The travel consultant for Consumer Reports WebWatch shares the lesson he learned while analyzing more than 200 travel sites and overseeing extensive testing projects that encompassed searching for thousands and thousands of online rates.
Here’s what’s wrong in my opinion about all these consumer media advice columns about online travel shopping: It’s all about "price, price, price" and "the lowest fare", "the deal". Admittedly, no one wants to overpay for anything, least of all a commodity like an airplane seat. But when it comes to one of the most valued purchases, a personal vacation trip, it definitely pays to heed the advice that "you get what you pay for" and bottom fishing for the lowest deal on one of the hundreds of sites, often results in a bad deal.
Why don’t these consumer advocates advise people to go safe and buy with a trusted brand, even if it means paying a bit more but getting peace of mind in return. After all, it’s your precious vacation we’re talking about not buying some daily household item.
Also, why not encourage websites to focus on improvements and enhancements that make the online travel shopping experience less time consuming and tedious with multiple site searches, all for a few bucks savings. It would be more in the consumer’s interest if there was less price and more quality focus, giving online travel providers an incentive to invest in new technology to offer this better shopping experience, rather than focus on how to cut everything to the bone, to a point, where everything is stripped out of the component price to "appear" to be cheapest and then adding it back in later in the purchase process, again leading to customer confusion and disappointment.
The media travel critics could play a much more useful role by focusing on these aspects and move away from reinforcing the mis-perception that online travel is all about price, price, price….