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The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

It Still Pays to Create Loyalty

Membership has its rewards. Or does it?

There was a time when most banks, chambers of commerce and alumni groups restricted their trips to people who met certain qualifications — a deposit threshold, a minimum age, membership in their organizations, etc. Over time, though, more and more affinity organizations have moved to an “everyone is welcome” model that uses trips as a way for outsiders to get to know the organization.

This open approach has its benefits, of course, but there’s still something to be said for the value of loyalty. If you’re interested in increasing the number of card-carrying members of your affinity organization — or you simply want to reward people who travel with you frequently — consider some of these perks for your club members or most loyal customers.

Trip Discounts

In an environment where travel prices are increasing at record paces, discounts can be a powerful tool for motivating behavior. If you want to encourage more customers to formally join your organization, consider deploying a two-tiered pricing system for your trips. You can list a full-freight price for the general public, then offer a members-only price for people who have already joined your organization. Even if the price is only $100 per person lower, the discount will both reward current members and incentivize others to join — especially those who already have been considering membership.

Free Upgrades

An unexpected upgrade can take a trip from good to great. If travelers or members have been on a lot of trips with you, consider rewarding them by giving them an upgrade when they reach a certain milestone. That could mean putting them in a hotel suite or a balcony cruise ship cabin on their 10th or 20th trip, for example. Or you could surprise them with an in-room gift basket when they recruit friends or family members to come along. Another option? Host a members-only cocktail reception at the beginning or end of a tour.

VIP Swag

Everybody loves swag — “stuff we all get” — and travel-themed swag is among some of the most popular. If there’s a mix of members and nonmembers on an upcoming trip, consider having some exclusive merch that you hand out to the loyal members who come along. This could be something simple like a T-shirt, a pair of sunglasses or a tote bag with your logo on it. These perks serve three purposes: They make your members feel special; they increase the perceived value of your travel package; and they turn your customers into walking billboards for your brand.

Early Access

When you hit on a travel product that really resonates with your audience, there’s a good chance that trip will sell out. And while that’s good news for you, it can be frustrating for loyal customers who don’t commit in time to get a seat. Solve that problem by offering early access to members. Open registration for them a couple of weeks ahead of when nonmembers can buy into a trip. Not only does this reward your loyal members, it also creates an incentive for nonmembers to join if there’s a trip they don’t want to miss.

Public Recognition

Sociologists have told us for years that people tend to highly value being recognized in front of their peers. That’s why coaches award MVPs and companies name employees of the month. So why not employ a similar approach in your organization? On each trip, pick one member to recognize and celebrate. Tell the entire group how long this person has been a member, where they’ve traveled with you and what you love about them. Then hand them a fun token of your appreciation — like a silly hat or beauty-pageant sash — along with a gift card they can spend for something they’ll enjoy.