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Marketers take note, travel loyalty programs offer masterclass in engaging APAC consumers

By Erin Murray | vice president, Marketing

February 6, 2023 | 7 min read

As APAC’s travel industry prepares for recovery, Erin Murray, vice president of marketing at loyalty commerce provider Points, believes marketers should take notes from travel loyalty programs on how to survive and thrive in the region.


/ Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Throughout 2022, the easing of travel restrictions across Asia Pacific saw positive momentum finally return to the region’s battered travel industry. The competitive advantage that helped many companies survive this challenging time–and that will enable them to thrive amid the rebound–are the dedicated superfans within travel loyalty programs. They transact more often, spend more, and come back to do it all again, all in pursuit of unlocking new perks with their preferred brand.

Now is the ideal time for marketers to learn critical lessons from this ‘secret sauce’ that helped an industry get closer to its customers and come through unprecedented turbulence. The recent relaxation of mainland China’s travel restrictions promises to see the return of the world’s largest tourism population, meaning the APAC region’s growth story will continue to unfold as major travel brands double down on their commitment to developing their regional presence.

Frequent flyer and hotel reward programs are a marketer’s dream because of their loyal consumer base, and today's members expect just as much from their rewards programs as the programs have come to expect from them. They want relevant offers, valuable benefits, and most importantly, the ability to earn and use their favorite points/miles on their terms.

Erin Murray, VP marketing Points

During the pandemic, Loyalty Currency Retailing became a huge opportunity as it provides members with unbridled control of their own rewards goals—the very utility and flexibility they desire from their programs. The ability to buy or gift points at their leisure satisfies travelers with immediate needs as much as it does the long-term focused buyers. Most of all, this particular consumer behaviour is a major predictor of future revenue and engagement for the brands that sell their currency. Here’s how you can leverage this same concept across your own brands:

Don’t underestimate demand in Asia

In the Loyalty Currency Retailing space, APAC members are equally excited about the prospect of getting more from their rewards programs. For the select airlines that leverage mileage retailing, they’ve found that members are not only buying more points/miles but also buying more often than members in the rest of the world. Consumer behavior from mileage retailing in APAC, therefore, teaches us two things: high demand could mean brands are underserving their Asia Pacific consumers right now, and investing in your APAC presence might just unlock your best customers yet.

The takeaway: APAC region is a massive market, and likely only going to get bigger. If you’re not investing now, you might just miss out.

Iterate, iterate, iterate

Years ago, the majority of loyalty program members interacted with their preferred brands when travel was top of mind. But the pandemic accelerated a movement that was well underway—one that changed the way people view their loyalty currency from passive earning to sought-after currency.

With travel at a standstill, members leaned on non-travel opportunities to earn their points/miles. They embraced co-brand credit card earn, buying points/miles, and alternative methods of earning such as online earn malls or retail partners. Loyalty brands provided mileage-thirsty consumers with new ways to collect, for example, the recent Lyft and Alaska Airlines partnership, or United’s MileagePlus Multiplier, which enables members to top-up their monthly earnings.

The takeaway: Your product’s utility is only as versatile as you make it. The way your consumers get or use your product may change over time, and you should be adept at changing with it.

You have to personalize to thrive

Compared to your typical e-commerce retailer, loyalty programs have an edge in personalization due to the sheer volume of travel engagement metrics made available at every interaction. Loyalty programs are constantly assessing booking habits, seat selection, duration of stay, redemption activity, and more to tailor specific offers, content and communications to their members.

And while loyalty currency retailing can feel like a niche offering within an airline and hotel’s broader product suite, its growth is just as dependent on this data mining in order to deliver a perfectly curated experience and offer to members. Member-level insights and aggregated industry trends are used to build loyalty-specific algorithms and predictive models to enhance mileage retailing campaigns.

The takeaway: Don’t focus on personalizing just one piece of your consumer journey—you need to be thinking about it every step of the way.

Erin Murray is the vice president of marketing at Points, a loyalty commerce solutions provider.

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