60% Consumers Think Online Travel Sites Don’t Disclose Convenience Fees Upfront, Reveals Survey
The Indian travel market is witnessing rapid growth and is projected to grow to around USD 55 billion by 2020, as per reports. The Indian aviation sector is also one of the fastest growing in the world. With greater awareness and more disposable income, Indians have been traveling like never before and online travel sites and apps have made booking flights, hotels easier and more convenient. However several consumers suggest that there are many loopholes in using these sites and apps.
With the improvement in technology, many consumers prefer to use online booking sites and apps instead of the traditional travel agents. LocalCircles conducted a survey to check the consumer pulse on online travel apps and websites which received more than 27,000 votes from 12,000+ unique consumers spread across 200 districts of India.
LocalCircles survey has revealed that undisclosed high convenience fee and lack of trust at the time of cancellation of bookings as the key challenges for consumers. Local Circles wrote that just like returns and timely refunds are critical to e-commerce, timely booking cancellations and refunds or standard convenience charges would help in ensuring consumer interests. The survey also revealed that about only a third of the participants said that hotel reviews on travel apps reflect the reality.
85% consumers said they use online travel sites to book their travel while only 11% said they do not use it.
78% consumers said that online travel sites/apps have made travel booking easier for them while 11% said that was not the case. Another 11% said that they do not use these sites/apps at all.
60% consumers said that travel sites they use do not disclose convenience fees upfront and add it to the total. Only 30% said that the travel sites disclose the convenience fee upfront and add to final amount at payment. 3% said there is no disclosure and it is charged separately to the card later while 7% said their sites do not charge a convenience fee at all.
This issue has been reported by a number of consumers who say that the convenience fee is suddenly added at the very last step when the payment is being made. Some consumers do not even realize that they are being charged a convenience fee and that the amount mentioned on the final page is different than what was on the previous page.
Reviews are now considered an integral part of the consumer online buying process, be it any product or service. Consumers look at the reviews of any product/service given by other users, and these reviews many times help the consumer to decide if they want to buy the product/service or not.
Only 33% consumers said that hotel reviews on travel booking sites/apps reflect the reality, while 47% find them to be biased. 3% found them to be biased against the hotel while 17% said they did not check the reviews at all.
Only 25% said they save their banking or card information on the travel sites/ apps while 68% said they don’t save the information. This indicates that a large number of consumers in India still do not trust travel sites with their credit or debit card information. Consumers have also reported that some sites forcefully save their card information on their sites even if they specifically say no to it.
When asked what is their top most challenge with online travel sites/app. 35% said trust in pricing and 28% said cancellation of bookings was a concern. 21% said getting timely refunds was a problem while 16% said they did not have any challenge.
Many travel agents protest that their business has suffered due to the launch of many online travel booking sites like MakeMyTrip, Yatra, Goibibo etc. as people feel more comfortable in using them.
These travel sites /apps may be popular, but given the issues raised here by the consumers, it is important for the Government to make changes to their rules so as to protect consumer interest.
Citing this survey, LocalCircles has urged the government to bring online travel and accommodation marketplaces under its proposed e-commerce rules.
Government needs to work on regulatory changes so that convenience fees should be best rationalised keeping both consumer interest and cost incurred by businesses in mind.
If OTAs are included under the proposed e-commerce rules, it could be a good thing from a regulatory point of view to put it wisely across to businesses that OTAs which indulge in ‘deep discounting’ should not be focused on gross merchandise value alone, but should also be sustainable.