When it comes to retail, aka ‘being sold stuff’, our everyday consciousness has never been more disrupted by an endless barrage of ‘Crazy deals!’ ‘Hot offers’, ‘Massive savings!’ And “Hurry! Must end immediately!” moments of next level anxiety-inducing guilt-tripping.
Throw in the proverbial free set of steak knives, or in travel’s case a 90-minute ‘heavenly’ massage for two, a ‘luxe’ room upgrade and free use of non-motorised watersports, and many of us are all eyes and ears.
“78 other people are also looking at this deal right now?” ARRGHH! Book it immediately!
Like the old saying goes “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is”, common sense (sometimes) tells us that many of these so-called incredible deals are so seemingly incredible that in actual fact, they’re not that credible at all once you do a little bit of digging into the terms and conditions.
So while booking travel has always been an irrational and emotional kicker (the bucket list dream), it is still usually the rational element (the price and deal) that gets people over the line to cough up their hard-earned spondoolies.
Which is where it gets rather murky in the world of travel.
It’s no secret that certain online travel businesses have been purposely ‘hiding the airfare deets’ from customers for years, baffling travellers with a raft of airline conditions and carefully hidden information. Do we even need a reminder here?
“Yes, your flight does have two 19-hour layovers and will take you three times as long as a direct flight to get there but there is a $100 saving.”
This is totally fine, of course, if you are not in a rush and happy to blow the $100 you saved in the airports you’ll be spending all that layover time in.
But this is often the flight quote that then gets waived in agents faces accompanied by those four chilling words “CAN YOU BEAT THIS?”
Cue eye-rolling and a 5-minute explanation of the wholistic virtues of booking with an agent. Again.
Surely it’s time to bring back Virgin Blue’s famous ‘Keeping the air fair’ campaign? That kind of nailed the sentiment here.
Because in recent years, the touring and ‘deal’ space has literally jumped on board too, with ‘Amazing value’ flash-sale exclusive packages that were normally ‘typically priced’ at prices that never existed in the first place.
It’s the old retail classic ‘Was $XXX, Now $XXX! – Save 70%!’ sale approach that gets all of our bargain brain receptors going and has become popular with the so-called disruptors of the industry everyone bangs on about in the weekend papers.
If you’re buying purely on price, you’d probably be interested. Besides, no-one is going to check where the ‘Was’ price came from anyway and the conditions are online, so it’s all good apparently as you’ll likely never read them. But is it really all good in the long term? And where does this leave the industry?
Just ask Dennis Bunnik, CATO Chairman and GM of Bunnik Tours who recently launched his own backlash ad against ‘Bargain tours’.
In today’s era of fake news, scams and blatant lies primarily online and in Social media, what we’re all crying out for is someone (anyone) who’s authentic and bold enough to say “Hey we’re not hiding anything here from you. We want to be 100% honest with you on price and inclusions so that you can have an amazing and truly stress-free holiday with your loved ones.”
Flight Centre (FC) has copped some heat in recent days thanks to their $250,000 ACCC fine “for allegedly misleading customers about the conditions of its holiday period promotions”, and many have been quick to stick the boot in again (as per usual).
If you missed the sting, the nuts and bolts of this were that FC offered $250 vouchers to customers via digital screens in-store and newspaper advertisements for customers who spent at least $1,500 on holiday packages with them.
The vouchers could be redeemed when booking their next holiday. The problem was FC failed to mention that customers had to book an even more expensive holiday valued at more than $5,000, to redeem the voucher.
Flight Centre has since waived the $5000 fee (it affected 35,000 people) but will still naturally gather a ton of negative sentiment out there which given the wider bending of the rules from so many other players out there, does seem a tad unfair.
Whether or not the ACCC follow up with other travel companies bending the rules is another story. But don’t wait for that one.
Better to be on the front foot and be 100% transparent with your customers to build that trust they crave by pointing out upfront the perils and pitfalls of bargain travel and so-called cheap deals along the way.
The bottom line is that when you build credibility with customers through transparency and genuine care for individual’s ‘travel wellbeing’ you’ll be the one they want to return to next time AND tell others about.
After all, people buy from people they trust.
It’s that authenticity that we need in travel and indeed the world right now in general.
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