Feature Article - November/December 2020

Ready to Roll

Motivate With Luggage & Travel Goods

By Emily Tipping

It will come as no surprise that the coronavirus pandemic has had an extreme impact on travel, not just in the United States, but around the world. According to a forecast prepared for the U.S. Travel Association, domestic travel spending is expected to drop 40% in 2020, while international inbound spending is forecast to fall an eye-popping 75%. Total domestic trips taken by U.S. residents are expected to fall to 1.6 billion in 2020, the lowest figure since 1991.

The more recent Longwoods International tracking study of American travels revealed that half of American travelers are planning to stay home for the holidays, and a similar number said COVID-19 will greatly impact their travel decisions in the next six months.

All of that said, people want to travel, and many Americans are looking forward to getting back in the air or back on the road to visit destinations for pleasure or business. In fact, a survey from the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) that asked participants what large discretionary purchase they would make if the pandemic were to suddenly end showed taking a trip at the top of that list, with 46% indicating that would be their first big purchase. (Trips were distantly followed by home remodeling, at 20%).

"This is good news, though not entirely surprising," said Zane Kerby, president and CEO of ASTA, in a press release. "Travel advisers have their finger on the pulse of this industry, and our members confirm the study's findings: Travelers are thinking and dreaming of travel like never before."

All of this means that fueling people's imaginations and dreams by rewarding them with stylish luggage and travel gear they'll be able to use once they can indulge their wishes and start exploring again is a smart reward strategy.

If you're going to deploy luggage and travel gear in your incentive and rewards program, you should be aware of some trends.

"Luggage and travel gear have always been great rewards because they have such broad appeal to all groups," said Chris Harrison, vice president of sales for KleerWest LLC. "Business travelers, vacationers, daily commuters and adventurers can all find an aspirational piece of travel gear. Regardless of the theme of the program, you can find something your recipients will desire. Luxurious and fashionable, tough and rugged, sleek and stylish—the luggage and travel gear category has them all."

That said, if you're going to deploy luggage and travel gear in your incentive and rewards program, you should be aware of some trends.

"Recently we've seen style be more of a driver in this category than function," Harrison said. "Business travel has slowed down, so briefcases and commuter items have been greatly impacted. There has been an increase in demand for personal items like duffels, slings and satchels. We're seeing the fashion brands picking up, which indicates the leisure traveler is getting back out and looking for new luggage."

So what kinds of items would be smart additions to your program?