Wednesday, February 5, 2014

How ‘Rewarding’ Will 2014 Be?

In its annual Global Business Travel Forecast, American Express claims 2014 will see modest increases to the cost of business travel. By and large airline prices should remain flat and in some cases even drop as low cost carriers expand their business travel offering — forcing more competitive pricing.


Conversely, hotel bookings could rise as much as 3-6 per cent in some regions across North America.  

Regardless, business travel costs are expected to reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars for many companies and managing this expense will be a top priority.

So what’s in store for frequent travelers who count on their reward points to fund leisure getaways?   For one thing, a glut of airline miles being issued and more demand for award nights as hotels fill up with paid travelers will continue to force unfavorable program changes as noted when United Airlines announced tweaks to their MileagePlus program late last year and when Aeroplan announced increases to certain International award flights not to mention Hilton HHonors, Hyatt Gold Passport, IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest all increasing room redemption rates during the year. 



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Further proof can be gleaned from a recent letter to members of Delta Hotels’ Privilege program.  In his letter, CEO Ken Greene spoke of some improvements (less stays to qualify for Gold status) but also a number of unfortunate cuts including scrapping the popular late check-out option for basic members of the program. This at a time when many hotel programs tend to be adding benefits at the basic level with the premise that they can glean more information about these travelers from the data trail they leave when joining a program to take advantage of those free benefits.


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Perhaps most revealing (and encouraging to the glass half-full types) is the promise to strengthen the reward program in the fall of 2014.  What this means is anyone’s guess, but you have to believe the popular Canadian hotel chain recognizes the important role these programs play in attracting business travelers.

Related:
Extensive Cornell analysis shows real impact of hotel loyalty program - See more at: http://www.tnooz.com/articles/Cornell-analysis-shows-impact-of-hotel-loyalty-programs/#sthash.UcrFEu7E.dpuf

While we all know economic conditions have been tough for everyone including those in the travel industry, it’s my hope that reward program operators will do more to engage with their most active members.  Give us a chance to offer feedback before pulling the plug on features or switching up redemption rules.  After all, we’re deeply invested in these programs and make travel plans with point accumulation in mind. 

For our part,  FrequentFlyerBonuses.com will continue to track the best bonus offers and point to the strongest card offerings. You can also count on us to give you the scoop on what program changes mean and how to avoid some of the hassles.  Check back frequently and here’s to a ‘rewarding’ 2014!

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