Business Travel Show Europe is the place where
September 2022, Virtual
September 29 2022, Virtual
The travel industry agrees that more investment is needed to reduce the stress associated with changes in the experience of business and leisure travellers at airports. As the government develops new ways of improving security, travellers often complain that too little attention is being paid to their service experience, so what contribution can the industry make to help them?
Growing queues, crowds and stress at many UK airports are all factors likely to discourage foreign travel. For many visitors, airports are their first and last experience of the UK, meaning they have a huge influence on our international standing.
Although the media rarely presents it this way, the government, private sector and members of the public all share a common goal - to improve the experience at UK airports without compromising security. Indeed, we in the travel industry are actively pursuing better co-ordination with the government and are engaging with the public to seek ways to alleviate the stress we all experience at UK airports.
Our focus going forward is to identify the natural strengths and weaknesses of the government and the private sector to ensure effective joined-up thinking and working. On one hand, the government has the best understanding of security risks and arguably this had led to UK airports being some of the safest in the world, ranking alongside those in Israel. On the other hand, we in the travel industry have a more intimate understanding of our customers and what makes for a more positive travel experience.
A good example of the government's efforts to make airports more secure is the increasing demand for more traveller information. Questions often asked include: ”Are you a frequent traveller? Do you always make the same trip or do you fly to various destinations? Did you buy your ticket yourself? Did you buy your ticket with cash or a credit card? Do you have a registered, traceable address in the UK?” Understandably many people are nervous about disclosing this personal information to governments.
Our experience in the private sector tells us that people will volunteer information more readily when they see a clear benefit. Most people reading this article will have given their name and credit card number to strangers in countless restaurants and shops to gain easy access to the services they seek. Interestingly, even visitors to the home page of the ”No 2 ID” campaign against national identity cards in the UK are invited to enter their first name, surname, postal address and email address in return for campaign updates. The incentive here is the opportunity to express suspicion.
The information the government requires to make air travel safe and secure is already collected by the travel industry through loyalty schemes. This is provided in exchange for the benefits of privileged access to lounges, air miles and other member benefits. And whilst this information cannot be shared due to its confidentiality, we are keen to help and want to share our understanding of why our customers are willing to entrust us with this personal information.
One obvious first step is to ensure the customer will gain from doing so and it is here that the government and the travel industry have the opportunity to come together to develop a co-ordinated view of ”what is in it for me?”, thus putting the customer at the heart of the issue. Together with Fujitsu, we have established a forum to help understand the wants and needs of the travelling public and provide the insight needed to persuade travellers to share their personal information more willingly. The forum has met twice already, and brought together key stakeholders, from government departments to travel agencies, in an attempt to better understand how travellers think. This is the driving force behind this highly competitive market.
BAA, other airport operators, airlines, travel companies, consumer groups, the government and other relevant stakeholders have a responsibility to work together to create a better air travel experience to and from the UK. As I have mentioned, the wheels are already in motion but we must focus on driving visible change. We, as a private sector company, are committed to investing in making this happen but we cannot maintain essential momentum on our own. Your views on issues surrounding airport security and the traveller”s experience will be key, so please get in touch with your comments. We would also like to hear from you if you would be interested in taking part in future forums and share best practice with key industry stakeholders.
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