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by Alex Palmer | June 02, 2015
While airline loyalty programs remain strong, there is plenty of room for expanding loyalty membership among hotels, a new report finds. According to travel research firm Phocuswright, just 47 percent of American leisure travelers staying at hotels are members of a hotel loyalty program, compared to about eight out of 10 Americans who are members of at least one airline loyalty program. (Phocuswright and Incentive are both owned by Northstar Travel Media.) The potential for growth is compounded by the fact that while just 65 percent of American leisure travelers flew in 2013, a full 93 percent stayed at a hotel at least one night the same year.

The new report, "(Dis)Loyalty and the U.S. Leisure Traveler," points to a number of reasons for this disparity, particularly the wider range of hotel brands available to travelers, compared to the relatively few available airlines. The growth of Airbnb and other private accommodations has also dampened the benefits of joining a hotel loyalty program.

The report draws on the online responses of 1,850 U.S. leisure travelers (defined as anyone taking a leisure trip of at least 75 miles, including airfare or lodging, within the previous year), taken in the spring of 2014. The survey found particular room for growth among the entry and mid-tier hotel loyalty programs, where less than half (47 percent) of program members would try to book with preferred hotel brands on "most" or "all" their leisure trips. Among elite hotel brands, this number was 82 percent.

The report examines the reasons for these differences in loyalty program participation, and also breaks down loyalty participation for airlines and hotels by demographics and by age and spending level. The study also looks at loyalty's influence on travel shopping and booking, as well as product and channel selection. 

The full report is available here.