With more than 50 retail banks operating in the UAE, financial institutions here have to do more than most to win credit-card customers.
Majid Al Futtaim Finance is hoping its latest offer, PremiumRewards, which is aimed at frequent travellers, does the trick.
Here, the company's chief executive Rasool Hujair speaks about why the company launched the credit card loyalty programme, which allows people to redeem flight tickets from more than 360 airlines and select from a range of more than 200,000 hotels, as well as other benefits.
Why did you release a credit card with a loyalty programme for UAE travellers?
Majid Al Futtaim Finance developed a loyalty programme for travellers after recognising the distinct travel and lifestyle needs of the UAE's affluent, travel-savvy market segment. The UAE population is made up of 70 per cent expatriates, thereby making home and leisure travel a lifestyle need.
What kind of research did you conduct for the card?
[We] researched the travel and spending habits of residents in the UAE and [Arabian] Gulf region, including determining what features travellers most value in a credit card, or loyalty programme through focus groups, research data from Visa International and other research mediums through our travel partners.
What did you learn about travel trends in the region?
According to research conducted in 2011 by the United Nations world tourism organisation, on average, a UAE resident spends about Dh80,808 (US$21,999) a year on flights and accommodation alone, totalling $6.6 billion annually on outbound travel. Majid Al Futtaim Finance analysis shows the United Kingdom, Germany, New York, India, Jordan, Lebanon and Thailand are among the top travel destinations for premium travellers. The focus groups indicated frequent travellers in the region were most interested in free flights and preferential treatment in airports and hotels, and having access to high-end luxury, dining, shopping, and leisure and entertainment privileges globally, wherever they travelled to. In addition, customers are always looking for choice, flexibility and best savings in their frequent travel.
The UAE has come to the loyalty programme trend late compared to other parts of the world. Why do you think that is?
The UAE has evolved into a mature market offering a range of payment products such as credit, debit and prepaid cards with the highest card penetration in the GCC today. The development of loyalty programmes is therefore a natural progression for credit issuers ... in a highly competitive market. The loyalty programme landscape is now among the most developed and sophisticated in the region and it has evolved to meet the changing needs of its demographic.
What do you do with the information you collect about customers through the cards?
All customer information is kept strictly confidential and is only used for the purposes of better understanding [our] customers' lifestyle behaviour and needs.
* Gillian Duncan
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