How can we maintain trust in the travel industry’s use of digital technology?

October 23, 2019

Innovation is booming in the travel industry, with companies harnessing technologies to do all they can to create the best possible experience for their customers. However, with reports of data breaches, listening smart tech and fraudulent activity, some consumers may be concerned about their privacy.

So, how can travel companies dispel worries, build trust and maintain loyalty with their customers, as technology becomes an increasingly important part of industry innovation?

 

Concerns over new technologies and data handling

Despite the convenience and personalisation that technology delivers to consumers, we have seen an increasing number of events that are causing them to call into question the reliability of using it. Perhaps most notably, the topic of digital trust really came to the forefront in the wake of Cambridge Analytica, with this revelation acting as a catalyst for ‘techlash’.  

There have been a rising number of incidents in the travel industry too. Lion Air and British Airways are just two of the latest travel companies to succumb to cybercrime; losing personal information from their customers in the process. Not only is this reputably damaging amongst customers, it’s a big hit financially – with British Airways being slapped with a record fine of £183m for the breach of its security systems. We’ve also seen issues arise over the general trust of tech giants, including reports of devices listening into conversations and using algorithms to up prices on holidays to returning customers. Being able to book a holiday online at the click of a button has also led to a spike in fraudulent activity, such as fake hotels and apartments that are conning people out of thousands.

As with other retail sectors, from high-street banking to clothes shopping, there will be consumers – particularly those who aren’t from the digital native generation – who sometimes  opt for a face-to-face engagement over fears with transacting online. However, physical  travel agents can face similar challenges to their online counterparts. In fact, the travel industry is susceptible to an immense amount of fraud overall – our report found that the impact of fraud on travel agents is expected to exceed $25 billion by 2020.

 

Building trust amongst consumers

As technology plays an increasingly important role in creating a better travel experience, brands should also consider how to use it as an adavtange to build trust with customers and counteract any of their concerns. In a recent report, McKinsey and Company identified that there are two main components that companies should have to ease customers’ worries over digital technologies: mechanical trust and relational trust.

From a relationship perspective, it’s important that brands are accountable and transparent with their customers to mitigate trust and privacy concerns, which starts with communicating how data is collected, who has access to it, why it’s used, and the benefits these will all deliver to consumers.

McKinsey surmises that mechanical trust relates to the idea that ‘if a system is secure and performs predictably, individuals will be more willing to use it’. Both online and brick and mortar travel companies therefore need to have this mindset at the core of the products and services being developed, using technological innovation to shore up their business processes and mitigate potential cyberthreats. This will help build trust and loyalty amongst their customers, not apprehension.

For example, we know that increased demand for far flung holiday destinations and, consequently, suppliers dotted throughout the world, has led to an increase of fake hotels online, duping both travel companies and their customers. But travel agencies can use virtual cards to decrease the risk of fraud and help recover from it too. eNett’s Virtual Account Numbers (VANs) allow users to define booking and payment parameters, minimising the risk of fraud when paying travel suppliers located across the world. They also offer sophisticated chargeback capabilities, meaning funds may be recovered should fraud occur.

Like any industry, travel and tourism will continue to face challenges as consumer demand for convenience, personalisation and choice increases. However, travel companies can turn fear over digital technologies on its head, building trust through a combination of tools and best practice rules. As the saying goes, the best defence is a good offence.

 

ENDS

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