Global technology company Ascenda, which delivers loyalty solutions to help banks build customer connections, recently revealed a study showing consumer confidence in travel is returning rapidly. This is according to leading indicators from bank solution TransferConnect, the world's largest global exchange for frequent traveller miles and points.
The data is the first of its kind ever released in the industry and it analyses how much customers exchange rewards earned from their banks into frequent flyer points, compared to global airline Revenue Passenger Kilometres (RPKs) over the past 18 months.
When COVID-19 first brought global travel to a standstill in March 2020, bank consumers stopped transferring their accumulated points into frequent flyer miles. Both RPKs and rewards transfers plummeted more than 80% during a 60-day period.
However, customers continued to earn bank rewards on their everyday card spend as the pandemic unfolded, with growing points balances waiting to be redeemed. 2021 then brought the turning point, as news of global vaccination progress again allowed customers to convert bank points into frequent flyer schemes.
Since March 2021, that transfer activity has accelerated consistently around the world, but especially in the US market, where the volume of bank points exchanged into frequent flyer miles has surpassed pre-pandemic levels from April 2021 onward.
The analysis also reveals that hotel chains have capitalised on the pandemic to sustainably grow their share of global rewards currency transfers. Following the onset of the crisis, transfers into hotel points had naturally gained relative share as consumers were forced to opt for local vacations.
Hotel points represented less than 10% of currency transfer volume in 2019, increasing to 30% in March 2020. However, the behaviour change has persisted into 2021, even during the most recent months of recovery, indicating that the chains have sustainably grown their level of engagement.