Increased Number of Agents Say Holiday Travelers Are Seeking Greater Value and Redeeming Rewards Points to Offset Costs
A new survey of more than 900 American Express Travel agents suggests that travelers this holiday season are savvier than ever before, fulfilling their vacation plans in the midst of the current economic downturn by finding smart ways to save. Consumers are stretching their vacation budgets, seeking value in every aspect of their travel plans and cutting costs wherever they can through measures such as redeeming reward points to offset costs, taking shorter trips, visiting alternative destinations, staying closer to home and choosing less expensive hotels.
Seventy-seven percent of agents said vacationers are looking for more value or bargains than in the past, while 86% of agents reported that their customers are looking for “smart luxury” options, defined as unique travel experiences and special treatment for less.
“With travel budgets tighter, we’re seeing our Cardmembers and travel customers work with our knowledgeable travel agents to find savvy ways to keep holiday travel plans while saving costs,” said Audrey Hendley, vice president of marketing, American Express Travel. “Many look forward to their end-of-year vacations and feel it’s too important to give up completely. Instead they’re working with our agents to find ways to get the best deals and tapping the travel benefits on their cards like never before.”
For example, 86.5% of travel agents polled (up from 70% in 2007) said that customers are using rewards points to offset travel costs this holiday season. More specifically, 83% of travel agents responded that eligible, enrolled American Express ® Cardmembers are taking advantage of the Membership Rewards® program , including the Pay with Points feature that allows Cardmembers to use points to pay for part or all of their trip and avoid holiday blackout dates or seat restrictions.
Similarly, 61% of agents responded that American Express Cardmembers who are eligible for the Fine Hotels & Resorts program are taking advantage of complimentary amenities and special treatment and access at hotels in the program. Fifty-eight percent of agents said customers are also purchasing travel delay protection/travel assurance for delayed and cancelled reservations.*
Almost half (47%) of travel agents said their customers are booking more value-priced hotels this holiday season compared to last year, and 40% are booking more domestic and/or closer-to-home flights this year. More than half (53%) of the American Express Travel agents polled said that cruising offered the best deals, followed by 38% who said that tour packages provide value by combining airfare and hotel accommodations.
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