#393: Loyalty and Awards - Travel Loyalty Conference and Connecting in Brazil

Today’s conversation features our friends from the *Loyalty and Awards* conference, which is the largest annual conference dedicated to loyalty managers in the travel sector.

Ahead of this year’s event in Rio de Janeiro, Ravindra Bhagwanani, shares his views on the state of the loyalty industry in 2023 and some of the key challenges he sees for loyalty practitioners in the travel sector.

These trends of course are also helping to shape the content and agenda for the Loyalty & Awards conference agenda being planned for our meeting in Brazil this October, so listen to hear the topics that I’m looking forward to hearing presented on stage this year.

Ravindra also highlights some key improvements in this year’s Golden Loyalty Awards, to inspire those of you who operate programs to enter your programs.

Listen to enjoy some insights and inspiration on travel loyalty and the upcoming Loyalty and Awards conference with Ravindra Bhagwanani, Managing Director of Global Flight.

Show Notes:

1) Ravindra Bhagwanani⁠

2) Loyalty and Awards

3) Golden Loyalty Awards

4) Loyalty & Awards conference agenda

Audio Transcript

Paula: Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty, an industry podcast for loyalty marketing professionals. I’m your host, Paula Thomas, and if you work in loyalty marketing, join me every week to learn the latest ideas from loyalty specialists around the world.

This show is brought to you by The Loyalty and Awards Conference, the leading annual event for loyalty professionals in the travel industry. Make sure to join us this year from the 9th to the 11th of October in Rio de Janeiro. For the perfect mix of inspiring content and exciting awards. Check out loyalty-and-awards.com for more information and to register.

Hello, and welcome to today’s episode of Let’s Talk Loyalty featuring our friends from the Loyalty and Awards Conference, which is the largest annual conference dedicated to loyalty managers in the travel sector. Ahead of this year’s event in Rio de Janeiro, I’m joined by Ravindra Bhagwanani who shares his view on the state of the loyalty industry in 2023 and some of the key challenges he sees for all of you listening as loyalty practitioners, particularly in the travel sector.

These trends, of course, are also helping to shape the content and agenda for our two and a half days together in Brazil this October. So today you’ll hear which are my favorite topics that I’m looking forward to hearing presented on stage this year.

We also discussed the Golden Loyalty Awards, and I really hope that all of you running programs in the travel sector will make sure to enter these this year. I hope you enjoy the insights and inspiration on travel loyalty and the upcoming Loyalty and Awards Conference with Ravindra Bhagwanani, Managing Director of Global Flight.

So Ravindra Bhagwanani, welcome back to Let’s Talk Loyalty.

Ravindra: Yes. Hi. Good. Good to see you. Good to, good to be back, Paula. Thank you.

Paula: Great. Great. Very exciting times, Ravindra. We were just comparing notes offline. There’s so much going on in loyalty, particularly in the travel industry, which is, I know something you’ve dedicated your career to for, I think nearly 30 years now.

So super exciting. We’re here to talk about your flagship event, which is coming up now in Rio de Janeiro, later this year, in October.

But before we get into talking all about airline loyalty trends and your event, especially the award side, as you know, I always love to ask my guests really just to kick us off, what is your current favorite loyalty program Ravindra?

Ravindra: Oh, that’s, that’s, yeah, my favorite question. I mean, the question which is actually getting hard and harder to, to apply to each year because, because if you look at the industry today, we are in a kind of a difficult situation. And, and yes, I mean, honestly, I’m playing the loyalty games, so I’m loyal to  some of my favorite programs, throughout time. And I’m not changing this each year.

But, honestly, if you look at the value proposition, some of the programs offering with devaluations and stuff like that, it’s getting more and more difficult to stick to these programs actually. And, and I’m saying that really as an as, as as travelers, so not as, not as an industry observer.

And, and yes. I mean, I still stick to my former programs, which I’m having, which are Star Alliance Turkish Airlines, on the hospitality side. It works well for me with Aviance All Program. But, this is for the, for very, personal reasons actually. But  I see that, that firms in general, they may really not do enough to cater for their best customers and really to try to make sure that they stick to them.

Paula: Yeah, a bit worrying to hear that Ravindra, given that, you know, we’re an industry of people who I think are very dedicated to you know, demonstrating loyalty to our members, you know, which I do think is a, is a shift from maybe in the past when we first started in loyalty, it was all about earning loyalty from them.

