It doesn’t take a marketing master to realise that ignoring bad press about customer experience or denying it all together will not make the problem go away. The conscientious approach would be to immediately address the problem before it spirals out of control; the less diligent approach may be to ignore it and pray the issue disappears; the profit-first approach may simply deny all culpability.  

If the third option sounds familiar, it may be because some travel and tourism businesses’ primary concern is profit, and problems, unless affecting that profit, are of little interest. Of course, profit is essential for a healthy business to continue to function, but simply aiming for cold, hard cash can often result in a drop in standards that leaves customers with a bitter taste in the mouth.   

Let’s take, for example, a less than ideal hotel in an ideal location. This hotel’s main aim is to maximise profits. They do so by cutting back on staff, which results in an overall drop in standards for food, cleanliness and overall facilities available. The hotel has found itself in a prime location and is using this as leverage for attracting customers. Perhaps it charges less than competitors in the vicinity. But in high season, when demand for rooms is at its highest, the hotel knows they can use their locational advantage and charge an equivalent cost for a substandard service. Is this a sustainable model for business? Almost certainly not. If the tourism bubble around this hotel were to burst, they would be the first to lose customers. They’ve made no lasting impression on their guests, they’ve not created personal connections, they may have even been part of a wider drop in standards that has cost their area its tourism revenue.  

A Practical Example

Let’s look at a practical example in the form of an equally key function for tourists – an airport. A recent survey from Which? found Luton Airport to be “the worst airport in the UK”. The BBC report on the survey highlighted passenger responses to the airport where “it was described as “chaos”, “crowded” and a “rip-off”.” A Guardian column went even further, commenting “it’s an inarticulate mess. No one knew where to go. Security were rude and blunt”.

Could it be the Airport’s new £110m service-disrupting expansion project that caused such vitriol from passengers? If this were Luton’s first time at the bottom of the ranking, you would be forgiven for thinking so. However, Luton Airport has, as the Which? report points out, “languished at the bottom of our survey for five years”. So, case closed? Not quite. Luton Airport responded with their own customer survey which told a very different story: “75% [of passengers surveyed] told us they were happy with their experience, a 5% improvement on the same period last year.” 

A Wider Problem?

So, who are we to believe? The Which? report did expose a credible (and unsurprising) trend that seems to suggest Luton Airport is part of a wider problem. Overall satisfaction from passengers using larger airports appears to be deteriorating. Much like the case of the prime location, sub-standard hotel, larger airports have leveraged themselves into positions of power. They offer the most convenient times and dates for flying, often have the best prices and they’re the easiest to travel to via public transport. But levels of customer satisfaction appear to be stuck on the runway, whilst profit is cruising at 35,000 feet.   

What do you think? Does the sheer size of airports like Luton make it impossible to have a relaxing, delay-free experience, or are large airports not doing enough to improve customer experience? Will customers continue going back to larger airports, even though they’re aware of the drop in quality, or could this be the beginning of the end for the UK’s large airports?  

Are you interested in improving customers’ travel experiences? A career in the travel and tourism industry might be perfect for you. Contact a UKCBC course advisor today to find out how our travel and tourism higher education courses can help you achieve professional success.   

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