In these uncertain times, it is becoming likely that travellers will desire more direct communication from online travel agencies (OTAs) soon.
According to GlobalData, 44% of global travellers typically booked with an OTA in 2019, whilst only 17% would consider using an in-store travel agency.
However, recent events, including the demise of Thomas Cook, Brexit uncertainty and now Covid-19, have raised concerns regarding the reliability of an OTA in terms of direct communication.
Uncertain travellers seek definitive answers
Upon discovering holiday plans will no longer take place amid global travel restrictions and mass flight cancellations, travellers seek advice from the platform they booked with.
The majority of travel companies that offered direct bookings are now allowing travellers to change or cancel reservations without any additional fees. However, if a consumer has used a third-party agent, it can make the cancellation process drawn out and complicated.
With Expedia, bookings with an array of airlines cannot be adjusted or cancelled through the platform itself. For some bookings, travellers will have to contact the airline to make changes. Booking.com has introduced ‘forced circumstances’, expecting companies to refund prepayments and waive any cancellation costs for travellers that have pre-booked. This may end in disputes regarding liability, leaving the customer in the dark for longer.
At times like this, travellers will seek more direct communication and definitive answers regarding holiday plans. If they had booked directly with a package provider or flight operator, the communication process between agent and consumer may have been more streamlined.
A personalised approach remains integral, as well as direct communication
Personalisation is a key theme driving the future of travel services. According to a recent GlobalData survey, 89% of global travellers are now ‘always, ‘often’ or ‘somewhat’ influenced by how well a product or service is tailored to their needs and personality.
Online travel giants, such as Expedia and Booking Holdings, are at an advantage with this theme as data and personalisation go hand in hand. With access to a large number of customer records, OTAs can offer personalised experiences tailored to each specific traveller.
In a post-Covid-19 world, however, one to one communication could become of greater importance, working in the favour of more traditional travel agencies.