The travel industry is a victim of its own success; as the sector grows, with more than 1.1 billion people now travelling each year globally, so too do the opportunities for fraudsters to take advantage of vulnerable consumers.
Add to the mix increased internet penetration and usage, and the subsequent explosion in online travel companies, and it’s never been easier to book a holiday. And as consumers become more comfortable making web purchases, so they are less vigilant in their security checks, giving opportunist thieves a captive audience with their too-good-to-be-true offers.
The increasingly complex demographic make-up of the travel booking community is also adding fuel to the fire.
Generation Y – the group of highly influential consumers born roughly between 1977 and 1997 (aged 18 to 38) – is the fastest growing demographic in the world from a workplace and marketplace perspective.
It’s a mobile ‘on-the-go’ generation living in a digital world where researching and booking travel online, through OTAs and a multitude of social media channels, is second nature.
The younger ‘Millennials’ as they are known will not have grown up using bricks-and-mortar agents, with most accustomed to doing their own dynamic packaging online, often unaware of the perils they will face if something goes wrong.
In short, it’s likely they won’t have heard of ABTA and what protection and peace-of-mind booking with an ABTA agent or operator will offer them.
Now’s the time for ABTA to step up its efforts to target Generation Y, launching awareness campaigns that speak their language; innovative digital-led strategies that grab their attention.
It’s a task the association’s new head of brand and business development, Victoria Bacon, will be tackling as part of ABTA’s on-going ‘Travel with confidence’ campaign.
In an interview with TDUK featured this week, Bacon argued that ABTA-protected agents and operators are popular with many young people, but conceded that more needed to be done to highlight to this demographic the benefits of booking with members.
“Part of this will be to explain the protection on offer, but the confidence message is much more about the assurance you get from booking with an ABTA member through a broad range of benefits such as our travel expertise in a crisis, code of conduct and independent arbitration scheme,” she said.
“Social media is important but it’s only one channel that we will use to target younger consumers, online, video and radio are all important channels for reaching this demographic, as well as traditional media.”
Of course, it’s not just ABTA’s responsibility to educate consumers about the dangers of booking travel with non-bonded firms.
Agents and operators also need to get their thinking caps on and work out how to build the ‘protection’ message into their marketing strategies, which are all too often focused on value for money and pricing.
And it’s not just the youth market that needs educating, with the aforementioned NFIB report revealing the 30 to 49 age group was most commonly targeted; mainly families paying with cash or bank transfers.
Niche groups such as those booking sports or religious tourism packages were also vulnerable to scams, according the study, as well as those buying air tickets to West Africa. Timeshare swindles also remained rife.
If you are a legitimate company that sells to these niche groups, it’s time to capitalise on your status as a bonafide travel firm. Play to this strength in your sales and marketing promotions and explain to customers why you are a safe bet.
Travellers need to be reminded of the risk they are taking when they make unprotected bookings.