Warp & Woof
On the road with 3.3 billion of my most loyal friends
Travel is about more than travel – it’s about the world. So we here at Business Traveler are compelled to look at what we do in a broader context. It’s not just about business travel, or even about the business of travel; travel itself is the business of seeing, exploring, embracing the world.
And that’s one of the great joys of working among travel writers. Besides getting to look at lots of pretty pictures of exotic locales and pore over the seat maps of the latest jetliners, I have an abundance of fascinating stories that cross my path every week which may be only tangential to business travel, but nonetheless capture my attention and often send me off down a bunny trail of research merely to satisfy my curiosity.
Submitted for your consideration, a sampling of last month’s bunny trail topics from my bloated inbox: I got to chase down (figuratively, anyway) the endangered black rhino, whose numbers have dwindled to about 5,000. Another item covers what claims to be“the fastest zipline in America.”(Not that I’m an adrenaline junky, but how cool is that?) And did you know there was a seismic shift of political power in the tiny Caribbean nation of St Kitts and Nevis with the elections last month? Bet not.
All this may seem too far off the beaten path for the editor of a business travel magazine to sift through every day. But PR people keep sending me press releases about subjects like the endangered black rhino in the hope that someday I’ll write something about it – which now I have – and in the hope you’ll read it – which now you have – and that you’ll be interested enough to do something about it – which maybe now you are.
That’s the nature of the world we live in – it’s a vast tapestry of never-ending stories about interesting people and places. And travel is the very warp and woof of that tapestry. ( Ed. Note: In case you don’t know what warp and woof is, look it up – I did. After all, the desire to discover interesting stuff you didn’t know before is what feeds curiosity and makes us more engaging people.) Another story last month was a little more on-point, but nonetheless surprising. According to the latest 2015 COLLOQUY Loyalty Census, US consumers hold 3.3 billion memberships in customer loyalty programs, and the average American is on the rolls for 29 such schemes. The biennial survey, which tracks memberships in everything from frequent hotel stays to drugstore points, shows that the top three industry categories are airline frequent flier programs, specialty store loyalty memberships and credit card reward programs.
The granddaddy of the frequent flier rewards was American Airlines’ AAdvantage, which was launched in 1981. In those days, the concept was pretty simple; rather than fly an empty seat, the airline rewarded their most active – and presumably most profitable – customers by letting them occupy that seat.
Of course, things quickly got way more complicated than that, and today, the frequent flier segment is an industry all to itself with its own multi-billion-dollar economy and nearly 356 million participants. And not a few naysayers among them, perhaps for cause. But that’s a topic for another column.
The point is, the miles we piled up have allowed us to see faraway places with strange-sounding names, to visit friends and family, to enjoy a better class of service. In short, they allowed us to enrich our travels at very little expense to ourselves.
And along the journey, we have picked up more threads in the tapestry, woven together out of our travels. BT
— Dan Booth Editorial Director