So I definitely feel that’s a shift. Is that something that you are concerned about?

Ravindra: Yes, yes it is. And, and I think, you know, the, the difficulty we having in this industry is that we obviously be having the programs doing well, more or less a correct job, in, in most cases. But then we are in the people business, so you should not forget what happens in the loyalty program departments is one thing. But then you have to de delivery side.

And, and whether it’s airline or hospitality, that’s I think where a lot of people they fail. And after Covid, I mean you have so many issues in the industry which are still going on. And, starting with the motivation actually of staff, and you just realize that, if you go out to travel, it is not the same experience anymore than you had up to 2019.

You have, you, I realized personally a lot of lack of motivation with a lot of people working frontline with customers and all this, you know, from cost experience. This adds to the experience you have as a loyalty program member, and this makes things very, very difficult for programs as well to counteract against that, because obviously as, as a loyalty program director, you are not responsible for some receptionist at a hotel. Which may turn any, any experience into something less pleasant than what you were expecting.

Paula: Yeah, and that’s a point actually that I often do love to think about Ravindra and it’s, I suppose the, the, the potential for loyalty professionals to elevate themselves into that role of CX professionals. So just as somebody in the industry, well, I would love your thoughts on that.

Ravindra: No, no, I, I fully agree. But I mean, we’ve been talking about that I think for even pre covid, we’ve been talking about that for quite some time, you know, customer experience, et cetera. And I just realized that it is still something which is often not on the radar of loyalty professionals.

They, especially in the travel industry because you know the currency business is so important that people are focusing on that, and especially in big companies. You have some customer experience department, but they see themselves somewhere else. They really see themselves on the product side and all that.

Which is obviously very important, but they don’t really relate that to a wider loyalty CRM strategy. And I think as soon as you differentiate you, as you separate loyalty and CRM, CRM slash customer experience, you start to have a problem because you need to have that bigger vision.

And so we work with some small carriers as well, with some small companies where actually the things come closer together. And I see, and it’s just much easier for smaller companies to, to make this work and  really to give customers experience, a positive experience .

Which is supported by loyalty program. But a big companies, it is just very, very difficult. They want to go there. But, but while I, I think they’re still very far away from really getting there, to be honest.

Paula: Totally, yeah, plenty of work to keep us busy. So thank you anyway for mentioning certainly ALL from Accor. We’ve obviously done a recent podcast, with the guys there, so that was amazing.

Ofcourse Star Alliance has been on the show as well. We haven’t yet talked with Turkish Airlines, so given that it’s one of your favorites, I’m gonna put it on our, our wishlist for, for brands to talk about, and talk to, I suppose in terms of their thinking on loyalty.

So let’s get into, I suppose, first of all, maybe a quick look back, Ravindra, from the perspective of what would you say has changed for particularly airline and hotel loyalty marketing professionals, given that we’ve been through this very, very transformational time, very destructive for so many businesses, you know, there is a recovery, but I feel it is a different world for loyalty professionals.

How do you feel that the, the industry professionals are thinking about their programs now that were in 2023 versus, you know, even last year when we talked in 2022?

Ravindra: Yeah, correct. No, no. I mean, I, I think compared to last year did the good thing is now we are really in recovery, so nobody talks about covid anymore and, and things like that.

Paula: Thank God. Yeah.

Ravindra: So they’re no restrictions anymore. Yeah, you can travel freely and, and all that, and that’s good news. And the second good news is that travel has come back very, very strongly much longer than a lot of people had expected. So, flights are full, hotels are full and all that, so that’s obviously great news for the industry.

However, it’s great news for the industry, but not necessarily for loyalty marketers. So what is happening? We were told as customers, over all these years? Well, we work on keeping the value of currencies. So we post expires, we encourage the use of credit cards and, and all that.

So we were told us customers stick to us and the game is still on. And, and a lot of customers, they did that actually, I mean, they were not traveling anymore, but while they were happy to have their stages extended, to have the point, extended. So there was no very that level.

Now we are coming back to normal level. So we are having the problems with status renewal, they’re having the problem, that point are started to expiring again. So we need to use them. And we see it becomes more, more difficult actually to use these points. And what, what are programs doing? I mean, if flights are full, if hotels are full, it’s very difficult to redeem points.

