Future tourists demand transparency, says GlobalData's Johanna Bonhill-Smith
Travel intermediaries will be key to offering more information to travellers
Transparency will be the key to provide service to the future tourists. During this COVID-19 pandemic, many aspects of future travels have been labelled as ‘uncertain’. Intermediaries offering more information and clearer policies will indisputably be at an advantage in terms of restoring consumer confidence.
Issues surrounding refunds, booking policies and the management of workforce have all come to the forefront – agents or operators that are not clear on all these subjects have faced public scrutiny.
This is a challenging time for all the operators and agents. In order to service future demand and ensure consumer satisfaction, intermediaries will need to be flexible and transparent regarding their future planning. Presently, the future of travel remains uncertain. A group of negative customer experiences during the pandemic now holds the potential to cause long-term damage to a brand’s credibility.
The majority of operators and agents have had to adjust the booking policies to offer more flexible alternatives to cope with mass refunds – some of these adjustments may be implemented permanently as a change in consumer demand means that travellers require more flexibility going forward. A company that maintains a flexible booking policy will undoubtedly be at an advantage over one who changes this as travel demand starts to return.
TUI was criticised for lack of available information and time-consuming refund policies – the company only introduced a self-service cash refund tool on 21 May 2020. After dealing with a mountain of refund requests (over 900,000 customers were impacted by COVID-19 at this point), a tool such as this should have already been in place.
More information may be considered a selling point. Travellers are likely to have more of an interest around how an intermediary they are using is dealing with the impacts of COVID-19. Before this pandemic, information regarding beaches, restaurants and shops will have been desired; post-COVID-19, additional information regarding health and safety, screening protocols and quarantine procedures will be more important.
Time spent browsing social media has significantly increased during the pandemic, 41% of global travellers are doing this more now compared to pre-COVID-19. This means that tourists are more connected than ever before and a bad reputation or review can spread rapidly. Hence, effective online reputational management is critical to keep brand credibility intact.
Johanna Bonhill-Smith is part of GlobalData’s travel and tourism division, analysing and commenting on the evolving industry.