As consumers around the world make plans to travel again, a new Travelport study across 10 countries finds that the industry must regain their trust by addressing issues related to transparency and communication about pricing, health and safety and usage of their personal data.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hit reset. You don’t get a lot of those with consumers, so it’s important we take the lessons of this study and apply them quickly to the recovery so the industry can bounce back faster,” says Jen Catto, Travelport’s chief marketing officer.
Catto says the results show that consumers have developed certain expectations around online shopping, driven by brands like Amazon, and they believe the travel industry — both agencies and suppliers — can do more to create a trustworthy e-commerce experience.
“What we learned from the study is that our assumptions around consumers being trained to purchase in the ways that they are accustomed to — through personalisation, through an appropriate application of data to create relevance, through convenience and price transparency — those are things that carry over from whatever you are shopping for into the travel space, and I think our industry has been slow to adapt to that,” she says.
Respondents indicate the top two factors for them to trust travel companies are “no hidden costs” (55%) in the shopping process and “fully flexible or refundable products” (45%). But while they select those as the most important factors, the majority of respondents also indicate they do not believe the industry is succeeding in meeting either of these expectations.
“The importance of price transparency can’t be overstated,” says Travelport CEO Greg Webb.
“To put it into context, having no hidden costs is a full 16% more influential on trust than an airline’s long-term safety record. The request from consumers here is clear; the time has come to eliminate hidden fees and improve the overall transparency of pricing and communication.”
Trust the source
The study finds consumers are also wary of the sources of travel information, with the most trusted sources being friends and family (67%) and the least trusted being influencers (30%) and celebrities (25%).
“It’s important to look at the next generation of travellers who are going to make up an enormous part of our economy — Gen Z — they had the least amount of trust in almost every single category,” Catto says.
“So being really transparent about information is key with this segment of consumers. I think they understand the game, they understand how sponsored content works, they understand how influencers work — pay to play — and they are very mistrusting of information that comes through that, particularly for the travel industry.”
And while the majority (56%) of travellers say the industry has done well in implementing Covid health and safety measures, many expressed a lack of confidence in suppliers’ enforcement of these measures. Only 46% of respondents say they believe suppliers have taken steps to improve air filtration and only 50% trust them to enforce social distancing and manage boarding and queuing.
Data privacy is also a concern for respondents, with just 40% indicating they trust travel companies to use their personal information in accordance with appropriate use guidelines.
Travelport commissioned the study of 11,000 travellers by consulting firm Edelman, which has analysed consumer trust through its Edelman Trust Barometer since 2000.