Get the message out that travel sector is reputable and reliable, says Giles Hawke, chief executive of Cosmos and chairman of Atas
Trust has never been a more important or rare commodity than in the world in which we live today. Fake news, email scams, misinformation, media manipulation, world leaders saying one thing and meaning another, broken promises and disproven ‘facts’.
All of these things leave consumers wondering what and whom to believe. The things we once took for granted as dependable seem to be shifting, and solid foundations seem to be crumbling. Even in our own industry there are challenges around trust, such as bonding confusion; airline, travel agent and tour operator failures; and the occasional case of fraud.
But I believe that, in travel, we have a very good story to talk about. And we can maintain consumer confidence in the products and services we offer if we are clear in articulating and backing up our promises with real action.
Above and beyond
Every time there is a travel crisis, our trade press reports on amazing acts of customer service on the part of individual travel agencies and tour operators – delivering passports by hand, rebooking flights, helping next of kin and being available on the end of a phone in the middle of the night. These are good-news stories that we should celebrate and share more widely with our existing and potential customers.
If I think back to the Icelandic ash cloud a few years ago, most tour operators worked together to get people back home even if they weren’t obliged to do so. I was on my own family ski holiday at the time and our tour operator (Mark Warner) put us up for an extra night and then provided a coach to get all guests back from the French Alps to London, which was more than what was expected.
Assistance like this shows that our industry cares and has trust at the heart of it. Travel is one of the few products you buy where you may not actually see or experience what you’ve bought until months later. Consumers are putting a high level of trust in us. And to back it all up we have Abta, Atol, trust funds and package travel regulations, all of which add cast-iron stamps of security.
The onus is on us to shout about all of this in a world where many other constants are no longer there. If we can go out to consumers with a strong message that our companies and industry are reputable, respectable and reliable, we might restore some of the faith in a world where people are looking for someone to trust.
It is all too easy for travel companies to get a bad review when something goes wrong. But it is up to us to talk about all the good things we do – as operators and agents – to look after our customers and earn their long-term trust through our actions.
Forget whether you’d trust a politician or an estate agent. We need to get the level of trust for a travel professional up there in the 90s, along with nurses and doctors.
The opportunity is there for us. So let’s keep delivering amazing holidays and shouting about what we do and why we can offer trust levels equivalent to those good people of the NHS.
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