The travel industry has got it wrong. Instead of relying on the current online #savetravel campaign, it needs to regain the trust of holidaymakers by putting out a clearer safety message, says risk expert.
THE response to the coronavirus from the travel industry has been weak, according to a risk and security expert.
Giving his verdict on the messaging during the ongoing crisis, Lloyd Figgins of the TRIP Group, said that the focus had been to save travel rather than on safe travel.
The hospitality industry has “gone out of its way to demonstrate safety”, he said, while travel has emphasised saving itself.
This approach will gain little sympathy from holidaymakers who have suffered delayed refunds and faced higher fares and scrambles to airports to get back home when quarantines were announced. Add to this examples of airlines not enforcing mask wearing or blocking seats to enforce for social distancing and telling customers to expect price increases next year.
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Speaking at the LATA Expo 2020 virtual conference Mr Figgins said the online #savetravel campaign was led by journalists and PR specialists who were not experts in medicine, epidemiology, security or quarantine.
He said: “I fully understand the travel industry has been suffering, and suffering really badly. But #savetravel has been put out by the travel industry for the travel industry. We have got to understand the travel industry doesn’t function unless it has people getting on ships, and planes and trains and actually travelling.
“The only way that we are actually going to save travel is by making sure our messaging is different from what it currently is. It’s fine having a hashtag saying save travel but if tour operators delay refunds and are not giving people the refunds they are legally entitled to then people are going to be less reluctant to save travel.
“Equally, when airlines increase their fares in response to quarantine as we saw when France went into quarantine and they said you are going to have to quarantine for 14 days when returning to the UK – and there are lots of other countries where they did that – and airlines, in some cases, raised their fares by 500 per cent and again people become less sympathetic to the travel industry so #savetravel doesn’t get the credence as it should.
“Then travellers are told that in order to pay for the decline of the travel industry in 2020 they can expect price increases and again it doesn’t do too much for consumer confidence.
“And then we hear that tour operators are not enforcing safety protocols – the aircraft coming back from various places – where cabin crew are not enforcing the wearing of masks: really, really simple things that they should be doing, so again people are less likely to subscribe to save travel. Then we’ve got airlines recently, deliberately choosing not to distance passengers. And by this time consumer confidence has already gone.
“You’d be much better off having an appropriate messaging saying ‘safe travel’ and focusing your solutions and messaging on safe travel.”
In his presentation he urged the travel industry to look for solutions such as Emirates and Qatar Airways who are already advertising safer journeys.
He said: “Safety sells and it really does, and this time more than any other, safety will sell because if you can demonstrate to your customers that you are putting in procedures designed to keep them safer they are more likely to go with your than one of your competitors but you must see it through.”