Fixing Trust Issues Key To Faster Recovery

New research by Travelport should be a bit of a wake-up call for the Canadian travel industry, considering it reveals that the industry isn’t quite as trusted by consumers as it would like to be.

On the other hand, by addressing consumer trust gaps in price transparency, COVID-19 health and safety measures, data privacy and information credibility, the travel industry can boost global recovery.

“The travel industry needs to sharpen its focus on trust,” observes Travelport’s CEO, Greg Webb, before continuing: “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 travellers eagerly get back on airplanes. If we move quickly to address these issues, we can accelerate industry recovery as well as the modernization of travel retailing.”

The four trust gaps revealed by Travelport’s research include:

Price Transparency

A total of 11,000 travellers from across 10 countries — including 1,000 in Canada – were part of the research conducted by Edelman Data & Intelligence (DxI). In Canada, 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’ (70%) and ‘fully flexible or refundable products’ (53%).

Unfortunately, most travellers currently deem industry performance in both of these factors to be poor (68% and 70%, respectively).

In fact, Travelport’s research found that Canadian travellers were among the world’s most disappointed, with a significant 38 and 23 percentage point gap between importance and performance on those two points respectively.

Webb observed: “The importance of price transparency can’t be overstated. To put it into context, having no hidden costs is a full 27% 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

Travelport notes that while the nearly half (46%) of Canadian travellers that participated in the study said the industry has done well in implementing COVID-19 health and safety measures, many still shared lingering concerns when it comes to how robustly some measures are being enforced.

Improved air filtration was shown to engender the least confidence among travellers, with only 36% in Canada (compared to 46% globally) saying they trust it to be effectively implemented.

Social distancing (40%) and managed boarding and queuing (47%) were also perceived weak points.

Webb noted that: “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

Another key issue highlighted by the research was data privacy.

Only one third of travellers in Canada (33%, compared to 40% globally) reported that they currently trust travel companies to use their personal information in the right way.

Globally, this was especially apparent among Baby Boomers (33%) and Gen Z (36%) respondents.

When it comes to using information to personalize experiences, travellers in Canada said they are most comfortable with companies using data that they have actively shared with them through one-to-one conversations (45%), past booking behaviour (43%) and loyalty activity (42%).

However, they are less comfortable when information is sourced indirectly, for example, through social media activity (24%), public records like credit scores (27%) and past shopping, search and booking behavior with other companies (31%).

Information Credibility

The most trusted source of travel-related information that travellers in Canada use when researching a trip are those perceived to have aligned interests: friends and family (68%), with the next-most trusted source of official tourism boards coming in far behind (47%).

In contrast, the least trusted are those with a clear vested interest in selling, such as social media influencers (18%) and celebrities (16%).

Once again, Gen Z was revealed to be the least trusting in almost every category globally.

A similar story played out when examining trust in different types of travel-related information.

Customer ratings (48%) and written customer reviews (48%) are among the most trusted amongst travellers in Canada.

However, third-party certification (32%), third-party ratings such as hotel star systems (39%), and photos of products such as hotel rooms provided by travel companies (36%) were revealed to be the least trusted.

Enabling Retail

In addition to identifying gaps in trust, the research also uncovered evidence that trust directly influences purchasing behaviour.

Due to COVID-19, almost half (44%) of Canadian travellers today, for example, were shown to prioritize 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 (45%), upgrading their package (34%) and buying non-travel-related items such as credit cards (23%).

Webb said that: “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.”

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