2021 travel guide: Covid restrictions, vaccine, flight cancellations, cruises and more


That year, business travel stagnated, dragging the profitability of airlines, hotels and convention halls with it. For a while, this also compromised loyalty point balances coveted as free currency by frequent business travelers and many others, as miles and credit card points seemed less valuable when no one was traveling.

But points programs are far from dead, experts say, citing better booking terms, the growing value of loyal customers to travel agencies, and the advent of creative programs that can let you spend points like money more easily for things other than plane tickets or magazines. subscriptions. In these largely stationary times, programs are keen to retain existing members.

“Most airlines have increased the value of their points by getting rid of fees,” said Brian Kelly, founder of The Points Guy, a travel rewards site. He also noted that the fees for changing routes or refunding miles on canceled trips have been removed. “This makes it more interesting to redeem with miles because they are fully refundable, whereas cash tickets are changeable. “

The points bank – which continues to grow somewhat thanks to travel rewards credit cards that have expanded to offer bonuses on things like groceries during the pandemic – and the growing opportunities to travel with the widespread distribution of vaccines suggest that competition to swap seats is coming, leading to a possible devaluation of points. But not anytime soon, experts say, in part because many airlines have used their loyalty programs as collateral when they borrowed money during the pandemic.

“Airlines will be careful not to compromise customer value and loyalty once this crisis has subsided,” said Vik Krishnan, Travel Practice Partner at McKinsey & Company, Business Consultants.

Most analysts expect any recovery in short-term travel to be driven by pleasure travelers desperate for vacation or to see family, not business travelers.

Aside from health concerns and the freeze on business travel, “business travelers need a place to go and currently the office occupancy rate is very, very low, there is no so there’s no real reason to go to a city, ”said Jan D. Freitag, national director of hospitality market analysis at Costar Group, a commercial real estate company, indicating data that shows the rate of National office occupancy averages around 24%.

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