FFB Insider: China’s Rise on the Bonus Offer Scene

Back in February we released our bonus offer outlook for 2011. In that outlook we mentioned that Air China has been very active in releasing promotions for their Phoenix Miles program and would be one to watch for more. Here we are three months later and not only has Air China been busy releasing bonus offer promotions but the whole Chinese market is exploding with these type of promotional offers. The offers are coming from programs based in China and those from abroad with a presence in the world’s most populous nation. From bonus offers on flights, to online booking bonuses to receiving status with a hotel partner, you name it the Chinese market is seeing every type of offer this year.

Why are we seeing a rise in the bonus offers for China? The competition is heating up between all the programs, not only for the business traveller but also the leisure traveller as China eases travel restrictions for the general population. Here at FrequentFlyerBonuses.com we have witnessed first hand the rise of the travel loyalty industry not only by the large increase in bonus offers but traffic to our site with China climbing from way out of the top 10 countries to visit our site just over a year ago to number six and that is steadily climbing.

With Airline and Hotel programs dominating the loyalty space in travel, we place our focus on these sectors in our overview of China’s Rise on the Bonus Offer Scene:

Airline:

Globally, airlines have continually offered some sort of bonus offers for their new routes or highly competitive routes to and from China but this year we have seen an explosion of offers from airlines based in China. The market is definitely heating up between the airlines in this market as they compete for business on domestic and international routes. What follows are some examples of the bonus offer promotions we have seen:

Air China Phoenix Miles 
By far, Air China and the Phoenix Miles program have been the busiest out of all programs in China in terms of bonus offers. It seems like we can visit their site every few days and there are some new promotions for Phoenix Miles members to earn more Phoenix Miles Kilometers. Numerous flight bonus offers like ones on their Beijing – Moscow, Paris and Sao Paulo routes to bonuses on regional routes out of Wuhan, you name it Air China has done it this year. Flights are not the only area of the FFP seeing bonus offers, members of this program have been and currently can enjoy many bonuses for Car Rentals and Hotel stays. On the hotel side, this included a very popular promotion with Marriott Rewards that gave instant elite status in Marriott’s program to Phoenix Miles members for 90 days and a fast track to achieve full elite status.

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Cathay Pacific has always been a great provider of bonus offer promotions and 2011 has been pretty much the same for the Asia Miles program. We have seen many route specific bonuses for various Asian markets and for flights out of Canada. Cathay tends to target their offers regionally to stimulate business from select markets therefore many of the bonus offers for flights have residency restrictions. Hotel, Car Rental, and Financial bonus offers also abound for Asia Miles members.

China Eastern Eastern Miles
Here is another airline program that rarely had bonus offer promotions until this year and now they are being streamed out the Eastern Miles headquarters on regular basis.  This year has seen many Eastern Miles bonus point offers for flights including major routes like Shanghai to Los Angeles, Rome, Sydney, Vancouver and more. The domestic market was not forgotten about as well seeing bonuses recently added to flights out of Ningbo. The Eastern Miles program is also active in offering bonuses for their hotel and car rental partners.

China Southern Sky Pearl Club
For mainland China based programs (not including Hong Kong based airlines) China Southern would place second for being the busiest in terms of doling out bonus offers. Currently Sky Pearl Club members can earn bonuses on 20 routes flown by China Southern including Guangzhou to Auckland, Bangkok, Singapore and more. Look for even more bonuses on internal China routes from China Southern as well. Partnerships with hotel chains like Marriott and Mandarin Oriental have also generated bonus offer promotions for Sky Pearl members.

Hainan Airlines / Hong Kong Airlines Fortune Wings
Fortune Wings, the joint program of Hainan and Hong Kong Airlines has seen a steady release of flight bonus offers. From Hainan the bonus offers are usually for new routes such as their new Toronto-Beijing flight while the offers we have seen for Hong Kong Airlines flights have been ones they see lots of competition on. Once again, this goes back to the premise of why an airline offers a loyalty bonus, either to stimulate traffic or to keep flyers from defecting to another airline. The Fortune Wings program also sees occasional offers for hotel stays and car rentals.

Sichuan Airlines Golden Panda
This is a program we love strictly for the name! What better name for a program from China than Golden Panda. For us, this program is a bit tougher to track as their website is in Chinese only and we have to use translation software to make sense of the bonus offers. Even then it can be tough and we have to use our expertise in bonus offers to decode what the translation means as was recently seen when we added Sichuan’s offer of bonus Kilometers when earning for multiple activities. Sichuan Golden Panda has also offered bonuses for flights within China and for creating or editing your online profile, an offer we saw many years ago from Western programs but something that is relatively new for the Chinese market.

Non-Chinese Airlines
Not lost on airlines from around the world, the Chinese market is huge for the frequent flyer programs of many airlines globally. We have seen and currently see flight bonus offers to Chinese cities from airlines like SriLankan, Ethiopian, Saudi Arabian, Vietnam Airlines, Delta, United and more. Most of these are new route bonuses used to stimulate bookings for fresh routes and to generate awareness of the new flights offered by many airlines.

Hotel:

Most hotels are well aware of the business potential in China hence the reason a new hotel opens up almost everyday somewhere in China. This knowledge has not eluded the loyalty programs of the major hotel chains as the up the ante to gain new customers and to keep existing customers loyal. Most major hotel frequent guest programs have run some sort of promotion for stays China this year and here are some examples of what they have been doing:

Starwood Preferred Guest
While SPG has offered some individual hotel stay bonuses and their usual system wide promotions, the one that shows they have China on the radar is their recently released online booking bonus. The offer is targeted for residents in China and offers 500 bonus Starpoints for each stay in China that is booked via the Chinese version of SPG.com

Marriott Rewards
Much like Starwood and other major brands, Marriott has run numerous bonus offers for stays at individual hotels but has really promoted the elite benefits of the Marriott Rewards program to Chinese travellers.First they offered instant Gold Elite Status to Air China Phoenix Miles members for a short period of time along with fast track to retaining that status for the full year. Then the same offer came out for Chinese residents who banked with HSBC albeit with a better fast track offer (it appears that Marriott Rewards members outside of China were also able to take advantage of the offer)

Shangri-La Golden Circle
Last fall, Shangri-La’s Golden Circle program was revamped into a points earning system rather from the previous stay based system. Since that time we have seen many bonus point offers come out for individual hotels across the hotel chain but well over 75% of those bonus offers are for locations in China.

InterContinental Hotels Group Priority Club
A mainstay for bonus offers in China, IHG has had individual hotel stay offers for nearly as long as we have been around and those do not appear to be nearing an end. That being said IHG definitely had other offers that targeted the Chinese market such as the recent offer they ran with Air China where Phoenix Miles members could earn double miles for stays at select IHG properties in China.

Accor Hotels A|Club
The Accor Group has a large presence in China with 111 hotels in operation and more opening every month. Accor has focused a lot of bonus offers in the Chinese market either for individual hotels to stimulate traffic as they open their doors for the first time to offers across all of China for stays at select brands within the Accor family.

While the number of promotions may still not match the North American or European markets, the onslaught of bonus offers from China are evidence enough that the people behind the loyalty programs see the value of offering them. Whether they are simple like Sichuan’s online profile offer to more complex offers with varying bonus levels within a single offer like those seen from China Southern, the loyalty bonus offer has taken a strong foothold in the Chinese market and if evidence from other markets hold true then the bonus offer is here to stay for the Chinese populace.

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