Do you believe the erosion of brand loyalty, the increasing frustration with using the web and the increase in openness to use offline travel agencies is more related to technology or trust issues?
I think the erosion in brand loyalty is due to the overabundance of travel providers, the oversupply of capacity, the multiple ways in which a traveler can buy the product, the aggressive nature of how price our products, and simply failing to make te traveler feel as though their business matters. A case in point: When checking into a hotel two years ago, a front-desk trainee was about to hand me my welcome packet when a colleague who was training her said “oh, he doesn’t get that, he’s just a basic.” I asked what happened, and the trainer replied “You were about to get some stuff you’re not entitled to.” Do you think that experience made me felt as though I’d want to become loyal to that hotel – especially since I held elite status in two of its competitors at the time?
I think the frustration with the Web, and the resulting increase in travelers willing to consider working with traditional agencies, is related to technology, as well as Web site design and a desire for more attention and context.
The travel planning and booking process today is nearly the same as it was 10 years ago, when I joined Forrester. The way availability information is presented is, likewise, also very similar to the way we presented information a decade ago. We don’t have shopping processes that reflect “non-traditional” methods, such as helping customers discover destinations or properties based on criteria like their budget, a theme like beach or family-friendly, or how they want to feel when they’re on that trip.
We do a terrible job of educating the traveler so he or she can make a well-informed decision. Do customers really understand the differences between your different room types or rate types? If not, regardless of what they opt for, they may always wonder “was there anything that this hotel offers that is “more right” for me?” This is why written and visual content is so important.