Are Travelers Frill-Seekers? No, But Here's What They Really Want
Free drinks. Room upgrades. Better restaurants.
That's what the travel industry thinks you want from your next travel experience.
Priceline, meanwhile, announced the launch of a free new service on its site that lets future hotel guests search its database of published-price hotels for all kinds of valuable hotel freebies. (Customers who "name their own price", however, will still face surprise parking charges and resort fees that add to the cost of their prepaid room.)
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But is that what travelers really want? Perhaps not.
A 2006 survey conducted by travel distribution company
But it could be even simpler, say experts: The travel industry could start by taking a few things away.
No more commodity fares.
For airlines, giving passengers what they want could mean ending what's been called the "commoditization" of airfares. The concept -- that an airline seat is not a service but an economic good that is essentially indistinguishable from one offered by a competitor -- has been a driving force in the industry, according to experts. At some point after airline deregulation, carriers decided their economy-class sections -- and by extension, some might argue, their economy-class passengers -- were commodities.
"There is a very clear movement to evolve from commodity shopping to providing the consumer with a more personalized travel product and corresponding experience," said
In the meantime, passengers who want to avoid being treated like a commodity can book a ticket on a carrier like
LOSE THE HOTEL EXTRAS.
Hotels face similar pressures as airlines. Many have responded by unbundling their rates -- taking items that used to be included in the price of a room and charging a la carte. For example, access to the pool or hotel gym used to be part of the room rate, but at some properties this access is added later, as a mandatory "resort" fee of between
CRUISES: BE AUTHENTIC.
Increasingly, the cruise industry is sailing away from the all-inclusive vacation concept and turning it into a trip to the mall, say observers. The further the cruise industry drifts away from that, by introducing ships with waterslides and rock climbing walls, the further it moves away from the product most travelers think of when they think of cruising. A recent survey by travel insurance company TravelGuard found that cruise passengers were happier with their floating vacation than their land-based getaways, but that they looked for value and adventure, not over-the-top amenities.
Fortunately, not every cruise line feels bigger is better.
CARS: TAKE THE 'NO-FEE' PLEDGE.
Car rental customers are also looking for value, and again, car rental companies believe that means they want low prices. And while industry observers say that's true, it doesn't necessarily mean they want the fees that are often added to it. Some forward-looking car rental executives see that. Asked about fees in a recent interview,
"My personal view is to charge a fair price for the product," he said, adding that he was "adamantly opposed" to a la carte pricing.
Avoiding fees is difficult, for now, but one tried-and-true method is getting a prepaid voucher (by booking through Hotwire or Priceline) that ensures you'll pay the rate you were quoted.
Adding an amenity or service is almost always good news for the traveling public, but sometimes, taking something away is even better.
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