Only a fifth of people prefer to book holidays in person through a travel agent, new research reveals.
Two thirds of consumers are choosing to buy holidays online, with a fifth booking over the phone and the same proportion with an agent.
Consumers want travel brands to provide value for money (59%), as well as ease of use (58%) and good customer services (58%), according to research conducted by the Direct Marketing Association, with partners Emarsys, Epsilon, Feefo and Wiraya.
But travel brands are not delivering fully on consumer demands. Customers simply want to feel more like brands ‘Do not lie to me’, with a 19% difference for airlines, 18% for online booking sites and 18% for accommodation brands.
Areas for airlines to improve upon are highlighted as being customer service and value for money.
For online booking sites, these areas are using data responsibly and value for money. For accommodation brands, these are doing business fairly and being genuine.
The top reasons consumers remained loyal to brands in the sector repeat similar themes of good service experience (53%) and good deals (40%), with the addition of a good loyalty or a rewards scheme (40%).
Exceptional service helps keep travel customers loyal, with four in ten saying they choose ‘friendly and welcoming’ hotels.
Rewards also further cement loyalty, with 42% would stick with an airline because of a loyalty scheme.
More than half of consumers (52%) are willing to use a chatbot to help with pre-travel or booking questions, such as asking an airline for flight details.
Augmented and virtual reality presents a new potential channel for travel brands to engage customers, with more 53% interested in using a virtual reality headset to see a hotel room they are considering staying in.
Once in the airport, 51% of consumers would also be open to sharing their data in order to receive mobile alerts about boarding directions and timings when in an airport. In addition, 44% would like to use augmented reality to get information about the sites or attractions they visit.
Ultimately, from meeting customer demands on function and ethics, to adopting overt loyalty schemes, to embracing the latest technologies, travel brands have the opportunity to connect with their audience like never before.
Marketers need to communicate values of good ethics, customer rewards and technological innovation in their campaigns – while meeting the high functional demands of consumers in this “emotionally-charged” sector, according to the study.
DMA managing director Rachel Aldighieri said: “Holiday travel is both an exciting and stressful experience, with the chance for distrust and caution to arise in the customer’s mind.
“Brands that can empathise with customers’ needs at whatever stage of their holiday journey and create communications that reflect their needs will have the potential to build stronger relationships in the long run.”