Randy Petersen's Opening Remarks – July, 28 2009

Randy Petersen's Opening Remarks – July, 28 2009

No Miles, No Vacation

At the Freddie Awards this past April, I had the pleasure of chatting with several staff members of the Wyndham Rewards program–a program we’ve covered as they transitioned from TripRewards. By all accounts, the program is doing well and according to hotel research we conducted last year, they are competitive with all the leading programs.

During my chat, I heard them mention some research they were thinking of conducting that is just the sort of thing that I love to dive into. The results of that research have now been released. Twenty percent of Americans polled in the survey they commissioned said they would be unable to take their next vacation without cashing in rewards points, indicating that the current economic climate has increased the importance of travel rewards points in vacation planning. This research was completed in mid-June and reflected the views of just over 1,000 members of various loyalty programs.

The survey found that almost half of travelers (47 percent) planned to redeem travel rewards points for their next vacation. Jill Noblett, Wyndham Hotel Group senior vice president of Loyalty and Direct Marketing, said “This survey tells us reward points are rather significant.”

At InsideFlyer we’ve always known that, but the impact it has on whether you’ll be able to take a vacation or not is new research and it shows how reliant consumers have become on the miles and points industry. I can’t tell you how many of our readers I’ve chatted with over the years have boasted about not having paid for a vacation in the last 15 or so years. Always miles, always points.

What I like about this particular survey is that the polling wasn’t done to just the uber-elite frequent flyer who would certainly skew the results, but rather, it was to the average traveler on the street.

In addition, the survey revealed that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of those polled say rewards points are either “very important” or “extremely important” given the state of the economy (twenty-nine percent responded “very important” and 35 percent responded “extremely important”). While some may find this to be an interesting correlation to the overall economy, my best guess is that this percentage really doesn’t waver much regardless of the economy. The truth is, for a majority of travelers, these programs remain an important part of their lives.

By the time you read this, the new AwardPlanner tool on MileagerManager.com will be live and if you really want some help in determining where the awards are, you may want to visit and give it a try. One of the benefits of the AwardPlanner tool is the ability for you to put your award requests in a daily queue that will continue to look for your awards tomorrow when you got a big fat NO today. Among the beta testers this ability scored the highest in appeal. There’s also a nice tutorial that tells you how to use “TripIt for Awards,” highlighting that service to make planning your award redemption easier and better.

On another note, it won’t be long now before WorldPerks will ease into that part of our minds dedicated to memories. I am still in a bit of denial as to why this had to happen and will leave that for the industry academia to provide us with insight—I’m not one to dwell too much on the topic.

The other day I was clicking through FlyerTalk and realized what a wonderful haven for the collective memories of WorldPerks members it will be. They lamented many pros and cons of WorldPerks over the course of its existence. I also noticed similar comments in the older TWA forum, the older RenoAir forum and the even older Canadian Airlines International forum. There is no doubt that given enough time there will likely be other programs archived in the forums of FlyerTalk that will define the past but never the future of the frequent flyer mile.

So, as the dog days of summer come upon us, you might have noticed that we did not have at least one if not more issues devoted to easy summer reading–interviews with various program executives around the world. Truth is we got so tied up in the research of the credit card information (first time ever that this much information was compiled in a single place) that we did not have room for any interviews. However, we’re going to correct that, so look next month for some easy summer reading.

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