Resurgence of travel will be reliant on trust and confidence, says Digital Drums chief executive Steve Dunne
These are tough times for the travel sector. It would not be unfair to say that no other industry has been dealt the hand that travel has during the pandemic.
And given the numerous twists and turns over recent months, it would be a brave person, or a foolhardy one, who would make any predictions about the future.
However, there are two distinct factors that we now know, whatever tomorrow and the longer-term future bring for the industry. These two factors will be the consumer’s desire for trust in who they are buying from and their need for confidence in what they are buying.
Now, to be fair, trust and confidence have always been a requirement of consumers. But, if there are two things that the pandemic, and the various actions of governments, tour operators, airlines and others, have done to focus the consumer’s priorities, it is how they have behaved and communicated with the consumer.
And it could be argued that, for the new travel consumer, the most highly valued assets of a travel brand going forward will be the trust and confidence the consumer has in that brand.
Trust is defined as a firm belief in the character, strength, or truth of someone or something. Confidence is defined as the feeling or belief that one can have faith in or rely on someone or something.
And yet, be it refunds or voucher redemption, incredible claims in the mainstream media of “surges in bookings” or constant wrong predictions on social media by “travel experts” as to which countries will go green, amber or red, the travel industry keeps shooting itself in the foot, undermining the two most important things it needs to convince the consumer of: that it can be trusted and that the consumer can be confident in it.
And evidence of the industry failing to “read the room” with consumers is everywhere.
A neighbour of mine, at the start of the year, had so much faith in a well-known cruise brand that they booked, and paid a hefty sum, for a three-night ‘seacation’. As the cruise dates got closer they checked the brand’s website only to discover the price of the cruise had dropped by more than £300. It appeared that those booking later were paying considerably less than them. Upset at this, they took this up with the line and were told that, unfortunately, they could not do a price adjustment for those who had booked early and were now paying more.
Now, I can imagine many people will shrug their shoulders and glibly reply: “Well, that’s supply and demand. The cruise wasn’t selling so they dropped the price. If prices had gone up instead, the cruise line would not have asked your neighbour for more money.”
Fair enough. But my neighbour will never book early with that cruise line again. They will never have confidence in the claims the brand makes or trust it in the way they used to.
So, there are no winners in this case, only losers.
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Now, I am not saying all travel brands do not place trust and confidence at the heart of what they do – many are excellent in this area. But, like all things, the industry gets tarnished by those that have abandoned this ethos, and that is not good for anyone.
As and when business does start to pick up, and we head back to some sort of normal, I would like to see travel brands and travel membership bodies really embrace trust and confidence as a common theme across the industry.
Who knows, maybe, as we start to staff-up again, we could see the appointment of trust and confidence officers, ensuring that everything the brand does is undertaken in that spirit.
If anything will get the industry back on its feet, it will be the consumer’s trust and confidence in it. Nothing else.