Turning customer loyalty to a CR advantage

Rewards points can benefit social programmes

Rewards points can benefit social programmes

As more people collect reward points from their hotel stays, new ways to spend them can see guests helping society and the environment.

In July, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) announced new research that showed 59% of UK travellers are increasingly turning to loyalty programmes to help fund their holidays, and one in three (33%) are able to organise an entire holiday with their points alone.

Their report said that:

  • 57% of UK travellers said that it felt like a dream come true when redeeming points from their loyalty programme all in one go
  • 76% of UK respondents felt that points were a reward in exchange for their loyalty.

More hotels are using points to reward guests for their loyalty, but where many points simply languish unspent in customers’ accounts, hotels can turn those points into a CR advantage by partnering with organisations which allow guests to spend those points by helping society or the environment.

At the end of July the Travel Foundation announced it was the new partner of global travel rewards currency company, Avios.

Avios is the ‘currency’ for the British Airways Executive Club, Iberia Plus and Meridiana Club frequent flyer programmes; as well as the Avios Travel Rewards Programme in the UK and South Africa. Millions of members collect Avios in over 220 countries world-wide.

By teaming up with the Travel Foundation, Avios Group (AGL) Limited which operates Avios will help support sustainable tourism projects in mainstream holiday destinations across the world, by providing sponsorship as well as in-kind support for travel and accommodation.

Since it was founded, the Travel Foundation has generated over £1 million in local income across its projects in 14 countries, and benefitted over 6,000 people through improved market access, knowledge and skills acquisition.

The Travel Foundation's Mexico honey project

The Travel Foundation's Mexico honey project


In return, the Foundation will share its sustainable tourism expertise, and the two organisations will collaborate in the development and delivery of employee training to ensure that the principles and practice of sustainable tourism are embedded into Avios. The Travel Foundation will run bespoke workshops for Avios staff, share online training courses and provide expert support and guidance.

Ellen Buckingham, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Avios said, “Corporate responsibility is at the heart of Avios' business. We aim to make travel and tourism sustainable tools for economic growth, social progress and environmental protection. Our members love to travel but want to have a positive impact on the environment and the communities they are visiting. Through our partnership with the Travel Foundation we will help them to achieve this.” 

Salli Felton, acting CEO of the Travel Foundation, says, “We are incredibly grateful to Avios for its support. The partnership means more of our hard-raised funds can be used on the ground to deliver even more benefits to communities in holiday destinations worldwide such as Mexico, Cyprus, Jamaica and Kenya, where we plan to travel this year. We are also excited about using our considerable experience and expertise in sustainable tourism to support Avios' ambitions.”

Whilst Avios works with a number of charities and eco-projects around the world – particularly in CO2 reduction – currently there seems to be no direct way for customers who’ve collected Avios, to spend them helping these projects.

But some hotels including Hilton and Marriott do offer guests the means to donate their points to charity.

For example, Marriott has offered its Marriott Reward members the option to donate points to charitable causes for more than a decade, and earlier this year the ITP member company announced it had added the Youth Career Initiative (YCI) to their five featured causes.

Now Reward Members can donate their points as a cash donation to help fund youth employment for disadvantaged young people participating in YCI.

Mari Snyder, Vice President, Social Responsibility & The Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities, said, “We are thrilled to be able to add the Youth Career Initiative as a donation option for our Marriott Reward members. Inviting our guests to join us in supporting YCI is a natural extension of our commitment to growing the programme.”

Marriott International first became involved in the Youth Career Initiative (YCI) when the JW Marriott Bangkok implemented the initiative in 1997 through the Youth Career Development Programme. To date, the company has championed YCI in 19 hotel properties across five continents by initiating pilot programmes in markets where there is both an opportunity and a need for skills development amongst vulnerable young people.

Involving their guests in their social and environmentally responsible actions is not new for Marriott.  They engage guests in conservation efforts through their Green Meetings and EcoEvents®, their Green Hotels Global tool and The Ritz-Carlton Give Back Getaways and Volunteaming initiatives.

Looking ahead it’s hoped that more hotel partners will look to add YCI to their rewards recipient partnerships, or will extend their rewards programmes to allow guests the opportunity to donate their points to good causes. It’s a win-win for hotels looking for greater guest involvement with their CR initiatives.

For more information visit:
The Travel Foundation
Youth Career Initiative
Marriott Points

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