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09.15.16

A Look Into Travel And Hospitality Brands

by Madison Hamilton

Editor’s note: In Q4 2015, T3 released the Useful Brand Report, a study in which we asked 5,500 consumers to rate the world’s leading brands according to how well they perform against modern expectations. These scores were compiled to create a brand’s Useful Score—a powerful tool that reveals 14 areas of strength and weakness of a brand in a way that helps our clients and partners focus resources, thinking, development and go-to-market strategies.

Professors grade students’ performance with letters. Athletes are judged with a numerical score. Customers establish restaurants’ value using gold stars. Brands are no exception to evaluations, which is why T3 developed an ID system to determine brands’ usefulness.

While the report covers many categories, we start this series by evaluating one division that is falling short in usefulness after experiencing major disruption within the past 20 years: the Travel and Hospitality industry.

Travel agencies have dwindled as a result of fare aggregators like Kayak, Priceline, and Expedia, while hotels, airlines, and car rental companies are attempting to realign their brand to better reflect this type of on-demand economy. And although in some regards brands have a better chance of connecting with customers and growing loyalty through digital media and marketplaces, unsatisfied customers have many more outlets to explore other options, which results in higher consumer expectations.

As travel brands offer similar services and become increasingly fungible, association with any one brand decreases. Today’s consumers no longer believe that brands can play a role informing others about their identity, ideology, or preferences. So while it is more likely for a soda drinker to label themselves a “Coca-Cola person,” than a frequent flyer to deem themselves a “Southwest person,” the opportunity for consumer loyalty and association isn’t unobtainable for Travel and Hospitality brands.

In order to succeed, brands must over-deliver in the relationship elements that traditional travel agents excel in, like friendliness, trust, confidence, and perceived safety, while also generating an e-commerce platform that is high quality, consistent, easy to use, and valuable.

Although the majority of airlines, hotels, car rental companies, and travel agents score far below brands in other categories like Retail, there were some outliers who met both the psychological and performance standards of modern consumers. Holiday Inn, for example, maintains a reputation of being reliable while also offering innovative options such as HI Resort, Express, and Clubs. Enterprise also scores well among Travel and Hospitality consumers with their highly personalized service and emphasis on convenience.

Next week, we’ll cover the transition from brick and mortar agencies to hyper-mobile online booking and how it has shifted consumers’ perception of travel agents.

Download the full Travel and Hospitality report to see how 24 airlines, hotels, car rental companies, and online travel agents stack up.