So there are two options. Either we are revenue based on the redemption side. So we are having an automatic devaluation because the all, all the price have gone up. So ticket, which used to cost alternate, which costs to, used to cost $200, it’s now $300. So if you are revenue based on the redemption side, it means automatically you have to spend 50% more points.

On the airline side, often we are still, we are obviously not, still not linked to the revenue one to one on the redemption side. So we still have some kind of award pricing, which is revenue related, but IOT related. And, so if you look at the big US programs with data dynamic pricing, which is not transparent anymore, you just realize price is a wall price they keep on going up as well. If you have a traditional fixed wall table, you well you see more straightforward, which just increase of avoid tables, of avoid prices.

So just, literally this morning, every two news, I mean, United, which has dynamic vault rising, which kept on, which just increased again, the world price on transAtlantic flights, which is not really transferred to customers because they don’t publish it anymore until the time they book.

But, people remember not so long time ago, you had one, you had a return economy class flight for 50,000 miles, transatlantic business class, 80,000 miles. If you look at the prices now, this is basically the price you get for one wave flight. And I mean, people, they remember that.

And so obviously more, more difficult, for them to get engaged and then obviously have extreme cases. I mean, this is, for different reasons. I mean, airflow, they, they literally, they increase their low price by 300%. And that’s, well, that’s a different political situation of course.

But it all, this just, helps or well, let’s say it helps, it works not towards increasing the trust of people in the industry. Yeah. So even if I’m not United member, even if, if I’m not member, if I see such news, I wonder who’s next? When is my program doing something like that? And it is not really, it is not really engaging, keeping, motivating members to engage, to gauge more in these programs.

Paula: So what I’m hearing, if I, if I’m understanding your correctly, Ravindra, is that the industry is really facing a credibility challenge with consumers. They’re probably only beginning, maybe subconsciously to become aware of the devaluations.

And I do think that that’s not just airlines. We’ve seen it in retail again, particularly in the US market. So I definitely think we need to be aware of that. And as I think about the audience of people listening here, it’s almost like we’re a victim of our own success. You know?

Ravindra: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think this is just a determine what it’s used and I think, we need to understand when we are the loyalty game. It’s not a one-way street. So yes, it’s investment. There is a cost to that.

And if you don’t manage, to get value out of what we are doing, well then we have a real problem. And I think a lot of loyalty programs, I’m talking about the travel industry cause I’m not, not so much into retail. But a lot of loyalty programs, they until now, they were successful.

Well automatically they didn’t do so much about that. And now we are in a situation, flights are full. So all of a sudden, you know, top management comes, well, blah, why do I need to have some award seats? Why do I need to give some, free seats to somebody? My flights are full anyway.

So you need to justify what you’re doing. And that’s where a lot of programs, they struggle. They don’t really have the measurement in place to demonstrate what they’re doing. And very often, even if they have the measurement in place, they realize we may not produce that real value which we were expecting to produce.

Because now while everything is driven by other things, by very strong demand, and it’s not, honestly, it’s not driven by loyalty. So we are not talking about, the do, the current concern is not about, market shares and stuff like that. The current concern is how can I maximize my revenue?

And the loyalty programs, they don’t play a very strong role in that, to be honest. It’s just because demand is bigger than the offer is, is smaller than demand. And that drives prices up and it reduces the necessity to really have a loyalty program strategy behind, which usually on the paper should work to towards increasing the revenue.

So yes, we have a very strong problem which has never been so clean to the industry as it is now because, because while times were just easy for loyalty marketers in the past.

Paula: Yeah. And I don’t think they ever felt easy.

Ravindra: Exactly. Exactly. Yes. Yes.

Paula: Yeah. So what would you advise our listeners, for example, to be thinking about Ravindra given that they’re under this pressure to prove the ROI, the incrementality to deliver the customer love. If I use a very, a very soft word, that that isn’t always welcome in the C-Suite, but one, I believe in.

Ravindra: Yeah, of course. I mean that’s obviously, well turb, which is, which has been very much used by Southwest Airlines, and I think that’s one of the carriers and programs, which is still proving that they can do things, right? But I think, you know, you need to come back to the basics.

