A recent GlobalData poll has revealed that travellers are now more likely to book directly, instead of going through an OTA (Online Travel Agency). With flexible cancellation and straightforward refund policies, it is no surprise that travellers are utilising direct booking methods now more than ever.

Direct bookings are now the top booking method preferred by surveyed travellers, with a recent GlobalData poll revealing that 39%* of respondents would typically book in this way, followed by 17% that opt for OTAs and price comparison sites.

The pandemic has caused a significant shift in consumer booking habits. A previous survey (GlobalData’s Q3 2019 Consumer Survey) showed that OTAs were the most popular booking option, followed by direct booking with a hotel and direct booking with an airline. Some OTAs have been extremely slow to issue refunds and have received a raft of bad press as a result. This has knocked travellers’ confidence to book through intermediaries.

Cancellation and refund options tend to be simpler

Direct booking channels are likely to have experienced an increase in popularity due to the fragility of booking a trip in the current situation. With a high degree of uncertainty, travellers now desire the most flexible booking terms due to the higher likelihood of a trip being cancelled. With many direct booking channels offering flexible terms, easy changes, and quick refunds, it is no wonder they are winning travellers over.

Operators offering the ability for a traveller to make changes online places the power back into the traveller’s own hands and streamlines the whole process. By booking directly, the traveller cuts out the middleman. This considerably speeds up the change/refund process, increases their satisfaction and is one of the driving factors behind the increased propensity to book directly.

Some OTAs have been slow to issue refunds to travellers

Some OTAs have been slow to issue refunds, and the negative press received has not helped traveller confidence. Leading OTA Lastminute.com has been slow to do this and the UK Competition and Markets Authority had threatened the firm with legal action unless it met the 14-day refund timeline. Confidence in OTAs’ ability to issue refunds quickly and easily has dented confidence. The slowness of this process has been incredibly frustrating and has resulted in a slight shift away from this booking method.

As travellers seek to begin travelling again in the initial recovery stage from the pandemic, booking through an OTA will likely be foregone by some travellers in favour of direct booking methods. Flexible cancellation policies have likely been the underlying influencing factor behind this shift and this change looks set to stay for at least the short-term as travellers look for greater peace of mind when booking.

* GlobalData live tracker Verdict poll of 156 respondents, live since 19 April 2021.

** GlobalData Q3 2019 consumer survey, 29,744 global respondents.

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