Launch planned during the next 12 months; all Expedia brands will be included
Online travel mega-company Expedia Group plans to ‘unify and expand’ customer loyalty program offerings across its portfolio of brands – a substantial task which will affect competing brands and operations across the world.
The Expedia Group family of brands includes CarRentals.com, CheapTickets, ebookers, Egencia, Expedia, Expedia Cruises, Expedia Group Media Solutions, Expedia Local Expert, Expedia Partner Solutions, Hotels.com, Hotwire.com, Orbitz, Travelocity, trivago, Vrbo and Wotif.
The ambition is to make it “the most complete travel rewards offering in the industry,” said Jon Gieselman, president of Expedia Brands, with member discounts and reward earning and redemption on flights, hotels, vacation rentals, car rentals, cruises, and activities across all Expedia Group brands. In effect, this means dealing with the endemic problem in the travel industries, of members saving points across multiple brands with little ultimate gain.
One solution to the problem is to partner with multiple brands, as many payments firms do. For Expedia however, the problem is more complex, because many of its brands compete. In total the company claims to have 145 million loyalty members in total, but many of these are members of multiple programmes within the group.
“I have a stack of logins and loyalty cards, and soon it just won’t be necessary because I’m going to earn benefits whether I’m renting a car, booking a flight or reserving a hotel room,” said Gieselman.
All four existing main programs across Expedia Group brands will join the brand-new global rewards program, he noted. An exact launch date has not been set, but a company spokesperson said rollout is expected “within the coming year.”
“Our loyalty program will offer members the opportunity to earn and redeem points across all Expedia Group brands, even those brands, like Vrbo, that didn’t have loyalty programs before,” Gieselman said.
“A customer will be able to earn points for their Vrbo vacation rental and redeem it on an Expedia car rental, for example,” he added.
Membership in what Expedia Group calls the “unified and upgraded” loyalty program will be free.
Seamless experience promised
New and existing members will meet a “seamless” experience once the new program launches, although current members will continue to use their original programs. Some details of the new program, such as parameters for redemption and expiration of points, are still being hashed out, according to Gieselman.
Expedia Group plans to build on existing program benefits such as member pricing, reward boosters, and upgrades and social amenities offered at thousands of properties worldwide. (To date, the company said, its Member Only Deals and loyalty rewards in legacy programs have saved clients almost $10 billion on travel.)
Post covid, Expedia Group expects a flood of redemptions and has ramped up customer service operations to handle it.
“There’s no doubt there will be a rush to travel and to use loyalty points as soon as the world opens up again,” Gieselman said. “We added hundreds of agents on the phones, introduced a virtual agent and developed a one-click cancel tool.”
A major goal of the new unified program is to educate Expedia Group customers about the relationships between the company’s brands and how to leverage them, “which will make life easier for travelers.”
“There was a time when our brands did compete against each other in the marketplace and that, to a certain extent, was part of the strategy,” Gieselman said. “We are now entirely focused on the best customer outcomes and bringing a more unified experience across our brands. “Loyalty is a big piece of this and a huge leap towards that vision.”