Travelzoo®, a global publisher of exclusive offers and experiences for members joined forces with the world’s largest travel conference, ITB Berlin, for an exclusive global research study on the subject of consumer trust.

Europeans are disappointed with how travel brands have handled bookings and communication during the pandemic. According to the study, fewer people now trust travel brands and airlines in the UK, Germany, and France than before the pandemic. The USA and China however are in stark contrast to this, with many saying they trust both travel brands and airlines more now.

Slow refunds, lengthy customer service responses, and unclear information have all led to frustrated holidaymakers during the last 12 months.

In the UK, trust in the travel industry has suffered. Twenty-four percent of respondents say they trust the companies in the industry less now than before the pandemic. In contrast, there is a far greater propensity to trust travel brands in the USA and China, where confidence has increased by 47% (USA) and 49% (China).

The pandemic thwarted the travel plans of a third of the global respondents last year, with 31% saying their holiday experiences were negatively affected by issues with cancellation or refunds during the pandemic. However almost half (49%) were able to rebook without any problems or got their money back. Only 19% travelled as planned. Within the UK, 33% had unresolvable issues with their holiday bookings, 54% were able to refund or amend, and just 13% made it on their trips.

The global study asked whether trustworthiness is the single most important trait a person or a company can have and 83% of respondents affirmed this belief. The older generations were more likely to strongly agree with this statement, with 55% of the 55-64 age groups, versus just 37% of the under-24s strongly agreeing.

For the travel industry, the trust factor opens up new opportunities as many holidaymakers globally are willing to spend more money for services they know they can trust. Worldwide, 75% of the respondents agree with this statement. In the UK, however, the numbers were far lower. In fact, Brits are the least likely to want to pay more for the certainty they could trust a brand’s services or goods.

What concrete measures do consumers now want for booking confidence? The most important is a money-back guarantee or the possibility of being able to rebook without issue. This sentiment indicates that tour operators are on the right track with new flexible terms and pricing being created in the travel industry right now. With these tariff options, consumers can usually rebook or cancel free of charge up to about two weeks before departure.

Further survey data points for the UK market are summarised below:

  • 52% of respondents had booked a holiday. Of these, 33% had negative experiences with rebooking or money-back demands. 54% were able to rebook without any problems or got their money back. 13% were able to travel as planned
  • 24% now trust travel providers less than before the pandemic, while 18% trust them more. Trust in airlines has suffered, too, with 26% of Brits saying they now trust airlines less
  • When booking a holiday during normal circumstances (not during the pandemic), 61% of Brits seek the assurance of cash refunds if the trip is cancelled. This was followed by: ABTA/ATOL protection (60%), protection against flight cancellation (56%), alternative accommodation if what’s provided isn’t as expected (42%), voucher/credit note refunds if trip is cancelled (27%)