Ian Knox, Vice President, Product & Marketing at Expedia Partner Solutions (EPS) explains how travel firms must adapt in a post-pandemic world
Rebuilding travellers’ trust will be an essential step in helping the travel industry recover. We know there is a desire for travel, but given the uncertainty and challenges of the past year, some people may be hesitant to book a trip.
Now more than ever, travellers are seeking out trusted brands to help them navigate the complexities of changing regulations and health concerns.
A December research study revealed a 25% increase in travellers using online travel agencies and a 20% rise in using destination websites for information about their trip, compared with pre-COVID-19 levels.
The same research found that travellers were also looking to return to what they consider ‘trusted accommodation’, showing the importance of trust as travel recovers.
Trust as a Driver for Decision-making
Nine out of 10 travellers would like to see information on health and hygiene before booking a trip, according to recent research, highlighting how important these factors are for the decision-making process today.
Travellers will reward service providers that equip them with on-demand access to accurate, reliable, information on health, hygiene, safety, and security, digitally.
Expect to see the advances in travel technology over last year continue throughout this year, as brands recognise the value that tools such as chatbots or virtual agents deliver.
Travel companies that act quickly to embrace these new digital services will reap the rewards; those that don’t will be left behind.
Travellers are increasingly turning towards peer-to-peer endorsements to inform their booking decisions. Guest ratings and reviews generate trust by providing real, recent insight on topics such as check-in procedures, booking policies, and what it’s like to stay there during the COVID era.
Research from summer last year showed that properties, where traveller reviews detailed how the property mitigated risk from COVID-19, had more bookings than those without.
A New Era of Flexibility
Many of us postponed a trip in 2020. Building flexibility into future bookings is crucial for travel providers to build trust with consumers to take a trip. Early evidence suggests that the industry is listening. In September, American Airlines, Delta and United took the major step of permanently eliminating change fees.
Research supports this with seven in 10 travellers stating they will look for flexibility in the next 12 months in the form of travel insurance and trip protection, full cancellations, and refunds on transportation and accommodations.
Several online travel agencies (OTAs) and search engines now offer the option to filter properties according to whether free cancellation is offered, with details on trip protection, and postponement policies becoming a critical part of travel in the COVID era.
This shift in traveller expectations will prompt other providers to follow suit, ensuring flexible bookings are part of their service, whilst technology will continue to play its role throughout, with travellers reassured by the ability to easily manage their plans online themselves.
There’s no doubt that the travel industry faces a challenging year ahead but with COVID-19 vaccination programs rolling out worldwide, there is hope that travellers can begin dreaming about taking their next trip.
Travel providers who make information easily accessible to their travellers will be well-positioned to recover as travel demand returns.