Accelerating Membership Growth with a Compelling Travel Loyalty Program

Membership-based organizations – private groups ranging from warehouse retail clubs to professional associations to sports team season ticket holders – prioritize member retention and attraction. Yet, an untapped potential for achieving these goals lies in providing travel as a benefit and reward.   

Integrating travel into a membership’s loyalty program doesn’t just add a perk; it unlocks a world of potential rewards and unique experiences that can strengthen the bonds between members and the organization.  

Offering travel rewards offers more than economic savings; it opens doors to transformative experiences that can deepen members' connection to the organization. Tailoring these travel opportunities to match member preferences and lifestyles elevates their sense of belonging and makes each member feel uniquely valued.  

We wanted to learn more about this expansive market segment and understand its needs and priorities, so we surveyed 251 membership organization professionals and 2,130 consumers in the United States to identify opportunities for both consumers and the organizations they are members of.  

Our survey report, The Benefits of Belonging: An Analysis of Membership-Based Organizations, Their Constituents, and Their Loyalty Strategies, revealed some compelling findings for organizations to improve their loyalty, rewards, and member retention strategies through technology, expanded benefits, and the addition of travel and lifestyle options. 

A Different Type of Consumer  

The survey report also reveals a distinct member profile, one that is deeply connected to the organization’s purpose. Those members are driven by emotional loyalty, which highlights what any organization’s mission should be: providing more than just discounts.  

Unlike general consumers who might engage based on a one-time purchase, consumers who are part of member-based organizations are driven by shared values, interests, and a desire for frequent interaction. But this requires a different approach on the part of the business to create engagement and a sense of community rather than simply pushing transactions. And that’s not all that’s needed. While discounts will always be valuable to consumers, the two most popular reasons for membership (aside from discounts) are rooted in an organization’s core purpose.   

According to the members we surveyed, “exclusive access to content, events, or experiences” was their second highest-valued priority, while “interacting with people with shared interests” was their third. The sentiment speaks even louder when we examine these numbers by group type. Professional development groups prioritize career growth, sports fans crave exclusive experiences, and social clubs seek connections with like-minded individuals – all values tied to organizations’ core missions. 

These priorities underline a crucial point for membership organizations: that they are effective. If tailored to members’ interests, travel loyalty programs can be transformative for member-based companies. By rewarding members with travel experiences that align with their interests, organizations receive far deeper engagement and form emotional connections than they otherwise would through “traditional” engagement tactics. 

And for members? It’s not a straight line to value or transactions anymore. These consumers have other priorities, and their brand affinity is emotionally based. They’re intensely engaged and want to feel a sense of community, purpose, and shared values.   

Align Member Enthusiasm with Organizational Success 

A passionate membership base deeply invested in an organization’s mission should be the formula for success—especially when providing travel options and rewards. Despite 80% of surveyed members saying they engage with their favorite organizations at least weekly, 29% rarely book travel with those membership groups. This is partly attributable to the fact that 18% of consumers say the membership organizations they belong to don’t even offer travel booking.  

This presents a significant opportunity for organizations to engage more members by offering a travel loyalty program. 

Why is this the case? The data tells us that some significant disconnects exist between what consumers (members) want and what their membership organizations are focused on. While members prioritize everyday savings (48% of respondents said this was their first consideration), only 11% of organizations say that providing discounts and promotions that members want is their top challenge. Organizations’ core missions matter to members—36% say they value engagement-related reasons, such as networking or access to exclusive experiences.   

Still, only 18% of organizations view loyalty program engagement as a top business goal. Expanding rewards could boost engagement (31% would engage more with their membership organization if more reward options and benefits were available), yet only 9% of organizations prioritize building a robust reward portfolio. The solution? Membership organizations can bridge some of these disconnects by offering a broader travel and lifestyle rewards portfolio.  

Members can access the travel experiences they crave, boosting their membership satisfaction, and organizations can forge deeper connections by building loyalty and driving growth.  

Boost Member Loyalty with Travel Rewards 

The market is ripe for innovation in membership loyalty programs, and organizations acknowledge it. While most organizations outsource these programs (70%), many find them underperforming. Surprisingly, 50% believe their programs could better serve their number one goal: membership growth. 

The issue is that many organizations haven’t made the member experience compelling enough for their constituents. With members seeking greater value, travel rewards are rapidly becoming an attractive and valuable perk for many companies to acquire and retain members. Organizations can dramatically boost engagement and attract new members by offering exciting travel options alongside their core benefits. 

Across different industry sectors, companies are now looking to travel to keep customers coming back. For instance, Walmart has added travel perks like car rentals and vacation stays to its Walmart+ program, showing how valuable travel can be for keeping members interested. By tapping into the excitement of travel, businesses are creating stronger bonds with their customers.  

Download The Benefits of Belonging: An Analysis of Membership-Based Organizations, Their Constituents, and Their Loyalty Strategies to learn how your business can leverage travel rewards and boost member acquisition and engagement today. 

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