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06/29/2021

Research: US Travel Industry Can Boost Recovery by Addressing Trust Gaps

Trust gaps that need to be addressed include: price transparency, COVID-19 health and safety, data privacy and information credibility.
a dirty plate on a table

The travel industry can boost global recovery by addressing consumer trust gaps in price transparency, COVID-19 health and safety measures, data privacy and information credibility, according to new independent research commissioned by Travelport.

“The travel industry needs to sharpen its focus on trust”, said Greg Webb, Chief Executive Officer at Travelport. “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 travelers 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

  1. Price Transparency

The study of 11,000 travelers across 10 countries, including 1,000 in the United States, was conducted by Edelman Data & Intelligence (DxI), the research and analytics arm of Edelman, which has studied trust for over 20 years through the Edelman Trust Barometer. In the US, 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’ (64%) and ‘fully flexible or refundable products’ (55%). Unfortunately, most travelers currently deem industry performance in both of these areas to be poor (67% and 61% respectively)[1]. US travelers were among the world’s most disappointed, with a significant 31 and 16 percentage point gap between importance and performance on those two points respectively.

“The importance of price transparency can’t be overstated”, continued Webb. “To put it into context, having no hidden costs is a full 18% 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.”

  1. COVID-19 Health & Safety

The majority (52%) of US travelers that participated in the study said 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[2].

Webb added: “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.”

  1. Data Privacy

Data privacy was another key issue highlighted by the research. Less than four in 10 of US travelers  (35%, 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, travelers in the US said they are most comfortable with companies using data that they have actively shared with them through one-to-one conversations (46%), past booking behavior (44%) and loyalty activity (44%). They are less comfortable, however, when information is sourced indirectly, for example, through social media activity (26%), public records like credit scores (31%) and past shopping, search and booking behavior with other companies (35%).

  1. Information Credibility

According to the research, the most trusted source of travel-related information that travelers in the US use when researching a trip are those perceived to have aligned interests: friends and family (73%), with the next-most trusted source of review websites coming in far behind (46%). In contrast, the least trusted are those with a clear vested interest in selling, such as social media influencers (23%) and celebrities (19%). Once again, Gen Z was revealed to be the least trusting in almost every category globally[3].

A similar story played out when examining trust in different types of travel-related information[4]. Customer ratings (52%) and written customer reviews (46%) are among the most trusted amongst travelers in the US. However, third-party certification (34%), photos of products such as hotel rooms provided by travel companies (37%), and third-party ratings such as hotel star systems (39%) 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 behavior. Due to COVID-19, nearly half (49%) of US travelers today, for example, were shown to prioritize trust over all other factors when choosing a travel supplier. Many travelers also stated, when trust is in place, they will consider purchasing multiple travel-related items (50%), upgrading their package (40%) and buying non-travel-related items such as credit cards (29%).

“Trusted companies make better retailers”, Webb concluded. “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.”  

For additional trust in travel insights from Travelport, please visit travelport.com/trust

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 Notes for Editors

  • The survey was conducted online with Edelman’s Data and Intelligence unit from 19-29 March 2021.
  • The research sample consisted of 1,000 consumers each from Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Italy, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States; and 2,000 in India.

  

Table 1: Trust-building factors

 

GLOBAL

USA

What are the most important factors when it comes to establishing your trust in travel companies?” and “Overall, how would you rate the performance of travel companies today in each of the areas below?”  

[Selected factors only]

Importance

Performance

Gap

Importance

Performance

Gap

1

No hidden costs

55%

40%

-15%

64%

33%

-31%

2

Offering fully flexible or refundable products

45%

43%

-2%

55%

39%

-16%

3

Has implemented COVID-19 H&S measures

44%

56%

12%

42%

52%

10%

4

Long-term safety track record

39%

50%

11%

46%

48%

2%

5

Consistently meeting expectations

39%

46%

7%

47%

43%

-4%

 

Table 2: Trust in COVID-19 safety measure enforcement

When travel suppliers have advertised or stated they have implemented COVID-19 safety measures, how much do you trust them to robustly enforce each of the following?”

 

 

GLOBAL

USA

1

Mandatory wearing of face masks

61%

60%

2

Access to sanitizing gel/wipes, face masks and gloves

58%

54%

3

Plexi-glass at check-in

54%

58%

4

Temperature checks

53%

51%

5

Pre-flight COVID-testing

53%

47%

6

Contactless services

52%

49%

7

Social distancing

50%

45%

8

Managed boarding/queuing

50%

46%

9

Improved air filtration

46%

43%

  

Table 3: Trust in sources of travel information

When you are researching information about a trip, how much do you trust each of the following sources of information?”

 

Total, global

Total,

USA

Gen Z

Millennials

Gen X

Baby boomers

Reviews / word of mouth (Family and friends)

58%

60%

50%

61%

62%

58%

Tourist board/official tourist information offices

49%

44%

39%

51%

52%

51%

Travel companies

45%

41%

38%

49%

48%

41%

Traditional media (TV, magazines, newspapers)

38%

33%

32%

43%

42%

31%

Celebrities and social media influencers

27%

21%

29%

35%

25%

9%

 

Table 4: Trust in types of travel information

When you are researching a trip, irrespective of the source it comes from, how much do you trust each of the following types of information?”

 

 

GLOBAL

USA

1

Customer ratings

54%

52%

2

Location (e.g. hotel/destination address, map location etc)

53%

55%

3

Written customer reviews

51%

46%

4

A detailed table of product attributes and features (e.g. hotel amenities, flight amenities, change fees….)

49%

48%

5

Photographs of the product (e.g. airline seat, hotel room…) shared by other customers

47%

43%

6

Prices (e.g. that they are inclusive of extra charges, VAT etc)

46%

41%

7

Side-by-side attribute comparisons with other products

44%

44%

8

Third-party ratings (e.g. hotel star ratings)

43%

39%

9

Photographs of the product (e.g. airline seat, hotel room…) provided by the travel company

42%

37%

10

Third-party certification

39%

34%

 

[1] Also see “Table 1: Trust-building factors” in ‘Notes for Editors’ section.

[2] Also see “Table 2: Trust in COVID-19 safety measure enforcement”.

[3] Also see “Table 3: Trust in sources of travel information”.

[4] Also see “Table 4: Trust in types of travel information”.