The pandemic left many travellers with cancelled flights, hotel rooms, excursions and more, and a lot of people never received their refunds.
Now, it seems that those practices have left a lasting impression, and booking patterns are changing as a result.
New research from GlobalData reveals that travellers prefer booking directly with companies, leaving online travel agencies behind.
In a recent poll, a total of 39% of respondents said they would typically book directly, followed by 17% that said they opted for OTAs and price comparison sites.
“The pandemic has caused a significant shift in consumer booking habits,” said Gus Gardner, associate travel and tourism analyst at GlobalData.
“A previous survey in 3Q 2019 showed that OTAs were the most popular booking option, followed by direct booking with a hotel or airline. However, some OTAs have been extremely slow to issue refunds and have received a raft of bad press as a result. This has knocked travellers’ confidence to book through intermediaries.”
Could this be an opportunity for travel advisors? One of the reasons Gardner points to for the shift is that travellers want flexibility.
“Direct booking channels are likely to have experienced an increase in popularity due to the fragility of booking a trip in the current situation,” said Garnder. “Travellers now desire the highest level of flexibility, and it is no wonder that direct booking channels’ flexible terms, easy changes and quick refunds are winning travellers over.”
Gardner also says that travellers are looking for control over their trips.
“The ability to make changes online places the power back into the traveller's hands and streamlines the whole process,” he said. “By booking directly, the traveller cuts out the middleman, considerably speeds up the change/refund process and increases their satisfaction.”
While booking direct gives power back to the consumer, travel advisors should demonstrate to clients that they can streamline the travel experience even more. With one call to an advisor, they have an advocate working on their behalf. It is the equivalent of booking directly with someone to do all of the work for you.
In the post-pandemic travel world, advisors should also highlight how they fought for clients' refunds.
Gardner notes that GlobalData’s research showed many consumers shifting away from OTA’s because refunds were slow.
“Confidence in OTAs’ ability to issue refunds has quickly dented confidence,” he noted. “The slow responses have been incredibly frustrating and have resulted in a slight shift away from this booking method.”
Travel advisors who helped get their clients refunds will also see the benefits.
Source: Travel Pulse