There is no denying that some travel brands are handling the current COVID-19 crisis better than others. I know there are airlines and hotel groups that I think more favorably in light of all of this, and others that I think less favorably.
Once travel is possible again, one area where I know many travel brands are thinking is to answer the question “how can we make customers feel comfortable booking again with we?”
In this article, I wanted to focus on a specific concern that I have, which very few brands answer correctly.
There is no more confidence with refunds
We have seen so many brands break their refund promises. I fully understand how we got there. Virtually no travel agency anticipated a crisis like this, and many have come to the point where they simply cannot afford to reimburse their customers.
For example, we have seen:
The situation reminds me of this Seinfeld clip on what it means to have a car rental reservation:
It’s a problem even when things get back to normal
As I think about the prospect of planning trips once things start to recover, this is one of the things that concerns me most. It may be that things normalize a bit and then deteriorate again, and that worries me when it comes to making deposits for travel.
Many hotels (especially luxury and remote properties) charge refundable deposits at the time of booking. Likewise, you must of course pre-pay for the flights.
I worry about making a reservation when things get better, only to make things worse and to be told “sorry, we can’t reimburse you”.
A hotel group does the same
I’m still on the Singita mailing list, and today they sent an email outlining their flexible booking policy. As is the case with almost all safaris, a deposit is required at the time of booking.
However, Singita specifically reassures customers that this money is kept separately and will be refunded if you want a refund. Here is the relevant part of the email:
“Singita has always been careful to keep all deposits separate from all operational bank accounts within the group. All funds associated with reservations are stored in a separate calling account and are deducted from our daily operating, conservation and community development costs. This means that all Singita customers can be assured of the security of their reservation deposits. “
It’s sad that this has to be said, but I find it reassuring that this is specifically addressed – it’s good to know that my refundable deposit will actually be refunded, rather than spent immediately to continue funding operations.
Following this COVID-19 pandemic, I will be much more skeptical about deposits and refunds than ever, even in situations where I technically have the right to do so.
It’s nice to see at least one luxury safari group bluntly say “hey, we’re not going to spend your money before your stay, and you can get a refund if you have the right.” But unfortunately, that seems necessary, given all that has happened …
I would love to see more travel brands provide this level of clarity as I think it is necessary these days.
If / when the trip starts to pick up, what kind of insurance will you seek from the travel brands, so that you feel comfortable planning your trip?