Global research by Travelport has identified four areas where travel firms must address a ‘trust gap’ with consumers following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The GDS and travel technology giant worked with US marketing consultancy firm Edelman Data & Intelligence (DxI) on the survey of 1,000 people in each of 10 countries.
The results of the study were reported in a ‘Hello Modern Retailing’ webinar this week in which Travelport set out the vision for its next-generation Travelport+ retail platform and its partnerships with Amazon Web Services, and Immersion Neuroscience, and leading clients American Airlines and eDreams ODIGEO.
Greg Webb, Travelport chief executive, said: “The travel industry needs to sharpen its focus on trust. This study has shown, as an industry, we are not as trusted as we would like.
“The good news, however, is that we now know what the issues are, and we also have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hit reset, as countries re-open and travelers eagerly get back on airplanes.
“If we move quickly to address these issues, we can accelerate industry recovery as well as the modernisation of travel retailing.”
Travelport said while there were key regional differences, some global trends emerged from the independent study.
Specifically four key areas were identified that contributed the travel sector falling behind over areas of business when it came to trust.
- Price Transparency
The two most important factors in building consumer trust in travel agencies and travel suppliers was having ‘no hidden costs’ (55%) and ‘fully flexible or refundable products’ (45%).
Most travellers currently deem industry performance in both of these areas to be poor (60% and 57% respectively).
Travellers in New Zealand and Australia were shown to be the most disappointed on this point, with a significant 40 and 39 percentage point gap between importance and performance.
Webb added: “The importance of price transparency can’t be overstated. 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.”
- COVID-19 Health and Safety
The majority (56%) of travellers said the travel industry has done well in implementing COVID-19 health and safety measures.
However, around half said they would like more reassurance on how robustly some measures are being enforced, in particular, improved air filtration, social distancing and managed boarding and queuing.
Webb said: “The travel industry should be proud of how quickly and effectively it responded to COVID-19.
“What we learned from the study, however, is that travel suppliers and agencies will benefit from being clearer in their communication on certain measures, like social distancing.”
- Data Privacy
Only four out of ten travellers (40%) reported that they currently trust travel companies to use their personal information in the right way.
This was especially apparent among Baby Boomers (33%) and Gen Z (36%) respondents.
When it comes to using information to personalise experiences, travellers said they are most comfortable with companies using data that they have actively shared with them through one-to-one conversations (46%), past booking behavior (46%) and loyalty activity (44%).
They are less comfortable, however, when information is sourced indirectly, for example, through social media activity (35%), public records like credit scores (37%) and past shopping, search and booking behavior with other companies (40%).
- Information Credibility
The most trusted sources of travel-related information that travellers use when researching a trip are those perceived to have aligned interests: friends and family (67%) and review websites (50%).
In contrast, the least trusted are those with a clear vested interest in selling, such as social media influencers (30%) and celebrities (25%). Gen Z was revealed to be the least trusting in almost every category.
Customer ratings (54%) and written customer reviews (51%) are among the most trusted.
However, third-party certification (39%), photos of products such as hotel rooms provided by travel companies (42%) and third-party ratings such as hotel star systems (43%) were revealed to be the least trusted.
How trust influences purchasing behaviour
Travelport said the research also found that trust directly influences purchasing behaviour.
Due to COVID-19, almost half (46%) of travellers were shown to prioritise trust over all other factors when choosing a travel supplier.
Many travellers also stated, when trust is in place, they will consider purchasing multiple travel-related items (48%), upgrading their package (43%) and buying non-travel-related items such as credit cards (34%).
Webb said: “Trusted companies make better retailers. When trust is combined with cutting-edge technology and effective sales, it becomes a powerful proposition.
“At Travelport, we will continue to invest in each of these areas in a bid to not only help the industry rebound from the pandemic, but come out the other side more agile and stronger.”