US travel industry should address trust gaps in price transparency, COVID-19 safety
The majority of US travelers that participated in the study said the travel industry has done well in implementing COVID-19 health and safety measures.
35% of US travelers reported that they currently trust travel companies to use their personal information in the right way.
The research also uncovered evidence that trust directly influences purchasing behavior.
According to new independent research, 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.
The Four Trust Gaps
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). 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.
2. 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.
3. 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%).
4. 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.
A similar story played out when examining trust in different types of travel-related information. 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.
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%).