A recent GlobalData poll has revealed a shift in consumer preference towards booking vacations directly, instead of going through an online travel agency (OTA).
A total of 39% of respondents said they would typically book directly, followed by 17% that opted for OTAs and price comparison sites. The company notes that this shift is no surprise, given the flexible cancellation and straightforward refund policies offered by direct booking.
“The pandemic has caused a significant shift in consumer booking habits,” said Gus Gardner, associate travel and tourism analyst, GlobalData. “A previous survey in Q3 2019 showed that OTAs were the most popular booking option, followed by direct booking with a hotel or airline. However, some OTAs have been extremely slow to issue refunds and have received a raft of bad press as a result. This has knocked travelers’ confidence to book through intermediaries.”
He added, “Direct booking channels are likely to have experienced an increase in popularity due to the fragility of booking a trip in the current situation. Travelers now desire the highest level of flexibility, and it is no wonder that direct booking channels’ flexible terms, easy changes and quick refunds are winning travelers over. Further, the ability to make changes online places the power back into the traveler’s hands and streamlines the whole process. By booking directly, the traveler cuts out the middleman, considerably speeds up the change/refund process, and increases their satisfaction.”
Some OTAs have been slow to issue refunds, and the negative press received has not helped traveler confidence, according the company.
“Confidence in OTAs’ ability to issue refunds has quickly dented confidence,” said Gardner. “The slow responses have been incredibly frustrating and have resulted in a slight shift away from this booking method.”