What is loyalty program? Why am I doing loyalty program? And such a simple question. A lot of people, I think they even don’t ask that question, themselves anymore. They look at the, they look at the PNL sheet, which still looks positive because they get all the revenues from credit cards and stuff like that.

But they don’t really question themselves, what am I doing here? And I think the main reason for loyalty program, it is very conservative, but it hasn’t changed over the past 40 years, actually. The main, the main reason is still to increase revenue for the company. And the revenue would take itself to hotter sales, etcetera, and not revenue or any, anything like that. So it’s a very traditional, very traditional role.

And now you can say in a current time, in 2023 with the strong demand, there might be actually, indeed less need for loyalty. But this is not going to last, forever either. So use this kind of downtime now, downtime where you don’t need it from loyalty perspective to prepare for 2024, 2025 when we are getting to more normal market conditions again. Cause all this spend up demand will be done. Everybody will have visit the family, which they haven’t visited over the last three years.

And 2024, 2025 we’re getting back to more normal conditions. We will have new players come on the market and we will be in a more competitive situation again.

So use this time now really to get back to the rules and say, hey, how am I creating loyalty? And it’s definitely not a true devaluation and then taking the trust of your customers, and all that. It’s positive customer experience, that’s where it starts with, supported by the loyalty program.

It’s very basic, but sometimes I think it’s necessary to remind, and to recall the basics. If you end this, if you end this business.

Paula: For sure. And the reason I do this show Ravindra is that I get all of the ammunition that I wish I had had when I was facing tough internal discussions. So I absolutely love your thinking around, there is a particular issue with what I’ve heard referred to as revenge travel, which is actually quite an aggressive word, but you’re absolutely right.

You know, there was so many restrictions and people are. Literally catching up, you know? So at the moment there is an issue in terms of what loyalty program managers can do in the airline and hotel industry, but when they are challenged internally, essentially, yes, we need to be saying, let’s take this time and make sure that we’re ready. As you said, for 2024, 2025, and all of the new propositions, because there’s so many exciting things happening in the industry.

And I think that’s exactly why you do your conference for example, the Loyalty and Awards event, which is taking place this year in October. So tell us a bit about what you have planned, Ravindra.

Ravindra: Yes. Yes. well, thank you for the transition. I think that’s exactly the overall, objective of this conference. So, Loyalty and Awards it is a global event, where we gathering the key industry players once a year.

And I think it’s very important, first of all, for the industry to get together in a non-competitive environment.  And just to talk to each other. I mean, that is something we’ve been running this event for 18 years now. And that is something which we’ve been managing to do actually for 18 years competitors to talk to each other.

So we have no enemies there. We really have for two and a half days. If you have only friends there, because at the end of the day, as I said in the first part, I mean, we are all sharing the same issues. And, and you know, it’s not a against B it is, A against B is go back to the office. Of course. Then again, with, with promotion and stuff like that, you’re trying to see customers from each other.

But the event, it’s really about understanding the underlying issues which we all share, which we all have. Whether we are big, whether we are small, it doesn’t matter to a certain extent. And you know, United Airlines, they have the same issues as a small carrier. As a small richer carrier. And vice versa.

And, and we want to be, and I think we manage to be that we really want to be that platform of exchange. So exchange on the agenda. It starts with the agenda.

So, unlike other events, we don’t put any suppliers on the agenda. We really put only loyalty program operates on the agenda, which is always very tough discussion with suppliers. But at the end of the day, they understand the value of that. Because people, they’re not interested in hearing any sales pitches. They are interested in hearing firsthand what are other guys doing? What other guys are facing?

And, based on that, while we encouraged discussions, while in the plan, we doing the sessions of course, but also during the networking times, we have ample of networking times at the event, which are really created for that specific purpose that everybody talks with everybody.

Paula: Yeah. Yeah. And actually, you know, from when I first attended Twitch, as you know, was the Dubai event in 2021, as well as the quality of the brands that were speaking Ravindra. It was that wonderful sense of connection with community that really I felt.

And you’re absolutely right, like I think some conferences you go to, it’s absolutely manic and you end up running around from here to there to try and attend everything. And I’ve certainly been guilty of that in the past, but I really find that your event does have that time where I can sit and do that conversation, but I didn’t even know I needed to have.

Because I’ve always felt, again, as a content creator, we don’t know what we don’t know. And it’s only when somebody’s either on stage or around a dinner table that’s sharing an insight that you can suddenly go, yeah, there’s something I can action for my loyalty program.

