Is this—the middle of a travel slump of historic proportions—the right time to be generous? When it comes to travel loyalty programs, the answer is yes.
With plenty of unsold seats and hotel rooms, airlines and hotel companies have a rare opportunity to make more awards available to frequent travelers. The costs of doing so are minimal, since there's very little danger of displacing revenue customers. And the long-term benefits could be substantial, as customer loyalty reinforced today carries over into the future.
As an example, United is offering Mileage Plus members discounts on award travel to Europe through May 14, and also recently discounted domestic award trips, albeit only for a short time and on a limited number of routes.
Additionally, this week Marriott joined United on the very short list of travel suppliers that have chosen to do well by doing good. Through September 7, Marriott is offering members of its Rewards program three award nights for the price of two at participating Marriott, JW Marriott, Renaissance, and Courtyard Resorts.
The Marriott website lists 18 participating hotels in the U.S., including the Camelback Inn in Scottsdale, Arizona; the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort in California; the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort in Colorado; the JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort; and two resort properties in Hawaii. Outside the U.S., there are 13 hotels in Asia, seven in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 17 in Europe and the Middle East. It's nice to see a discount on resort awards throughout the entire summer.
Kudos to Marriott for taking the lead among hotel companies on this. While it seems like an obvious win-win to me—good for Marriott, good for Marriott's customers—there's a conspicuous absence of similar offers from other travel companies. Note to other hotel brands: Just do it.