Mirabeau and Emerce organized two roundtables for some twenty travel organizations. Two themes stood out: the absence of mutual trust in the travel ecosystem and the lack of loyalty among customers.
In an ideal world, travelers should feel supported by all the parties they encounter during their journey. In other words, everyone working together to ensure the trip goes as smoothly as possible. This is not the case today, however – the customer journey still consists of various links that exist autonomously and innovate individually. And while the participants all underlined this, a lack of trust between the various companies in the ecosystem also became clear. This mistrust not only impedes cooperation, it also has an impact on the traveler experience as it reflects on the relationship with travelers.
When an incident occurs customers can find themselves facing a large bureaucracy in which providers refer to general terms & conditions or legal policies. When they want to change a ticket, they face the unbending rules of the airline. This kind of bureaucracy makes it very difficult to optimize processes and reduce the costs per booking.
An added problem is the lack of clarity as to how the duty of care is set up. Both between the companies and in the perception between customers and travel organizations, it is unclear who is responsible and liable for which part of the case and when. The main research issue resulting from this theme is how to break through this mistrust.
Fewer and fewer passengers in general – and millennials in particular – base their choice on brand loyalty. In addition to price, flexibility and spontaneity are increasingly important. Travelers’ needs are fulfilled by the aggregated portfolio of booking sites, while airlines and hotels are more and more dependent on external sales and service channels. How does one respond in such an environment?
A preservation or intensification of their relationship with travelers is something all travel organizations seek. Even booking sites find it a priority to be top-of-mind among consumers and use substantial marketing budgets to realize this. For the suppliers, direct booking means a reduced dependence on external booking channels, while for resellers it leads to a reduction in marketing efforts.
The solution is found in personal relevance. Although this has been a buzz-term for years, the roundtable participants indicated that they still struggle with it. First, because the required data is scattered among various companies and not shared and, secondly, because a great deal of information is required to really serve travelers well.
The hard data is there: is someone traveling for business or leisure? How experienced is the traveler? How do they arrive at the airport? Who are they traveling with? But a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the decision-making process is still absent. Do people primarily decide based on the availability of the flight/transport and book their stay afterwards or vice versa – or at the same time?
There is also a demand for richer insights into the customer experience and the factors which most impact traveler psychology. While Mirabeau has carried out a study into the airport experience, other domains remain a black box.
Ultimately, the battle for customer relationships is a matter of scale. Couldn’t the customer relationship be shared? It would require the travel sector to evolve into a ‘trusted ecosystem’ in which travelers feel supported by all cooperating parties; in which companies – with permission from travelers – exchange information to serve them with relevant products and services. Such trust is non-existent today but if the sector can find ways to resolve that then all participants will bear commercial fruit.
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