Ravindra: Exactly, and I think it’s important you know, that you have an event. We lasted two and a half days. And a lot of people actually, they’re staying a bit before and staying a bit afterwards, especially if you obviously go to such a nice destinations like Rio de Janeiro, straight on the Copacabana. So I really encourage everybody to extend the stay a little bit.

And I think even I as a workaholic, I, for the first time, I plan to extend my stay. So but even the two and a half days, I think it’s important for such an event that you’re not only one day, there, as you say, well, even if it’s small event, you don’t mention one day to catch up with everybody.

And we are mid-sized events, so we are around 150 people. And I think that’s the perfect size as well for two and a half days really to have the time to talk to everybody. And, because you know, you can only learn from that. And, and we, we are trying to get different perspectives.

So this year specifically, we are for the first time in South America. So South America, again, it is not necessarily the first place you would consider for an international, for global event? Why did we do it? Well, for a very simple reason, because we, if we have a certain maturity of it event, so we can certainly afford as well to go to some pleasure destination.

I don’t like this term but basically, I mean, we it’s really that. So for many it might be more difficult. We fully recognize that. But first of all, there’s a value in destination. But secondly, I think from a business perspective, more importantly, Brazil in particular, but South Africa in general, but Brazil in particular, it is one of the most fascinating loyalty markets.

There are a lot of things going on there and people are not aware of that. And people are very much focused on well, on the classical markets like, like US or Europe or maybe Australia in terms of loyalty. These markets are all great, but honestly, they’re not necessarily, I mean, talk about the us are they innovative in terms of loyalty marketing?

Certainly not in travel industry. In other industries, maybe bit more, but not in the, not necessarily in the travel industry. They’re important of course, because the biggest programs are there. And they’re doing a good job.

But if it comes to innovation, we talking about awards later on. But you know, it just as, as an indication, we have very rarely US programs, winning in these awards, in these innovation awards. And this a source that the fact that innovation takes place in other parts of the world these days. And and South America and Brazil, it’s certainly one of these markets.

And we, so we are a global event, but we really encourage anybody from all over the world. Just to listen also to the local speakers, which we, which you never have featured before. From retail programs, from airline programs, from local players to understand what are the issues we are facing in South America and how can this help in other markets because they are food in terms of loyalty, practices than many other markets.

So, okay. Just promise you very interesting content on the agenda. Networking with people, which you may have never seen at the, at our events before. Because they were not necessarily traveling out of the region as well. But there are some very smart brains, on the agenda and you can definitely look forward to them.

Paula: Oh, for sure. Absolutely. I was looking at it today actually, in preparation for our conversation and certainly the opening presentation loyalty in Latin America. I’m dying to see exactly what, what the guys are talking about there.

And yes, even again, unexpected ones. For example, there’s a wonderful case study I know from Vietnam. And yeah, there’s just so much happening. Dotz also a massive program in Brazil coalition with 50 million members, who’ve been on our show recently as well. So incredible content and lineup. So plenty to, to listen and learn.

And then tell us about the awards, Ravindra. I know you’re very proud of the awards that you, you know, think through and set up and I know there’s some changes this year. So tell us about the Golden Loyalty Awards.

Ravindra: Yes. I’m coming Jordan in second. So first of all, well thanks to you, as well, Paula here officially, because the introduction to Dotz came from you. So that’s also I think, a nice example of how the industry works together because we all, we are all a family. And you people always at our, at our conference, we are family and I think that’s very important.

We learn from each other. We get connections from each other. We get introductions from each other, and that’s something obviously very important from a networking perspective at this event as well.

And just before talking to you about the awards, so we also very proud on Monday morning, traditionally we start with the social activities. So it is while we have the keynote presentation, which you just mentioned from LATAM. And then we are going into the social activities on the rest of the afternoon. So we are having DC again, some typically Brazilian themed social activities, which we designed.

So if you think about Brazil, what are the first things which come to your mind, Paula?

Paula: Oh, Samba dancers and cocktails and, and Copa Cabana. My goodness.

Ravindra: Yeah. Yeah. So, I think you’re there, Bob. If you were a guy you may had added football of course to selection. And then you there. So we are taking our people to exactly these three things.

