Warp & Woof

On the road with 3.3 bil­lion of my most loyal friends

Business Traveler (USA) - - TALKING POINT -

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

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