strength mainly in Australia and New Zealand, sees one in four travelers return for another trip, at 25 percent retention.
Trafalgar’s past loyalty program members were called Very Important Travelers or VITs and largely enjoyed the benefits that now form the basis of the Global Rewards Program.
Contiki’s program, which did not have a name, also included a shout-out from their trip manager. And while they did not enjoy a guaranteed repeat traveler five percent discount, they do now.
Ageing Out Across Brands
Adam Armstrong, Contiki CEO, said repeat bookings data in the U.S. shows a 25 percent retention and an average trip price of about $2,000 to $3,000. even though the brand is relatively unknown in the market.
Surprisingly Trafalgar’s average trip spend of an estimated $2,000 and $4,000 isn’t far off. Armstrong said while Contiki is still a youth-orientated brand and relatively unknown in the US market, it offers significant earning potential for agents.
He believes the merge would benefit Contiki’s customer base when they “age out”.
“As customers get older, where do they go from there if they like touring products. We will now more easily be able to point you in the right direction of Trafalgar or Insight Vacations. And coming in the other direction, you may not find Contiki to begin with.
“We see the U.S. and Canada as being our next big thing.”
So while a merged loyalty program make cross-selling easier for travel agents, especially with a slick new portal to manage it from, real benefits, thoughtfully curated around the wants and needs of its specific customer bases, and their travel agents, would be sharper.