Customers will demand greater flexibility from suppliers and more awareness of when their money is changing hands following the fall-out from the coronavirus crisis.
Simon Jeffries, head of product and commercial at luxury tour operator Carrier, said he believes the pandemic could be the “catalyst for fundamental changes” in the travel industry, believing payment procedures would likely be one of them.
Speaking on a webcast with Travel Weekly sister title Aspire, Jeffries said he believed some consumers would have felt “their money has been sometimes misappropriated”, while also pointing out that some suppliers, such as hotels, will have felt “their hands have been burnt” too.
He said he believed that as a result there could be changes made to the payment chain in the future, with clients likely to demand more flexibility.
“Clients will be more aware of where their money is going and when their money is exchanging hands,” he said. “I think that’s something that might come out within all this – the payment chain within travel.”
He said suppliers were approaching operators asking for prepayment, but he insisted Carrier would do what’s right for the agent and their customer, arguing that suppliers needed to consider consumer sentiment before making sure demands.
“The customer has become so aware of how their money has been sometimes misappropriated or maybe already spent before they’ve even travelled. Actually their desire is going to be for more flexibility on payment.”
He said flexible models already existing with many OTAs and bedbanks, citing Booking.com’s options which allow customers to book and pay immediately for one rate or pay more to book on check-in.
He added: “There will be fundamental changes that happen as a result of Covid-19.
“We’ll all remember these days as being the catalyst for some change in the industry and I think payment procedures might be one of them. I’d be lying though if I said we have a strategy for that in place yet though that – we’ve captured it and documented it and when the time is right we’ll look at the way we approach it and how we can do it in the best interest of our customers and the agents we’re booking on behalf of.”
Ross Pakes, Abercrombie & Kent’s director of product and commercial, agreed that clients would demand greater flexibility. He also expects clients to place more importance and focus on trust, safety, sanitation and the reputation of the company they travel with.
He said things “they probably took for granted before will be absolutely at the forefront of their minds”.
“We’ve got to protect our clients and our businesses,” he insisted. “You’ve got to react quickly and you’ve got to be flexible because my theory is that things will open and close and they will continue to change as the pandemic plays out.”
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