The evolution of loyalty programs in online travel agencies

Last updated :
September 27, 2023

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Digital Footprints in the Sky: The Meteoric Rise of Online Travel Loyalty Programs in India

From collecting airline miles to accumulating hotel points, loyalty programs have radically transformed the travel industry. But have you ever wondered about the evolution of these programs, especially within the Indian online travel agency landscape? Come along, as we unfold this intriguing journey!

The Genesis of Loyalty Programs

Rewards for customer loyalty are as old as trade itself. However, it was American Airlines that set the blueprint for contemporary loyalty programs with its AAdvantage program in 1981. It started rewarding frequent flyers with miles, setting the stage for the modern-day rewards bonanza.

Digital Transformation of Loyalty Programs

With the advent of the 21st century, the digital revolution dramatically altered customer engagement. Online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia and MakeMyTrip began to employ digital loyalty programs, offering attractive benefits like discounted rates, priority services, and unique experiences, all conveniently available at the click of a button.

India's Leap into Digital Loyalty

As internet penetration in India spiked, a host of online travel agencies emerged to cater to a young, tech-savvy populace keen to explore the globe. Indian OTAs such as MakeMyTrip, Yatra, and Cleartrip rolled out their loyalty programs, offering enticing rewards like free hotel stays, flight upgrades, and exclusive deals.

The Game Changer - Oyo Wizard

Amidst these OTAs, the hotel booking platform, Oyo Rooms, reshaped the industry with its novel loyalty program - the Oyo Wizard. Launched in 2019, it quickly attracted over 6.5 million subscribers by providing substantial discounts, instant rewards, and special privileges at its partner hotels. The Oyo Wizard program exemplified how keen insight into local market dynamics and delivering real value can supercharge a loyalty program's success.

The New Entrants and Innovators

Fast forward to 2023, and the loyalty program scene is brimming with innovation. Companies like Goibibo with its 'GoTribe' program and Airbnb's 'Superhost' initiative have been catching the public eye. Offering cashback, priority support, and exclusive partner offers, they've brought fresh flavours to the loyalty program menu.

The Power of Personalization

The hallmark of successful OTAs today is their ability to personalize rewards. Utilizing user data, OTAs tailor their offers to ensure they reach the right customer at the right time. This personalization has elevated loyalty programs beyond a mere points system; they've become potent marketing tools.

Peering into the Future

Looking ahead, loyalty programs promise even more groundbreaking innovations. The concept of 'gamification' is gaining momentum, where programs reward customers for participating in activities and challenges, fostering increased engagement. Additionally, collaborations between OTAs and other businesses may soon yield more extensive rewards, such as flight bookings packaged with shopping vouchers for the destination city.

The evolution of loyalty programs within the online travel agency space has indeed been a fascinating journey. From the inception of air miles to the era of personalized rewards, loyalty programs have come a long way, with exciting prospects on the horizon.

Did you find this read insightful? Don't forget to share it with your fellow travellers! Remember, the next time you plan your adventure, don't underestimate the power of a loyalty program. It might just be your gateway to the journey of a lifetime!

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