So we have a summer school. We take them to the, well, to the biggest stadium in Brazil where they’re playing on the field. And then we take them to some cooking class where they prepare some pomeranian and stuff like that. So  I think this, no, all this has nothing to do with loyalty as such, but it helps to build these connections, in a relaxed atmosphere. And, it’s just working.

So I think that’s a very important part from a content perspective. We really want to bring this industry together from a content perspective, for those, from a networking perspective. And as part of that, and I’ll mention to transition, the awards I think are very important element in that part as well.

So what are the awards? The awards are first of all, a self nomination process for anybody operating a program. We have four different categories. I’m coming to them in a second. Be having four different categories everybody can nominate by early August and will be automatically ended into the selection process.

It is a very nice manner actually to showcase what’s going on in the industry. And it’s very interesting learning, obviously, for the industry as well to demonstrate, just to showcase what you guys are working on.

Because a lot of things, they were, they happen in the background. They’re not visible to customers. They’re not visible, at least not in first place. And they’re even not visible to the industry as such. And these awards are really the opportunity to bring forward what you’re doing, because I think as a program manager, it’s also very important to recognize the hard work of your team.

They’re working all year long on a lot of things, and sometimes especially bigger companies. People, they wonder within a team, what am I doing here? What am I contributing? And I think people need to see, yes, I’m contributing something to the big picture. Big picture. What is the big picture? Profit of the company.

But, but you know, if you work on some, on some partnership, on some technical issues or some partnership, you may lose this complete side, but it works towards that. And I think it’s very important for the teams to be recognized by nominating at least in this, in these awards. Obviously not everybody can win. But the nominations are the first step.

So we are having those four categories for the deployable operators. Four different categories. Everybody can nominate in each category once. So we have a category, which is marketing campaigns. So anything which relates to marketing.

The condition is, nominations need to be based on an activity which took place over the over the past 12 months. So you cannot nominate with some, with something you introduced 10 years ago and which is, might still be working.

But you need to nominate with something you have introduced this year and where you can already demonstrate some first results. So this is something very important.

Paula: And when you say this year Ravindra, just to clarify, is that in the 2022 calendar year or the previous 12 months? What’s your definition of recently introduced in a year?

Ravindra: Well, honestly, we have some flexibility, but it is basically the last 12 months since the event.

Paula: Last 12 months. Okay. Yeah.

Ravindra: So the nominations closed in early August. So basically anything which you’ve done since summer 2022, were able to qualify. So I think it’s, but what is very important that you can really demonstrate the impact of your innovation. So it’s not only, so we don’t need any press statement.

Again, because we are about content, we are not about, only marketing and high level information. We really want to go to the basics. So we need to have some real proof that the things are working and meaning that they’re relevant, potentially relevant to us as well.

So we have as I mentioned, the first campaign, best marketing campaign. Then we are having the second category, which is best use of technology. So anything you’ve done on the technology side, which helps again to drive customer loyalty. There are obviously a lot of things which are possible there.

We have best loyalty partnerships. Partnerships are super important of course, until now. It is a very old element in programs, but we see new partnerships coming up on a weekly basis. And some of them, may go a bit further than traditional partnerships, and that’s exactly what you want to hear about. So why did you do these partnerships? What are the expectations? How did you do it? And what are the first results?

And last but not least, excellence in management. So this everything related to well, to any efforts you did at the management level, from redesign programs to anything else which requires a specific management efforts.

So, I think we have a lot of programs they deserve at least to nominate at least in one category. And sometimes if I see some announcements on LinkedIn, etcetera, I actually, I drop an note to the program mentioned. I should say, hey, this will be a good thing to nominate because I think.

Paula: Yeah. No question. Yeah, yeah.

Ravindra: And but again, there are a lot of things I don’t see so don’t wait for me to come to you and motivate you to anchor you to nominate. Because a lot of things I don’t see myself either. So think really, and now you have, you still have time until, early August.

So I think it’s a good timing to start to think about that. What have you done particularly in this year, and what would deserve some industry regulation? I deliver you all, but at least with nomination and maybe being shortlist at the event. And getting corresponding mentioning at the event. Which is obviously very important for the motivation of the team as I mentioned before.

