Monday, February 23, 2015

Interview with on their new Expedia+ Rewards program

If you recall back in November we brought you the details of Expedia Canada's new reward program called Expedia+. It was a soft launch of the program back then and in mid January the program officially launched with a major marketing campaign. Perhaps you've seen the commercials on TV (well for those of you who watch shows live and don't DVR/PVR them and skip the commercials!)

We were lucky enough to be able to interview Sean Shannon, the Managing Director of about the new program with more loyalty based questions.

To start, Sean explained that the program is already quite big and did not grow from a 0 person status. Instead it grew from the Expedia Elite program that did not offer points but recognized frequent bookers with exclusive benefits at select hotels.

Here are the questions we posed to Sean along with his responses:

1. Although the program formally launched on the 21st, it was soft launched in November 2014. What has the traction and been like for people joining the program prior to the official launch and TV marketing campaign? How have the initial reactions been?
Uptake was quick because of a clear base of customers from Expedia Elite that were rolled over into different status levels in the new Expedia+. From non Elite members there is postive initial reaction with not much negative pushback. For most, if they are already doing business with Expedia it just better but there are also some people moving from other programs to Expedia.

Expedia+ Rewards has existed in the U.S. for several years now and just recently went through a major devaluation (which seems to be par for the course for most programs these days). Could we expect something similar with the Canadian version or has the program been in development long enough that knowledge from the U.S. version and it's current reward structure (essentially the same for the .ca version) that it should stand true for a number of years to come?
Everything should stay put, Canada did stay on the side lines until the U.S. went through the learning curves and found their sweet spot. By holding off and taking the knowledge of the U.S. program the Canadian program should stay how it is for quite sometime with its healthy balance.

3. Any plans for a co-brand credit card like the U.S.?
Nothing immediately, they are watching the U.S. market and waiting to see what happens with the base of Canadian members.

4. One of our readers avoids booking Air Canada flights on as the system logic behind the searches will only bring up Tango fares when booking 7 or more days out and not Flex Fares. He seems typical of many business and frequent flyers that like to book Flex Fare or higher on AC for upgrade purposes, 100% Altitude Qualifying miles etc.. Is Expedia working on a work around for this? It could be a major tipping point in getting the 'frequent traveller' on board with the Expedia+ Rewards program even though the marketing for the program seems to be targeting the infrequent traveller? FYI This reader does book AC fares on Expedia within 7 days of departure since Tango fares drop off and the lowest booking class becomes Flex.
The system that Expedia runs doesn't support that at this time. It will only pull the lowest available fare class so Flex Fares outside of 7 days will only show up if Tango is no longer available.

5. Hotels are big business for Expedia however many Canadians are unaware that most major hotel chains do not award their own loyalty program points or elite stay credit for bookings made via Expedia and other OTAs (and only a handful extend Elite benefits on Expedia stays). Do you plan on letting travellers know that this is the case and that they shouldn't expect to double dip on hotel stays? I notice there isn't any mention of frequent guest programs in the marketing or press release but there are numerous references to frequent flyer and credit card programs. This could lead to some potential confusion and the odd guest who will be 'mad' that they didn't earn Starpoints, Gold Passport points etc. on their stay in addition to their Expedia+ points. Or is the 'frequent guest' such a small portion of Expedia's booking clientele that it isn't really on the radar?
Our customers are less concerned with status benefits or earning points in hotel programs as they are more leisure based and price sensitive to where they stay so they are not loyal to one chain. It is mentioned in the T&Cs for frequent guests to make them aware of potentially earning or not earning points/benefits in their preferred hotel frequent guest program. Expedia doesn't want to hide it from people so that someone is not blindsided and would have made a different booking choice. The 3rd party booking rule put ibn place by most hotel programs are always subject to negotiation and those are things that may always come in the future.

6. You talk of the triple dip, Expedia+ Points, Frequent Flyer and Credit Card points being earned on one booking. Do you plan on exploiting the other potential boon for customers when redeeming credit card points? With cards like the American Express Gold Rewards Card, TD First Class Visa Infinite and about a dozen others allowing you to book travel via any provider then redeem the points against the charge on the statement it could prove beneficial for Expedia to promote the earning of Expedia+ Rewards, Frequent Flyer miles etc. on the booking all the while saving money by redeeming credit card points for the Expedia purchase.
Definitely agree with the idea but it probably will not be marketed by Expedia. It is more so something that should be marketed by the credit card companies themselves as a way to triple dip and use their points.

I want to thank Sean for taking the time out to answer our questions about the new Expedia+ program!

In the mean time if you are or will join Expedia+ be sure to take advantage of their current bonuses like Double Points on Packages and Triple Points on bookings made via their app.

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