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Trust in travel

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

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 we do next. This is our opportunity to wipe the slate clean, by reminding travelers what they’ve been missing.

Methodology

Travelport partnered with the world’s leading authority on trust, Edelman Data & Intelligence to take the pulse on consumer trust in travel. We surveyed 10,000 people across the UK, Italy, Spain, Saudi Arabia, the US, Canada, India, Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand — asking them questions on different elements of trust. Here are the headlines.

Levels of trust

Low
Moderate
High

Trust Matters

Trust Hinges on Expectation

Major tech companies like Amazon, Alibaba, Netflix, and Spotify changed consumer expectations forever. Truly modern retailers, these companies are there for customers all the time, any time, on every channel, with a little UX magic thrown in just for fun. When you shop them, you use their tools, you access advice from other customers, you compare costs and brands with ease. If travel retailing falls short of these standards, people notice. So, we need to get in step.

0%
Prioritize trust OVER EVERYTHING ELSE
WHEN SELECTING A TRAVEL PROVIDER

Trust Sells

We asked respondents whether they felt they could trust travel companies to do the right thing. Travel is inherently a leap of faith. Because when we travel, we’re taking a journey into the unknown. Trust underpins the entire experience, and that starts with a booking. And for businesses, being trusted enables success.

Our research shows that when trust exists:

0%
of people will buy add-ons
0%
of people will upgrade a package

Do people trust travel?
Not really.

Level of trust by industry

Healthcare 61%
Food & beverage 55%
Technology 55%
Entertainment 46%
Travel & Tourism 46%
Automotive 45%
Consumer packaged goods 44%
Energy 43%
Telecoms 43%
Financial Services 41%

Levels of trust

High
Moderate
Low

We’ve Got Work to Do

As an industry we’re not quite bottom of the class (that accolade goes to Financial Services, while Healthcare scores high in the year of the vaccine). But Edelman’s research shows we’re still scoring low.

Only 46% trust the travel industry

Makes sense. over 70% have had their trust broken by a travel business in the past

Travel's got trust issues

Trust in travel agencies

Agencies could do better: people have relatively low levels of trust in travel agencies, depending on type.

0%
Major International Online Travel Agencies and Price Comparison sites
0%
Regional/Local High-Street Travel Agents (traditional)
0%
Regional/Local Travel Agents (websites)
0%
Major International High-Street Travel Agents (traditional)

Trust in airlines

Trust varies by carrier type:

>50%

Trust major international and regional airlines

Only

40%

Trust low-cost carriers

Hotels are the most trusted

0%
Major international chains are the most trusted travel supplier

Factors influencing trust

1. Price Transparency

People hate ‘hidden’ costs. They expect transparency and personalization, with a clear fee structure and a product tailored to their needs.

Price transparency is more important to travelers than anything. That’s not an exaggeration — along with fully flexible or refundable products, people ranked it 16% more influential on trust than an airline’s long-term safety record.

'No hidden costs'
is critical

For 55% But 60% Say this isn’t delivered.

The majority thinks the travel industry managed covid-19 well.

We impressed 56%

2. Performance During COVID-19

Travelers are raring to get back on the move, and they give the industry reasonably high marks for reacting to COVID-19. They may forgive past negative experiences if we prove trustworthy now.

Some sectors have fared better than others. Major international hotels were some of the first businesses in the sector to reopen, regaining consumer trust through clear, consistent safety measures and transparent cancellation policies. Beyond COVID-19, hotels build trust by prioritizing the traveler experience in ways airlines often do not. A simple example is the mindset of welcoming ‘guests’ not ‘passengers’.

Travelers are also still wary about some measures like air filtration, social distancing, and managed boarding being fully implemented, and need more reassurance around refund/exchange flexibility.

3. Privacy

People value their privacy — that’s not new. Travelers have higher trust in companies using information shared voluntarily with them rather than from elsewhere. The most trusted sources include one-to-one conversations, while the lowest form is through tracking their social media activity.

