Amadeus Survey: Agents Must Build Brand Loyalty

Future travel customers will be more informed, savvy and discerning about resources and destinations than ever before, Amadeus says in a new survey of travel professionals. These customers will have higher expectations and be more demanding in terms of service, according to the survey. One conclusion: agencies must work harder to build brand loyalty online and offline. 

Experts surveyed by Amadeus say consistency between promise and delivery and the quality of user experience are vital to building brand loyalty online or offline. Effective promotion and customer word-of-mouth reports are also considered vital to achieving the goal.  

Amadeus polled 30 executives and travel-industry leaders, plus 2,719 travel professionals to pinpoint trends accelerated by the economic downturn. The findings are revealed and explained in The Amateur-Expert Traveler.  

Those polled say access to user reviews and other information on the Internet means travelers will expect more personalized service from travel agencies. And, with more information at their fingertips, customers will become more adventurous with destinations. 

Amadeus asked the expert panel about the significance of user reviews to brand loyalty and learned that 73 percent believe user-generated reviews are a positive force while only 13 percent see these customer reviews as a threat to brand reputation.

Travel professionals taking part in an online survey backed up the expert. Car rental agencies led the field, with 42 percent saying user reviews can improve brand loyalty online while 39 percent of online travel agencies see these reviews as a plus, with fewer than one in five regarding them as a threat.

Overall, the Amadeus survey suggested that word-of-mouth and effective promotion are somewhat more important online, but building an emotional connection with a brand may be more significant for offline agencies.

Amadeus also believes the recession may have accelerated the global economy’s shift toward Eastern countries and this may correlate with a dramatic upswing in travelers from those nations. 

The top three global travel destinations currently are France, Spain and the U.S.. But that’s expected to change. Travel industry experts forecast that by 2020, China will edge out Spain to join the U.S. and France as leading vacation and business travel destinations.  Additionally, growing middle classes in Brazil, Russia, India and China — the BRIC economies—will lead to a dramatic increase in travel customers from those countries.  

Developing countries also play a greater role as a source of tourists and business travelers. For example, tourism from China grew an average of 27 percent annually between 2002 and 2008. Experts say growth will continue after the recession.