Paula: Yeah. And what I love about the way you do it as well Ravindra again, in terms of your agenda, and this is something that I see not happening elsewhere. You always have your panel discussion with the winners literally the morning after the awards are announced. So the people who have actually won get the night to celebrate and recognize and let the good news sink in. And I remember Derek Whitworth, for example, calling the team back in Canada to share the amazing news. Literally immediately he heared that they’d won.

But then the next day we get the the panel discussion as to why. So that’s a piece I think is super unique for you guys.

Ravindra: Yes, absolutely. Maybe one thing you’re even not aware of Paula, but again, unlike other awards, we do not inform anybody upfront. So the winners, they really discovered on the onsite themselves.

So we just have, I mean, the one condition, because of that we have the one condition. If you nominate, you need to attend the event, but which is obviously not a major restriction. And then you’re saying if you win, obviously you will hear it during the gala on Tuesday night, and then Monday morning, you will be sitting on the panel and talk in more details about what you really did.

So people, that’s all the panel discussion we can prepare because obviously we know who’s going to win, but we are not informing those winners. So it’s really very spontaneous, but it’s always very insightful because people are really talking openly at our event. What they’re doing and, and how they did, etcetera.

So, yes, it’s not only about the high level award, giving out the award and basically the winds are not surprised because anyway, before you see it, if we announce it, you always have one table jumping up. Because it’s where the windows is sitting and everybody’s happy about them. And they really didn’t know it before. And that’s obviously something which is very nice from the most perspective as well for the winners.

Paula: Absolutely. Yeah. And I know you have one extra new award this year, so tell us about that one.

Ravindra: Yes. So then, but well, we have one new award and we have the well one, all the award. So the, the other award category is reserved for suppliers. So again, we have one award for suppliers, which is open to all sponsors at the event. And again, I mean, we have a lot of discussions with suppliers, because they’re used to that from our events. We want to be on the agenda. We say no, with one exception.

The one exception is you nominate for the awards, again, with some innovation you did within your company, within your solution, over the last 12 months. And the three shortlisted suppliers, they will be invited on stage. As part of the main agenda. And explain in the eight minute pitch what they did, what they did with that nomination.

So this gives them a perfect exposure to well, to really well, for the best, for the most innovative suppliers. So we, you don’t need to spend $50,000 to get on the agenda with us. You need to be innovative. And that’s what we always saying to suppliers. If we say, well, we want to be an agenda, we say, well, certainly you are one of the most innovative one.

So there is a fair chance you, you participate in the awards and you get on,the agenda. And you have really showcase, and this is relevant, and I think this is relevant for the audience because we’re really talking about the top three innovations in the industry. And they’re not making sales pitch, but they really did talk about what they’re doing and that’s the most I think the most relevant part.

And you may remember last year, we had two small companies there. We had one, two traditional supplier and two small companies, which usually would not otherwise made a figure on the agenda, and this was super relevant for the audience. So it’s not, money can’t buy you an agenda, so, but innovation can. So this is the fifth category for supplies.

And then we have this year indeed the new category, which we are, which we’re introducing, which is, an, lifetime achievement award. So, the first five awards, they obviously, they go to companies and this new award goes to personality. So we are looking for personality, which has really contributed, a lot of things to the industry, and deserves such a recognition at a personal level.

So I think in about 10 years, if you stick to a business, Paula, you will be one of the nominees. But after four years in the business, it’s a bit too early for you.

Paula: For sure.

Ravindra: If somebody wants to nominate you, please go ahead. I have no problems with that.

Paula: Thank you.

Ravindra: But the idea is really just to recognize, I mean the long term contribution to the industry. You might be a program manager, you might be somebody else, you might be a consultant or somebody else.

It doesn’t really matter. But you should have done something to shape the industry, to contribute really to the state of the industry as it is today.

So, again, did, this is not a self nomination process, so basically everybody can nominate whoever they think, would deserve something like that. And we will take it from there.

So we, we will see then obviously, that we try to get this person to the event. it’s the first time that we doing that, so we trying that a little bit, but I think there is a potential really for not only recognizing companies. But, I mean, I can think myself of a couple of personalities who would deserve such an award. Cause they really dedicated 10, 20, 30 years of their careers to this industry. And this is obviously something which should deserve some recognition as well in my understanding.

Paula: Yeah. And I was just thinking, because you’ve been running Global Flight of course for I think 27 years now, so you are, you know, a witness of course to people who have dedicated their careers like you to loyalty.

