Survey: Travelers satisfied with industry management of the pandemic so far
Tuesday, April 07, 2020
It’s a very tough time to be a hotel or an airline. However, as travelers and travel suppliers wrangle with the impact the coronavirus crisis is having on their personal and professional lives, a survey conducted by J.D. Power finds that the travel industry is getting positive feedback from consumers who seem to approve of the way these different factions of the travel industry are handling the daily crises at hand.
The survey of 1,633 past-year business and/or leisure travelers conducted during the first comprehensive wave of travel cancellations, reveals that 60% of travelers believe hoteliers, cruise lines and airlines have shown concern for the health and safety of the traveling public. Only 33% of travelers felt the industry has not been doing enough to help consumers protect themselves from illness while on the road.
In general, the more often consumers traveled, the better they felt about the industry’s response to the crisis.
Weighing the Travel Industry Response
For consumers, the importance of canceling travel plans to hunker down and follow directives from authorities and engage in social distancing, the potential penalties associated with last-minute cancellations run top of mind. Travelers are particularly concerned about getting full refunds for prepaid (or non-cancellable) flights or hotel stays, followed by the waiving of change or cancellation fees.
For the most part, the industry appears to have been responsive. More than half of the travelers surveyed believe travel suppliers are meeting or exceeding expectations on cancellation policies. Still, four in 10 believe that travel suppliers could be doing better on this front.
Customer Communication Chaos
In the midst of this unprecedented public health event, lack of information has emerged as one of the biggest sources of frustration and concern for both business and leisure travelers. Effective customer communication about measures to optimize the hygiene of planes and hotel rooms has therefore been a critical factor in reassuring travelers through the crisis.
Here, the perceptions of travel suppliers are somewhat mixed. While a majority of travelers (65%) believe that travel suppliers have provided a good level of information about cleaning procedures, one in four indicate travel suppliers are not meeting their expectations for information about how they manage indoor air quality.
Plotting the Pandemic Trajectory
As the country has elevated its response to the crisis, the attitude of travelers surveyed has been somewhat sanguine. Consumers anticipate a beginning, middle and an end to the pandemic, and once the lifecycle is complete, plans for both business and leisure travel are expected to be put back on the books.
J.D. Power’s Travel Business Intelligence leaders observed similar positive attitudes about travel post-Sept. 11, 2001. Thus, it is imperative for travel suppliers to take the long view in weathering the current storm.
“Travel suppliers have done a good job showing they are not tone-deaf to travelers’ concerns. While the large hotel chains and airlines have focused on communicating messages of reassurance, the policies each sector has implemented are somewhat inconsistent and downright confusing. This is especially true for cancellation policies,” says Andrea Stokes, practice lead for hospitality at J.D. Power.
“This is not the time to nickel and dime customers on issues like refunds, penalties and waiveable fees. Our advice is to keep these policies straightforward without exceptions and qualifiers,” says Michael Taylor, practice lead for travel at J.D. Power. “This will go a long way in generating trust among customers once the pandemic wanes and travel is permissible again.”
As with previous black swan events — including 9/11 and the 2008 bank crash — Taylor notes that those travel suppliers who score high on customer satisfaction going into a downturn will be the first to rise back as pent-up demand returns to the market on the other side of the crisis.
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