The 2023 holiday travel season is shaping up to be a litmus test for airlines and travel operators and their travel loyalty programs.
Will the traditional November/December increase in travel volume forestall the end of the years-long travel resurgence? Will higher travel prices and ongoing cost of living challenges prompt consumers to moderate their 2023 holiday travel plans?
And how are travel loyalty programs positioning themselves to bridge that gap, providing the reward and redemption options that make holiday travel more attainable for members while capitalizing on the heightened interest in travel that the season usually brings?
Travel brands and forecasters have many questions heading into Q4. Building on our early 2023 travel loyalty survey series, we have some fresh insights to share about this season’s travel trends based on our most recent travel loyalty study conducted in August 2023. We polled over 2,000 consumers in the United States belonging to a loyalty program that incorporates travel-related rewards and asked them about their travel plans for this holiday season compared to last year, what their main priorities and considerations are, and how they’re interacting with their travel loyalty programs to find holiday travel deals.
We’re compiling that survey data into a new report, The Tipping Point for Travel Loyalty 2023: Holiday Travel Trends, available in late October. In the meantime, here are a few highlights of our findings:
#1. Consumers plan to travel more this holiday season than in 2022.
Only 40% of American adults we surveyed reported traveling for the holidays last year. Fifty-four percent of consumers plan to travel this season, reflecting a more “settled” economic environment. Whether or not these intentions will translate to a healthy, high-volume travel season remains to be seen, but it’s a positive indicator.
#2. Price was a driving factor last year and maybe this year, too.
Of the 60% of consumers who didn’t travel for the holidays last year, 45% cited affordability as the reason (either the prices were too high, or they didn’t have enough points or travel rewards). While inflation has leveled off, and consumers might not be facing the same intensity of across-the-board price spikes as in 2022, value will be a crucial consideration for holiday travel again this season.
#3. Loyalty programs can help consumers offset travel costs – and influence holiday travel.
According to our findings, 42% of consumers would travel more during the holidays if they got more discounts through their loyalty program, and 32% would if they had more points available to help offset the cost of the trip. This signals a real opportunity for loyalty programs to attract new members and engage existing ones by offering holiday-specific benefits and rewards.
#4. But are loyalty programs doing enough?
The latest survey data reveals that loyalty programs could be offering members more. Consumers in our survey said they would welcome their loyalty programs’ help with holiday travel costs, but 45% reported that their loyalty programs aren’t doing anything at all to offer benefits for the holiday period.
#5. Holiday rewards for younger loyalty members.
The retail, travel, and financial services brands that are offering holiday perks through their loyalty programs are targeting younger generations. 53% of Gen Zers and 54% of Millennials report being offered lifestyle benefits in connection with the holidays, compared to 46% of all respondents. Considering that the Silent Generation (20%) and Baby Boomers (25%) were least likely to have traveled for the holidays in 2022, loyalty programs have an opportunity to engage and activate these cohorts with holiday-specific offers.
The Travel Outlook for 2024
Ultimately, our survey findings show that consumers, driven by rising prices across every aspect of life, are increasingly looking to their loyalty programs to save money and provide the value they can’t get from other brands or programs--especially when it comes to holiday travel.
This trend is likely to continue, with 2023/2024 shaping up to be a strong season for travel brands and for the loyalty programs that support them-- provided they can offer the value consumers are looking for.
Be the first to receive The Tipping Point for Travel Loyalty: 2023 Holiday Travel Trends report for a deeper dive into these holiday trends and to learn why a superior loyalty program experience can help consumers access greater value through personalized travel and loyalty options, interactions, and rewards.
To have the report sent to you as soon as its published, sign up here.
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