Ravindra: Absolutely.

Paula: So you’ll know those personalities and, and yeah, goodness, I’ll be super excited, as will they, I’m sure I’ll be dying to see who wins that, that one, especially in his first year. So tell us, how do we nominate people Ravindra? And I think you said people can nominate themselves as well, so I’m guessing it’s all on loyalty and awards.com.

Ravindra: Yeah, correct. If you go to loyalty-and-awards.com, you have an award section, called Loyalty Awards where you find all the information, about all the nominations and the nomination process is straightforward. So again, I mean the four categories for airlines and partners or hotel programs are other program operators.

They’re open to, well to anybody with the small condition, you need to attend the event. So, the supply category open to all sponsors of the event. And the lifetime category is open to anybody. And we will afterwards, well I try to make sure that the person is in attendance.

But the last category again, you can nominate yourself. You can nominate anybody else who thinks they deserve this award. And, so it’s maybe not that fully disruption. Next might be bit different. We just seeing how it goes this year and we’ll take it from there.

But it’s an easy, it’s an easy process, but don’t leave it to the last minute. Because obviously you need to support, you need to provide some supporting material and stuff like that to make it as compelling, as possible for the judges. Because we have two judges, I mean, two panels of judges for the different awards.

And the more compelling your nomination is, obviously the better you chance that you are shortlisted or even win the award and go back to the last trophy from the event.

Paula: Ooh. Super exciting. My goodness. Wow. I am so looking forward to it, Ravindra, I mean, I’ve been working with you now. It’s the third year, I guess.

Ravindra: It is.

Paula: Second year in, in a fully, I guess, partnership way. And just from my perspective, you know, if anybody listening hasn’t been aware of Loyalty and Awards to me, I want to be aligned with the best in the industry. I, I so admire, you know, the content, the structure, and the quality of attendance.

So the people that attend your conference Ravindra really are, you know, leading their programs and I love talking with them. So I’ve always had this idea since I started back running programs, actually not in travel at all, but I always had this feeling that loyalty was quite a lonely business because I was always the only person in the organization who really understood the depth and complexity, of course, of what I was trying to achieve with the program. So it’s, it’s incredibly exciting to get together with other professionals and again, just kind of swap notes and share.

So, so listen, that’s all from my side, Ravindra. Are there any other points that you think, the audience need to be aware of? I guess we should recap the, the dates, we’ve said it’s in Rio de Janeiro. So I have never been to Brazil or anywhere in South America. So it’s already a life highlight. I’m hoping my beloved husband can come with me, and again, extend our stay. So that’s certainly my plan. So, yeah. Any other final points you wanna mention before we wrap up?

Ravindra: So well just the date, so 9th to 11th of October, but I, I think for you it should be 5 to 15th of October, something like that. And, no, I just want use to opportunity again. Well, to thank you Paula for the partnership.

And while you mentioned Dubai 21 and I think we got together in the right moment because you must have been impressed that in 21 we were running a live event.

Paula: I was. Yeah.

Ravindra: One of the very few live events which took place in the industry at all. And, yes, even in 21 in these difficult conditions, we managed to bring together a good crowd.

And I think this must have impressed you very much. And so now we will be much bigger, obviously in Rio but yes, we appreciate the support and as we said, you are part of the family now and we look forward to working with you for this event and beyond. Hopefully that’d be exciting, that cooperation. So thank you very much for your support.

Paula: No problem at all. And of course, we’ll make sure to link both to you personally and of course to the event itself in the show notes for this episode. And if anybody needs to reach out, of course to me, to be connected with Ravindra, that’s certainly no problem.

So with all of that said, I am certainly gonna go and start thinking about actually organizing my flights now because, have my hotel all sorted in the Fairmont. So again, all credit to booking a spectacular hotel and really looking forward to that.

So with all of that said, Ravindra Bhagwanani, Managing Director at Global Flight. Thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty.

Ravindra: My pleasure. Thank you, Paula.

Paula: This show is sponsored by The Wise Marketer. The world’s most popular source of loyalty, marketing, news, insights, and research. The Wise Marketer also offers loyalty marketing training through its Loyalty Academy, which is already certified over 500 executives in 38 countries as certified loyalty marketing professionals. For more information, check out thewisemarketer.com and loyaltyacademy.org.

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