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Wednesday,  April 17, 2024 6:07 PM 

How can the travel industry leverage loyalty points? Pro tips shared at DAC AGM

How can the travel industry leverage loyalty points? Pro tips shared at DAC AGM
Discover America Canada's Board of Directors (Pax Global Media)
Nancy Benetton-Sampath

Vice-President, Media / Executive Manager

“We all have life milestones – our engagements, our weddings, our children are born, but to me, one of my life milestones is loyalty points.”

Barry Choi, an award-winning travel and personal finance expert, and Globe and Mail columnist, wittily shared insights and personal experiences on taking advantage of loyalty programs with travel industry members at Wednesday’s (Mar. 27) Discover America's Annual General Meeting.

The lunch event, which took place at the Boulevard Club in Toronto, was sponsored by Visit Rochester, the official tourism promotion agency for Greater Rochester and Monroe County.

Choi regularly appears on various television shows in Canada and the U.S. and his website aims to help Canadians use loyalty programs to travel better.

From a trade perspective, Choi's presentation also focused on how travel industry stakeholders can leverage loyalty programs as an important tool to keep customers coming back.

Personal finance expert Barry Choi (supplied)

Canadians anticipated top spenders in 2024

Choi shared findings from American Express Travel’s 2024 Global Trends Report revealing that Canadians rank as the second highest global market for anticipated average leisure trip spend this year.

The report also highlights that Canadians are prioritizing spontaneous, bucket list, and once in a lifetime vacations.

Data shows that 41 per cent of Canadians plan to use credit card points to pay for flights and hotels.

Eighty-five percent of Canadian adults are also interested in finding flight deals so they can spend more on accommodations.

According to Choi, this is where “loyalty programs are big and have become a big part of our daily lives.”  

He explained that many people know the basics of loyalty programs, “but when you understand how they work and use one of the best travel credit cards, you can get a lot of value out of them.”

“The average person engages in 7.5 loyalty programs, which increases to 12 when including travel-related programs such airlines and hotel chains,” he added.

In addition to redeeming reward points for flights and hotels, Choi explained how points are being used for aspirational travel experiences, such as booking a luxury accommodation for a fraction of the cost.

Greg Marshall (Visit Rochester) and Susan Webb (VoX) (Pax Global Media)

The travel trade & loyalty programs

According to Choi, travel companies, including destinations and attractions, should look for opportunities to partner with loyalty programs.

He emphasized the importance of knowing how loyalty program members think about properties and value-added experiences.

Through these collaborations, unique offerings may be created as well as added-value experiences for travellers, said Choi.

He cited deals that have worked for Canadians such as “Loonie Love” in Scottsdale and 20 per cent off five days or more at Disney.

Choi shared that loyalty programs are more than likely open to collaborations, but destinations may not often recognize these opportunities.

As another valuable tip, Choi recommends providing resources on a company's website "to educate people about what they can do with their points", which can result in longer stays and more spending.

Referring to American Express Travel’s report, Choi shared that “loyalty members will spend more at destinations on hotel extras, food and dining and attractions.”

Finally, Choi shared, “it's important to work with travel writers who understand loyalty programs.”

He explained that followers may be engaged because they seek ways to optimize their travel experiences without focusing solely on luxury.

Casey Canevari (Brand USA) and Audrey Tanguay-Beaudette (Air Canada) - (Pax Global Media)

Building Canada-U.S. tourism

Discover America Canada is an organization whose mission is to provide a networking forum to exchange marketing strategies and build Canadian tourism to the United States, explained Susan Webb, president of Discover America Canada.

Members are based in Canada and the U.S. and are from all sectors of travel, from DMOs and destinations to attractions and hotels to tour operators, airlines, and rail companies.

 Erin Oddleifson (VoX) and Raina Williams (Expedia Group Media Solutions) (Pax Global Media)

Webb noted that Discover America Canada kept its membership strong despite industry challenges over the last few years and now sees more opportunities to grow the membership.

2024 will be another productive year with more virtual and in-person events and meetings planned between April and the year's end. 

This includes the popular and always sold-out event, Discover America Canada Media Day scheduled for October 30, 2024.

A new website is also in the works, which will allow members to pay for memberships and sign up for events online.

For more on Discover America Canada or to become a member, click here.

From left: Irene Carino (Air Miles), Colin Wood (VoX) & Laura Nicholson (Air Miles) (Pax Global Media)

From left: Karly Melo (Travel South USA) & guest speaker, Barry Choi (Pax Global Media)

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