Building consumer trust in travel through insight and personalisation

28 July, 2021

Consumer distrust in the travel industry has been simmering underneath the surface for years. Now the world is reopening, people are watching to see what happens next. This is an opportunity to wipe the slate clean, by reminding travellers what they’ve been missing.

Travelport chief marketing officer Jen Catto, speaking at the Jul-2021 edition of CAPA Live, stated the coronavirus pandemic represents "a rare opportunity” to reset how people perceive travel businesses". "People are clearly looking forward to travelling again... we have a really solid crisis here that we should not let go to waste," she said.

The global travel retail platform recently partnered with the world’s leading authority on trust, Edelman Data & Intelligence to take the pulse on consumer trust in travel. Edelman has studied trust for over 20 years through its widely respected Edelman Trust Barometer.

The research covered more than 10,000 people surveyed across the UK, Italy, Spain, Saudi Arabia, the US, Canada, India, Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand — asking them questions on different elements of trust. It found that the travel industry can boost its global recovery by addressing consumer trust gaps in price transparency, COVID-19 health and safety measures, data privacy and information credibility.

During a CAPA Live session looking at the research, Ms Catto highlighted that the research found 46% of respondents "prioritise trust over all other factors when it comes to selecting a travel provider". Meanwhile, 49% stated they would consider purchasing additional items from a trusted supplier or agency and 42% would consider upgrading their travel package with a trusted provider. "Three out of four respondents report having had their trust broken at least once by a travel supplier and agencies are only slightly better, with seven in 10 having had their trust broken by a travel agency," she added.

Trust is fragile. It takes a lifetime to build, and can be broken in an instant. The trust analysis 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). 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.

On the current pandemic the research found the majority (56%) of travellers felt the travel industry has done well in implementing COVID-19 health and safety measures. 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.

Data privacy was another key issue highlighted by the research. 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 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 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, 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.

You can view the full CAPA Live session and learn more from Jen Catto on the Travelport joint research with Edelman Data & Intelligence into trust in this CAPA TV recording.