Is a customer loyalty program - to reward travelers who book with you multiple times - part of your customer engagement and retention strategy?
When used effectively, such programs can be a great way to create a sense of community among your loyal customers, and to encourage travelers to become part of the "family" or "tribe" so they stay engaged with your brand in the long term.
Here are a few examples of international tour operators offering loyalty travel programs and their approaches that go beyond discounts. You will also find some insights into different approaches to loyalty programs that support your business and keep travelers happy.
Tour Operators Loyalty Program Examples
Country Walkers: Encore Loyalty Program
Country Walkers (countrywalkers.com), a worldwide leader in active travel experiences, enrolls guests in its Encore program that includes perks such as a 5% discount for any past guest, and a larger discount for those who have taken multiple trips. Another highlight of Country Walker's Encore Program is premium access to invitation-only adventures.
International Expeditions: Loyalty Travel Programs
International Expeditions (ietravel.com), which offers adventure travel to the world's most extraordinary natural destinations, has Loyalty Travel Programs that include benefits available to loyal customers (the "Society of Nature Travelers" members) such as special discounts and in-destination offers. There's also a special saving available to those who book two trips in one year.
Intrepid Travel: Intrepid Loyalty Program
Intrepid Travel (intrepidtravel.com), a leading international provider of small-group local adventures, offers a Loyalty Program to thank those who have booked a trip in the past, those who book more than 3 trips in one transaction, and those who have booked 9 trips in the past - those with lasting relationships with the company - who will receive the 10th trip for free and the special "Intrepid Legend" status.
Natural Habitat Adventures: The Habitat Club
Natural Habitat Adventures (nathab.com), a worldwide leader in nature and wildlife ecotourism and an official conservation travel partner for WWF, rewards their loyal customers through "The Habitat Club" program whose members exclusive benefits include discounts, gifts, and - fittingly for their mission focused on nature and conservation - "conservation benefits" such as having a tree planted in their honor and adopting an animal through WWF.
Wildland Adventures: Wild Alumni Travelers Program
Wildland Adventures (wildland.com), a leading adventure travel company offering authentic worldwide cultural and natural history explorations, encourages its guests to "Go Wild" again and again through its Wild Alumni Travelers program. The alumni program benefits include special discounts and perks, as well as member-only events hosted by Wildland Adventures' founders and directors.
Loyalty Program Tips and Ideas for Tour Operators
Loyalty programs or customer rewards/incentive programs can be a good way to create a non-price based differentiator, and can provide, when implemented effectively, a profitable competitive edge. It’s important to recognize that while discounts and special offers are - of course - important incentives, but they are not the only factor influencing customers’ choices. Loyalty programs can be a way to express in a tangible way that you value your customers and that you want to encourage them to stay engaged with your brand.
Loyalty programs, therefore, should be created as part of your overall customer retention strategy, and should be in line with the mission and philosophy - as well as business priorities - of your company.
As mentioned in this article by HubSpot, "7 Customer Loyalty Programs That Actually Add Value", offering value through loyalty programs may sometimes mean adding initiatives unrelated to discounts and offers. See Patagonia's example here - 4) Structure Non-Monetary Programs Around Your Customer's Values -
"Really understanding your customer means understanding their values and sense of worth. And depending on your industry, your customers may find more value in non-monetary or discounted rewards. Every company can offer promotional coupons and discount codes, but businesses that can provide value to the customer in ways other than dollars and cents have an opportunity to really connect with their audience."
Or, maybe even forgoing loyalty programs altogether and focusing on other ways to attract loyal customers may work well for your business. Apple is mentioned in the above article as an example of this, although admittedly it may be an extreme example.
Taking lessons from retail, hospitality and airline loyalty programs, this article by Business Insider, "The Secret To Creating Loyalty Programs That Actually Work", also offers some concrete tips on how to create loyalty programs that work. A key takeaway here is that a customer loyalty program needs to focus on enhancing the customer's experience and on addressing their needs.