Expedia, an online booking platform, has launched a loyalty program for its users to earn rewards and use them on eligible flights, hotels, vacation homes, car rentals, cruises, and activities.
A Unified Loyalty Program
The global travel and tourism industry has seen a rise in activity over the past few years since lockdowns have opened up. According to a UNWTO World Tourism Barometer report, the first quarter of 2023 saw international arrivals reach 80% of the level they were at before the pandemic.
Additionally, more than 230 million tourists traveled internationally between the beginning of January and the end of March 2023, which is double the number in the same period of 2022.
With all this increase in travel, competition has been stiff between the major travel booking sites and the need to capture travelers has become more apparent.
Travel has also become very expensive especially due to the ongoing global inflation which has made saving more appealing to customers. To that end, Expedia has created an offering, named One Key, that enables its customers to save by using rewards to pay for some services during trips.
This program connects to all three platforms run by Expedia: Expedia, Hotels.com, and Vrbo. As such, rewards earned on Vrbo which is a platform for renting vacation homes, for instance, can be used to book a flight on Expedia.com or a room on Hotels.com.
So far, the program has been made available to customers residing in the US. The rest of the world is, however, expected to have access next year.
Introducing One Key™, a groundbreaking new rewards program that brings together our three travel brands of @Expedia, @hotelsdotcom, and @vrbo, and marks the first time a major online vacation rental platform will have a rewards program. https://t.co/eau212lrxt #OneKey pic.twitter.com/S4Zczr7aWo
— Vrbo Partners (@VrboPartners) July 17, 2023
Prior to OneKey, the company’s brands had individual loyalty programs that cumulatively had more than 168 million members. Together, these programs had enabled customers to save over $10 billion to date, according to Expedia.
“We designed One Key to reward every traveler — the road warriors, the frequent flyers, and the 83% of travelers who only take a few trips a year and never really benefit from other loyalty programs,” said Jon Gieselman, president of Expedia Brands.
As a way to offer continuity to travelers who already had rewards on the individual sites, Expedia developed OneKeyCash, a reward currency. Therefore, US customers who have rewards from earlier Expedia programs, including Hotels.com stamps, will have them automatically converted to OneKeyCash.
As a member of the One Key program, users get to earn 2% in OneKeyCash for every dollar they spend on eligible hotels, vacation rentals, activities, packages, rental cars, and cruises. Moreover, for every dollar they spend on qualifying flights, they earn 0.2% in OneKeyCash.
Aside from discounts, the program also enables members to move up the membership tier quicker. By collecting trip elements, which cost at least $25, according to the requirements, members will be able to move to the next class.
For instance, to move from Blue, which is the lowest tier, to Silver, members require 5 trip elements in a year, while to move to Gold, they require 15. Trip elements include a flight, hotel room night, vacation rental night, cruise night, or a one-activity ticket.
For stays at “eligible VIP Access properties,” Silver, Gold, and Platinum members receive bonuses of 50%, 100%, and 200%, respectively. This is besides other perks such as priority traveler support and room upgrades.
In addition to all the savings and other benefits the program has to offer, members can also use the reward currency, which members can continue earning through travel, to make future bookings.
What a scam. https://t.co/3qDU10NsSB new #OneKey program stuck me in gold tier when I had over 30 nights last year to qualify for their newly defined platinum program. Also used to get 10% back now it’s 2%. @hotelsdotcom @Expedia @thepointsguy @hotelscomhelp
— DrM (@DrmPharmD) July 10, 2023
While this might sound like an amazing offer, some users are saying that it’s a massive downgrade from the benefits travelers earned from Hotels.com’s loyalty program. The platform offered a free night after 10-night stays which is equivalent to a 10% reward on stays.
This poses a major loss to the platform seeing as Hotels.com Rewards provided quite a competitive edge over hotels’ own loyalty programs.
Expedia Stays Innovating
To better compete with its rivals, Expedia has been on an innovation spree. “We’ve significantly increased the pace of innovation at Expedia Group over the past few years, allowing us to push the boundaries in tech, loyalty, and service.” the company’s CEO, Peter Kern, said.
Recently, the company also launched a ChatGPT-powered trip planner. The feature, which is currently only available to iOS users, enables them to start a conversation with ChatGPT and get recommendations on destinations, hotels, transportation, and activities.
The chatbot also goes further as to mark as favorite any hotels that it recommends in the conversations.
Expedia has continued to work on the AI capabilities and is looking to extend them to Android devices in August. The extension will also see the introduction of other features such as activities recommended in the conversation being automatically saved to Trip Planner and hotels recommended during a conversation also featuring images, price ranges, and reviews.
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