Frequent Flier, Travel Loyalty Programs Down 31.2 Percent

Participation in frequent flier programs is becoming much less frequent. Membership in hotel, airline and car rental loyalty programs declined 31.2 percent since 2007, per a new study from the loyalty research company Colloquy.

The results, based on interviews with 2,152 U.S., indicate that consumers are still interested in loyalty programs overall. However, when it comes to travel they are picking fewer carriers and hoteliers with which to invest their time and money.

Participation in loyalty programs overall is actually up 19 percent for the past two years. But on the travel side, consumers have pared down their memberships belonging to an average 1.5 programs versus 2.18 programs in 2007.

"One preferred hotel and one preferred airline, that's how loyalty programs were supposed to work all along," said Colloquy partner Kelly Hlavinka in a statement. "Savvy travel marketers will see the opportunity to lock consolidating road warriors into their particular program, knowing they'll emerge in a much stronger competitive position when travel ramps up again."

Travel programs are currently viewed as less important than other types of reward programs. While 32.3 percent of consumers describe their participation in retail programs as more important during a recession, only 21.5 percent feel the same way about travel programs. Nearly a quarter (23.9 percent) of participants say financial services programs are more important during today's economic climate.

"The disparity between travel and the other two industries featured in our latest research mirrors the shift in consumer spending away from the travel sector, in which both business and leisure travel have seen cutbacks, and toward retail categories, particularly in the everyday spend categories of grocery and fuel," said Colloquy editorial director Rick Ferguson in a statement. "In those categories, the opportunity to earn gift certificates and cash-back rewards that allow consumers to stretch their budgets is having a positive impact on program participation."