The travel industry needs to take action to repair some “reputational damage” caused by the refunds crisis during the pandemic.
Tony Wheble, chairman of reviews site Feefo, told the Virtual ITT Conference Forum there was “going to be a demand bounce” as the Covid-19 crisis eases later in the year.
But he added the industry had to take measures to “improve consumer trust” after some holidaymakers had to wait months for refunds after cancelling their trips due to the virus.
“There’s a huge dam of pent-up demand that’s going to smash through and it’s going to be a boon for the industry,” said Wheble. “We expect it at some point this year but don’t know when. You need to be prepared for the bounce.
“But we have to exercise a degree of caution – we must be careful not to mask some of the challenges the industry faces. Damaged trust could be a factor, and you need to be ready and capable of addressing this if you’re going to have a healthy business.”
Wheble added that while some travel companies had introduced “absolutely superb” processes to deal with refunds, the overall picture was “a mixed bag” and the industry had suffered “some reputational damage”.
“The whole sector needs to communicate and behave more consistently to improve consumer trust,” he argued.
“Consumers may have lost a bit of faith in the industry and there’s a little bit of fatigue about booking holidays with all the rebooking, amending and cancelling of holidays. This might delay bookings.
“We need to jointly rebuild that trust collectively as a sector that will benefit all. It’s almost a call to arms for the sector. Put consumers firmly at the centre of everybody’s business and listen to that feedback.”