The Case for Loyalty Travel

"Spencer, you know I always take care of you and we'll continue to do so." And with those words, I shook Jay's hands, told him goodbye, and walked out, knowing I'd be back sooner, rather then later. No, Jay isn't my roommate or best friend. He's not my brother or boss. Rather, he's the manager at the Hertz I frequent in my neighborhood in San Francisco.

It was an experience I couldn't help to write about, not due to his words, but rather the actions that backed them. The fact is that I'm not a loyalty traveler, predominantly because few hotels, car rental agencies, and airlines have taken the action to warrant it. Case in point: I fly much more with other airlines, rather then the one my family works for. However, a couple recent experiences, one by Virgin America, and another by Hertz, have changed my feelings on loyalty travel.

As I waited on hold, standing just outside of my rental car in a Los Angeles shopping center parking lot, I pondered how I would respond to Hertz, as a rubbed my hand along my driver's side tire, feeling the prickly wires sticking out and noticing the absence of tread. The car was no longer safe to drive. The possible responses were numerous, which included shouting about Hertz from the rooftops of Twitter, flipping tables, kicking my tire, or cursing out the customer service representative. Feeling a sense of loyalty to Hertz, I wanted to see how they responded, and so I listened kindly and patiently. And respond they did, going over and beyond my hopes and expectations. An hour later I was leaving the local Hertz dealer with an upgraded replacement car and a couple days later when I arrived back in San Francisco to return the car, Jay made sure I didn't leave without feeling more then satisfied at the outcome, which included a credit toward this rental and a future rental. When I shook Jay's hand and walked out, we both knew I would be returning.

Before we continue any further, I see it as my duty to tell you that I'm eventually tying this back to Expedia, who I have a partnership with. If you're already bored or turned off, watch this dope adventure travel video with the new GoPro Hero3 or find out what the most interesting man in the world thinks of fanny packs (While I have a partnership with Expedia, I do not have a partnership with GoPro or Dos Equis, although if given the chance, I doubt I would turn it down.)

American Airlines Plane
American Airlines Plane

Let's just be real: We, as humans, aren't very loyal these days it would seem. Raise your hand if price is of greater importance to you then customer service? *Raises both hands*. With a marketplace that's so inundated with hotels, car rental agencies, and airlines, it's easy to comparison shop based on price. When I recently went to Twitter to ask about travel loyalty, while some showed loyalty, many stated that price was the deciding factor in using a hotel, airline, or car rental company. Yet if we're talking about the hospitality industry, should there not be a strong sense of hospitality felt? Travel, at its core is meant to be a stress-free and hospitable experience, but listen to many people's travel experiences and they would tell you otherwise.

So what does it take for you to become a loyal to one travel brand over all of the rest? Customer service? Loyalty rewards? A study conducted by InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) last year  showed that global travelers treat loyalty points as currency, ranking it higher then any other perks or benefits that a hotel can offer. Are we all then striving to be Ryan Bingham (If you have no idea who this is, drop what you're doing, call your belle/beau, and watch Up in the Air together tonight)? It's these and other questions that I'm asking myself as I find myself becoming a more loyal traveler, and these questions that I'll be asking tomorrow, Wednesday, October 24, during the latest installment of #Expchat on Twitter (See above regarding tying back to Expedia).

I, with Expedia, want to know how loyalty travel, and especially Expedia Rewards, can be better. This is your chance to openly give feedback about an important part of travel and a company at the forefront of it. Have something to praise? Let's hear it. Have a gripe? Bring it! I'll be joined by fellow travel bloggers Kirsten Alana of Aviators and a Camera and Dave and Deb of ThePlanetD, as well as Expedia. Meanwhile, I'd love to hear your thoughts:

What makes you loyal to a travel brand? What perks would you like to see from travel brands from their loyalty programs?