Nearly half (46%) of travellers cannot remember which online travel agency (OTA) they used to book their last leisure trip, according to the Modern Retail Study, a new independent research commissioned by Travelport.
This new research study, in partnership with Toluna Research, is to better understand the current online travel retailing landscape and identify gaps in travellers’ shopping experiences among thousands of leisure and business travellers around the world.
Over 3,000 travellers from Japan, Saudi Arabia, and the US were surveyed.
Modern retailing demands stellar, memorable experiences
The study results revealed important factors that contribute to brand recall for OTAs, such as the experience of booking. Of all travellers surveyed that could recall the last OTA they booked with, the vast majority (78%) ranked the experience as ‘above average’ or ‘excellent’. While most travellers from the US do not have a preferred OTA (55%), many travellers in Saudi Arabia (63%) and Japan (70%) say they do have a favourite travel site.
Of those travellers that do have a preferred OTA, factors such as ‘a wider range of options’ have fuelled loyalty in Saudi Arabia (54%), the US (51%) and Japan (38%). OTAs are also winning over travellers in Japan with personalised experiences (45%), as well as the ability to ‘easily navigate the site’ in Saudi Arabia (42%) and in the US (40%).
“As one of the first sectors to go digital many years ago, the travel industry has a strong history of innovation,” said Jen Catto, chief marketing officer for Travelport. “However, travellers’ digital expectations have rapidly evolved, far surpassing current travel retailing capabilities.
“Prioritising the needs of our customers to better serve their customers is our priority – agencies need more choice, clear comparison shopping, and easy ways to manage experiences like exchanges. While price is important, these value-add factors create an ‘excellent’ modern retailing experience that stands out and earns loyalty.”
Customers are less price sensitive
Historically, OTAs have been trying to compete on one factor alone – price – but that is not what customers need to remember the experience. Of the travellers who cannot remember the last OTA they used, nearly half (44%) ranked their last experience as ‘poor,’ or ‘below average’. In certain parts of the world, where many travellers in Saudi Arabia (60%) and the US (60%) were shown to be the most forgetful of specific OTA brands they have used, and there was a significant 19 and 27 percentage point gap between recall and an ‘above average’ experience, respectively.
The study indicates that OTAs may be less distinguishable because they have been focusing on the wrong things. While there is a heavy focus on price, that has likely come at the expense of other experience factors that travellers care about when booking a trip. As travellers are using OTA sites for research and comparison, the survey revealed there is a missed opportunity for bookings as the majority of travellers do not follow through with booking car (67%) or air travel (55%), and 36% do not book their hotel accommodations on OTA sites. However, travellers also shared that the ability to ‘book everything at once’ is one of the most important reasons for using an OTA.
Business travellers are even less engaged
Even with the majority (78%) of business travellers collectively bound by corporate policy, the research finds that 99% of employees do not know the name of the travel management company (TMC) they use to book business trips.
Looking deeper into the potential causes, the survey found that most business travellers (69%) find the options provided as ‘undesirable’ while 46% want more choice, 38% lack confidence overall in their TMC booking and 35% want business trip options that support their well-being.