Survey Says: Growing Consumer Dissatisfaction with OTA's, Supplier Websites.
(Dive Travel Business News - April 9, 2012) -- Of the more than 2,000 business and leisure travelers surveyed by the IBM Institute for Business Value and its research partner, Frost & Sullivan in their report entitled "Travel 2020: The Distribution Dilemma," researchers said that while most travelers see value as most important in travel, less than half of leisure and business travelers believe they're getting a fair value for their travel dollar when they book online. The report's authors determined the underlying dissatisfaction with most online travel intermediaries - Online Travel Agencies and Online Supplier Booking Engines - is based on their focus on price instead of value.
The study suggests that traditional agents, by providing the kind of personalized customer service that is lacking with OTAs and on supplier sites, can pick up market share as travel spending continues to rebound. Growing consumer dissatisfaction with online travel agencies (OTAs) and suppliers' websites suggests that traditional dive travel specialists and dive wholesalers can thrive in this arena because of customer service and ongoing connection to their clients. The study found that technology has hindered customer service at least as much as it has helped, because travel suppliers have turned increasingly to automation and away from human sales reps to fulfill travel orders, support questions and advocate for clients.
This is not the first report to identify dissatisfaction among online travel bookers.
Atmosphere Research Group's fourth-quarter 2011 survey of 5,058 online leisure travelers in the U.S. found that 69% said they enjoyed online travel planning and booking, but just 54% believed that travel websites presented clear information.
Henry Harteveldt, principal analyst at Atmosphere, said, "The problems that my research identified as far back as 2008 exist today. Major travel websites, including both OTAs and suppliers, have failed to innovate the planning and booking processes. I'm concerned about the complacency that exists among too many travel providers regarding their e-commerce strategies and websites. That complacency, however, creates opportunity for smart travel agency owners and executives," Harteveldt said.
According to Steve Peterson, the global travel and transportation leader for the IBM Institute for Business Value and lead author of the report, consumer migration to Online Travel Agency and Supplier websites for lower prices has also resulted in a decrease in customer service. "The extra work travelers have to do to compensate for the work travel agents once performed is exacting a toll on traveler satisfaction," said Peterson.
The study's conclusions are timely because the growth in online travel bookings over the past decade is showing no signs of slowing. By next year, U.S. leisure travelers will have booked $39.2 billion in travel reservations, up 44% from 2009, travel research firm PhoCusWright said in a report late last year.
Image: Courtesy IBM Institute for Business Value
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