Independent research commissioned by Travelport has found that the travel industry can boost global recovery by addressing consumer trust gaps: in price transparency, COVID-19 health and safety measures, data privacy and information credibility.
“This study has shown, as an industry, we are not as trusted as we would like,” said Greg Webb, Travelport’s Chief Executive, adding, 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 travellers 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.”
The Four Trust Gaps
The Travelport study of 11,000 travellers across 10 countries was conducted by Edelman Data & Intelligence. It revealed the two most important factors in building consumer trust in travel agencies and travel suppliers, such as airlines, are having “no hidden costs” (55%) and “fully flexible or refundable products” (45%).
Unfortunately, most travellers currently deem industry performance in both of these areas to be poor (60% and 57% respectively).
“The importance of price transparency can’t be overstated,” Mr Webb said. “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 & Safety
The majority (56%) of travellers that participated in the study said the travel industry had done well in implementing COVID-19 health and safety measures, Travelport said.
Going forward, 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.
Mr Webb added: “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 was another key issue highlighted by the research. Only 40% of travellers 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 respondents (36%).
When it comes to using information to personalise experiences, Travelport found that travellers are most comfortable with companies using data that they have actively shared with them through one-to-one conversations (46%), past booking behaviour (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 behaviour with other companies (40%).
According to the Travelport research, 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, Travelport found that the least trusted are those with a clear vested interest in selling, such as social media influencers (30%) and celebrities (25%). Once again, Gen Z was revealed to be the least trusting in almost every category.
A similar story played out when examining trust in different types of travel-related information. 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.
In addition to identifying gaps in trust, Travelport’s research also uncovered evidence that trust directly influences purchasing behaviour. Due to COVID-19, almost half (46%) of travellers today, for example, 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%).
“Trusted companies make better retailers,” Mr Webb added. “When trust is combined with cutting-edge technology and effective sales, it becomes a powerful proposition.”