Loyalty programs are nice, but when it comes to reaping tangible benefits and not just racking up points, travelers are beginning to rely on brand partnerships to really move the bar. Years ago, such a partnership resulted in guests being able to recognize their favorite shampoo brand in hotel bathrooms, but today the most game-changing integrations involve technology, celebrities and unique experiential offerings. "Some of these partnerships bridge different sectors of the travel community, but ultimately, these tie-ups can be cost effective and symbiotic -- a win-win," said Guy Langford, vice chairman and US leader, travel, hospitality and leisure, Deloitte & Touche, LLP. From airports, booking sites, cruise lines, hotels and even national park vacations, here are a handful of relatively new brand unions that travelers will want to take advantage of, starting now.
Sprint and Boingo
Sprint subscribers who are frequent fliers have a lot to celebrate as of April 30 when their carrier announced a new partnership with Boingo Wireless, Inc. Some of the details of this multi-year deal are still unknown, but what is certain is that Sprint customers now have free access to 35 Wi-Fi hotspots at major airports across the country, including John F. Kennedy International Airport, Dallas Love Field and Chicago O'Hare International Airport. The convenience factor is major. Without having to dip into their data plans, users can bypass a login window and automatically connect for free to the airport's Wi-Fi signal. Sprint also promises that business travelers will be able to securely connect via their corporate virtual private networks.
Austin Adventures and Reebok
Adventure travel is one of the fastest growing segments in the travel industry. But one of the pioneers in the adventure travel realm is betting on the future of functional fitness vacations. Montana-based Austin Adventures officially teamed up with Reebok in 2014, and this summer will be the tour operator's first season running one-of-a-kind guided vacations co-led by a certified Reebok fitness instructor. Guests on these all-inclusive trips to destinations in Utah, Yellowstone National Park and Costa Rica will be treated to adventures like hiking, kayaking and rafting, but they will also receive professional instruction on how to take their at-home workout routines outdoors.
CNN and TripAdvisor
The birth of a new generation of travelers relying on user-generated content comes courtesy of a unique, user-friendly partnership between TripAdvisor and CNN. Although the partnership was announced in January, the summer travel planning surge means more CNN.com visitors than ever are taking advantage of the ability to catch up on the latest travel headlines while reading real time reviews and seeing ratings for hotels, restaurants, landmarks, activities and more on the same page. The partnership also gives CNN readers access to TripAdvisor's price comparison search tool and allows them to seamlessly book accommodations by clicking on links embedded in articles.
Princess Cruises and Discovery Communications
Fans of Discovery, Animal Planet and TLC have good reason to get off their couches and start enjoying their favorite shows -- on a cruise. In November, Princess Cruises and Discovery Communications announced "Discovery At Sea" -- a collaboration bringing Discovery's popular programming from shows like "Gold Rush," "Shark Week," "MythBusters" and more on board Princess ships. Via these brand integrations, which continue to develop and appear on different voyages, passengers have access to an array of as-seen-on-TV experiential activities. While sailing, they can participate in programs like "Baking at Sea with TLC" and "Finding Bigfoot" hunts. During shore excursions, travelers can book exclusive Discovery Channel and Animal Planet tours only available to Princess passengers. Starting this summer, the cruise line's brand-new "North to Alaska!" series will even give passengers a chance to learn all about crabbing on the Bering Sea from Captain David Lethin of the hit series, "The Deadliest Catch."
Westin Hotels and Wellness Influencers
Five years after Westin Hotels & Resorts first partnered with New Balance to make sure travelers were never without workout gear (for $5, guests can get shoes and athletic apparel rentals delivered to their door), the brand is continuing to expand its portfolio of wellness offerings. Headlined by strength trainer to the stars, Holly Perkins, "Westin Wellness Escapes" kicked off at the Westin San Diego Gaslamp Quarter in April. Throughout 2015, the hotel chain will take this new initiative international as it continues to match some of its 252 properties with programs hosted by public figures and influencers, including Olympic medalist Deena Kastor, award-winning author Arianna Huffington, Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe and well-known, registered dietitian Ashley Koff. Guests will be able to attend ongoing panel discussions, seminars and workshops designed by these experts on everything from nutrition to exercise, meditation and time management.
About the author: Katie Jackson is a travel writer and media specialist based in Big Sky Country. She's lived and worked in Italy, Ireland, France and Nicaragua, but never long enough to completely nail the local language. You can follow her on Twitter, @LazyJKatie, connect with her on LinkedIn or find her biking Montana's back roads.