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Published on Friday, November 15, 2019

Dispelling the myths of customer loyalty in travel

Tony Bean, founder and director of Vamoos, examines the misconceptions surrounding customer loyalty in the travel industry.


With the recent sad demise of Thomas Cook, loyalty in the travel sector has become a hot topic. The third largest package holiday provider attempted to address some of the issues it was facing by trying to increase loyalty among customers, and attracting new people to the brand towards the end of this summer - but unfortunately it didn't adapt fast enough. So, why have so many operators been taking loyalty for granted?

We recently published a research report on customer loyalty in the travel Industry and we found that there are a slew of misconceptions around what inspires customer loyalty in travel. As part of our research we spoke to both tour operators and travellers in the collation of our data - after all, it's only by seeing the issue from both sides that we can really get to the bottom of what drives a customer to rebook, and what a tour operator can do to convince them. The research revealed that 81% of travel operators think they have loyal customers, yet only 51% of their customers agree.

What we found really interesting was how our fast-paced, always-on lifestyles are now affecting every single aspect of life - even our holidays and approach to booking, including the build-up, during our holiday, and our return. If previously operators had overestimated loyalty, it may have been down to the fact that providing a good holiday experience should be relatively straightforward. You do your very best to provide a top-notch customer experience and help people fulfil their travel dreams. Happy travellers coming back home with smiles on their faces and stories to tell about their adventures. You've got yourself some customers for life there, right? However, our research showed that operators (95%) are actually unaware of the stress levels that customers experience both before, during and after the holiday, as well as which aspects of their holiday experience proved most stressful. Only 26% accurately predicted how people felt during the booking process and only 5% of tour operators were aware that their customers felt stressed when they return home from their trip.

When asked why customers felt stressed, tour operators thought it was due because they worried about big issues and concerns such as strike action or terrorists - things out of their control. However, we found that customers are more worried about things like plane sickness, getting the right times and dates, getting the right amount of currency, or getting through airport security.

So what should operators be focusing on? It's time to start understanding our customers more and focusing on the entire trip process - not just getting customers to book and hoping that they have a great experience and return home happy. Chances are, operators can ensure that the actual holiday itself is good - but by showing that they understand how customers are feeling at every stage at a personal level (for example, our research found that women felt more stressed than men at every stage), being empathetic and even helping alleviate stress where possible, is where value can really be added and loyalty gained. Things like providing to-do lists, reminders, alarms, relaxation techniques etc. may seem very simple but it's the small things that make a big difference, and the operators that understand this will not just maintain customer relationships, but grow and benefit from true customer loyalty.


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