46%

trust one-to-one conversations or past booking activity

44%

trust loyalty activity or voluntarily shared information

65%

do not trust data gathered by social media monitoring

90% will talk

about a negative exprience

40% will post

Online about a negative experience

4. Negative Experiences

Other people’s opinions matter to travelers. Reviews have been democratized by platforms like TripAdvisor, Instagram, and Facebook, and consumers have the power and confidence to use them to vent or resolve a grievance. When travelers say trust is the most important factor when buying, negative word of mouth is costly.

Trusted sources
for trip planning

The Good, The Bad, and the Untrustworthy

People use a combination of different sources when planning a trip, Some are more trusted than others.

27%

Celebrities and social media influencers

38%

Traditional media (TV, magazines, newspapers)

45%

Travel companies

49%

Tourist boards/official tourist information offices

58%

Reviews/word of mouth (family and friends)

The key takeaway across consumers of all ages is that reviews and word of mouth are the most trusted options, as they perceive their interests to be aligned to their own.

Nobody Trusts Shills

People generally don’t trust celebs’ or influencers’ word for planning a trip. That doesn’t mean famous travel aficionados and legit expert bloggers don’t know their stuff. The point is, consumers know the difference between paid partnerships and genuine recommendations that are unmotivated by financial or personal gain. Like we said, people value transparency, which may be why celebs and influencers score lowest on trust, at 25-30%.

It’s the same story when it comes to types of information. People value the opinions or insights of other travelers more than travel companies or paid third parties. ​

Gen Z Are Wary of…Everyone

Misinformation is a huge part of the zeitgeist for Gen Z, and it’s made them suspicious consumers. Gen Z just about trust their friends and family but are skeptical of those with agendas misaligned with theirs.

Compared to Millennials at 48% (the second youngest consumer demographic), that’s on the decline. This indicates a worrying trend on the horizon among the biggest economic driving force.

Gen Z Don't trust
travel companies

Only 38% do, the lowest score of all age groups

Ways to rebuild trust

Let's be clear 1

Price transparency is essential to building trust. During the pandemic, it was obvious how important clear cancellation/refund policies are. This now extends to eliminating hidden fees, so expectations are set from booking. Communication is key, whether you’re a travel agency or supplier.

Now It’s Personal 2

Travelers are overwhelmed by too much choice. Agencies can build trust by taking a curatorial approach, using the right content and tools to reduce the list of options to something manageable and personal. The caveat is getting the balance right between using your own and external data to inform that personalization.

Authenticity, Always 3

Consumers are more and more mistrustful of anything claiming to be genuine endorsements but smell like paid sponsorships (that’s why #ad is a thing). Travel businesses should avoid using influencers to rebuild trust. Eschew what looks like schilling, and your customers will have confidence that you’re the real deal.

Get the Youth Vote 4

Prioritize Gen Z as if the next 20 years depends on it (it does). These are the consumers most likely to bail on their jobs to travel the world, and are now a major (and growing) economic force. You need to understand them and meet their needs — even ones that feel new and alien.

Experience is Paramount 5

Experience makes or breaks trust. Travel businesses need to keep delivering on quality, but close the gap between your interest and consumers’. When travelers are happy, everybody wins. We need to enable customer reviews and ratings, so they can share positive experiences far and wide.

Embrace modern retailing

How Can We Improve Consumer Trust in Travel?

The answer to the three trillion-dollar question is: by embracing and building on modern retailing standards.

Travel is a human need. We’ve got a great product, but we need to do better at selling it — and we can learn that from other industries. We’re at a unique point in history where we’ve got an opportunity to reset, and the technology to do it. The speed at which that happens will determine both recovery and our future success.

Hello modern retailing

Find out how Travelport+ is modernizing travel retailing and simplifying how travel buyers and sellers connect.

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