The time has come for air travel and hospitality brands to address an existential threat to the travel industry: Customer loyalty has all but vanished.

Just 14% of air travel customers are loyal to an airline, according to a recently published Deloitte survey. Even more astonishing is the finding that a mere 8% of hospitality customers are loyal to a hotel brand.

The data is sobering for travel suppliers, many of whom pride themselves on customer service, attention to detail, and customer relationships.

Though airlines and hoteliers have collectively invested colossal sums to build loyalty programs, the reality is that those programs have largely created repeat purchase, not true loyalty. Such "purchased affinity" can drive additional purchases from customers, but it does little to drive true evangelism—the bedrock of highly successful brands.

Deloitte's findings on abysmally low loyalty rates for airlines and hotels point to just one conclusion: Current marketing programs are simply insufficient.

Today's travel customer is tech-savvy, deal-seeking, and wary of the revenue management model that leaves customers whipsawed as prices change. The end result is travel consumers who are deeply distrustful that they are getting the best deal available. With so many sources of information and travel providers to choose from, consumers are more inclined than ever to look for bargains.

But travel marketers need not despair. The opportunity exists for brands to enhance customer loyalty. By understanding and addressing the root causes of customer loyalty erosion, focusing on the customer experience from start to finish, and getting creative and personal with loyalty rewards, travel brands can win back loyal customers.

Here are 10 critical steps for building long-term customers relationships and inspiring customer loyalty:

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Ted Wham

Ted Wham is vice-president of travel industry solutions at Responsys, a provider of email and cross-channel marketing solutions.

LinkedIn: Ted Wham