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Study finds travelers aren’t so brand-faithful despite loyalty programs

They’re called loyalty programs, but do they really keep travelers from straying to other brands? Not so much any more, according to a new study by the Deloitte consulting firm—because consumers are increasingly finding that a familiar brand is not always enough to win their business.

The Deloitte survey of 4,000 airline passengers and hotel guests, conducted last October, found “a steep decline in consumer loyalty to travel brands,” the company said. Granted that it’s not always possible to stick to just one brand, but the survey found that only 8 percent of hotel guests always stay at the same company’s properties, and only 14 percent of air travelers always fly the same airline.

“It is clear that travel brands need to up their game if they want to drive genuine loyalty among consumers,” said Deloitte vice chairman Adam Weissenberg. “With heightened competition and eroding customer loyalty, hotels and airlines, now more than ever, need to focus on enhancing and personalizing the consumer experience.”

When consumers were asked about how important various factors were in influencing their brand selection, loyalty programs ranked 20th out of 26 factors for hotels, and 19th out of 26 for airlines, the company said.

What was more important? “The survey found consumers seek value for money, comfort and location when choosing a hotel, while on-time arrivals and departures, safety and value for money are the most important factors for choosing an airline,” Deloitte said.

The Deloitte study also debunked some of the hype about the importance of social media marketing these days. According to Deloitte, “63 percent of respondents never want to interact with a travel brand via social media, and 44 percent never visit social media and review sites for travel.”

What’s more, 80 percent said they have never downloaded a hotel or an airline app to their smartphones. When it comes to booking, consumers surveyed by Deloitte “are still using tried-and-true methods,” the company said—mainly hotel (61 percent) and airline (59 percent) websites.

&lquo;What really matters to consumers when being engaged by travel brands is a secure and easy purchase process, email discounts and the latest news,” said Deloitte.

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