Demonstrate old-fashioned virtues and you’ll earn consumers’ trust, says Giles Hawke, chief executive of Cosmos and Avalon Waterways, and chairman of Atas

Call me old-fashioned, but the investigation by consumer group Which? into promotional pricing by a few operators, published this month, got me thinking about some extremely valuable, but sometimes overlooked, virtues.

Words like trust, integrity, honesty and fairness can often be overused or misused. However, in a fast-changing and uncertain world, these sorts of values will come to the fore more when customers are looking at their holiday options.

Kuoni, Virgin Holidays, Sandals, Expedia, and Inghams were named in the Which? Travel analysis, which found holiday prices continued to fall after special discount periods ended.

Show integrity

Price misrepresentation, data breaches, economic volatility, financial failures, excessive choice and inadequate insight – all these factors are liable to drive consumers towards companies that hold ‘traditional’ values and probably have some degree of heritage to back it all up.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t a place for cheap deals or for new players, or even that long-established businesses are a better or safer bet.

But what is becoming increasingly key for consumers is that they know they have got a fair price at the time they book, that they won’t be lied to, and that travel companies will treat them as human beings with integrity in all their dealings with them.

Booking a simple flight and maybe a hotel can be very easy over the internet. However, when holidaymakers are looking for a more complex or higher‑value holiday, they are more likely to turn to your business if it exhibits these preferred traits.

In the past at Cosmos and Avalon Waterways, we’ve had customer feedback saying that they wanted to know the best time to book, that they didn’t want to see their holiday heavily discounted after they had bought it and they wanted assurances they would be looked after if their plans changed or something went wrong on holiday.

Stay competitive

Doing the ‘right thing’ has become a core way of working at Cosmos and Avalon. But we are not alone in taking this type of approach and I am convinced that successful travel companies will all be doing similar things in the future to retain a competitive edge. It will also help ensure that what customers write about us in social media and on review sites is positive and supportive.

I’m not suggesting how we conduct our business is absolutely perfect. We are, however, trying very hard to do the right things for our customers and agent partners with a view that this will be of benefit to both us and our customers in the long term. Sure, things may not always go the way we intend them to, but we will quickly adapt and learn if we keep these sorts of values at the centre of our business.

So, if wanting your business to live by these virtues is old-fashioned, then I am happy to be given that label.

Now, where’s my pipe and slippers?