No, price isn’t everything in travel. It counts for a great deal in making travel decisions, but those merchants of “low, low prices” are missing the point.
What seems to drive travel choices is the ability for the traveler to connect with a brand; to feel and identify with it.
At least that’s what the Harris Poll EqiTrend 2012 (EQ) study tells us.
The poll is a study of the health and function of major brands, and Travel Daily News has a neat summary in its newsletter.
Stating a travel axiom, perhaps, Joan Sinopoli, Senior VP at Harris Interactive, says that travelers are savvy, and “before they buy, they want to feel linked and connected to the brands they’re purchasing.” She also wisely notes that though many brands provide equal service, it’s the ones that “exceed a customer’s expectation” that will make them recommended to others.
So how do American travel brands do?
Companies like Alaska/Horizon, Southwest, Enterprise-Rent-A-Car, Kayak.com and Royal Caribbean Cruises make the short, preferred list, as Travel Daily News reports.
Among the airlines, Southwest Airlines takes the lead with Jet Blue in second place.
Although Southwest has grown into a national carrier, its vocally loyal and passionate followers still tout the airline’s refusal to “nickel and dime” them. And the airline’s somewhat irreverent approach to flying the friendly skies is endearing.
While not a great year for cruising (think Costa Concordia off the Italian coast), Royal Caribbean Cruises posted a “better brand equity score” this year, a result of quality service and stronger customer intention to use the line. Caribbean was followed in rank by Celebrity Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line.
Kayak.com is doubtless as familiar an online travel agency these days is as Expedia and Travelocity. Except it’s Kayak that takes top honors as this year’s Online Travel Service Brand of the Year. Its “one click, see all options” function, makes it a first choice as a travel brand for travel lookers and bookers.
And when I rent a car, I rent Enterprise. Maybe it’s because they come and pick me up. Or maybe it’s the loyalty program or personal attention, but it’s no surprise that Harris rated Enterprise number 1 in brand preference, followed closely by Hertz and Avis, the forever-reigning top three.
Americans may see travel these days as a necessity, not a luxury. But choosing whom to travel with, is a case of which brand they most connect with.