What Drives Trust Travel and Hospitality Brands

“Reliability” defines trust for the travel industry, across subindustries, according to the survey. While the pandemic may have strengthened the importance of dependability in the minds of consumers, it’s always been an important quality for brands within the travel industry.

From there, the top drivers of net trust are fairly similar: Outstanding customer service; protecting consumers’ data and making customers feel safe and secure are among the top drivers of net trust for airlines, hotels and cruise lines. Consumers also care deeply about airlines’ and cruise lines’ safety records; less so for hotels.

Trust drivers look very similar across subindustries, with some small exceptions. Fewer respondents named a hotel brand’s veteran status as important for establishing trust compared to airlines and cruise lines. Sustainability matters more for cruise lines than it does for airlines. And more respondents need cruise lines to behave ethically to earn their trust, compared to hotels.

Largest differences in net importance to trust among different travel and hospitality subcategories


There are no shortcuts to travel and hospitality brands looking to earn trust: A marketing campaign promoting your brand’s long history, impact on local communities and sustainability efforts won’t cut it. The most important drivers are emotional (“make me feel secure and safe”) and long term (“reliable,” “consistently deliver” or “always treated me well”).

The qualities that most impact purchasing intent also look very similar. Consumers most prioritize a good safety record for airlines and hotels, while good customer service is vital for cruise lines.

A possible effect of the novel coronavirus, regularly cleaning and sanitizing ranked high in terms of net importance, or the share of consumers who say the quality was important when considering purchasing from them minus the share who say it was not important. About 4 in 5 say it was important, securing it among the top 10 qualities for each industry.


Amid the vaccine rollout’s success in the United States, many top airlines have relaxed some of their COVID-era safety practices, such as blocking middle seats on flights.

But heightened cleanliness is still a core brand component that travel and hospitality brands should be emphasizing and prioritizing. While it might not make financial sense to continue blocking off the middle seat, airlines and other travel brands should consider other policies that would make it clear they are still prioritizing customers’ health and safety.


Regularly sanitizing high-touch surfaces and adding in air filtration were safety policies that would most make consumers feel safe.

Largest differences in net importance to purchasing intent among different travel and hospitality subcategories

The largest differences between the travel and hospitality subindustries occur among the qualities at the bottom of the list. And for nearly all of them, the bar is higher for cruises: A larger share say cruise lines must have these qualities, compared to a smaller share who say the same for airlines.

Providing stellar amenities is more important in terms of trust for cruise lines than it is for airlines, by a 15 percentage-point margin. Being sustainable and recommended by someone a consumer trusts are both 11 points more important. Positively impacting local communities is 10 points more important.


Cruise lines have a longer road to recovering consumer trust than others in the travel and hospitality sector, largely due to their public and central role in the pandemic. Cruise loyalists will return, but it could take years for consumers to mentally shed the subindustry’s connection to a deadly virus.

What Breaks Trust Travel and Hospitality Brands

Mistreating luggage or other personal possessions, failing to adhere to safety precautions and a data breach are the most high-risk practices a travel and hospitality brand could commit — doing so could risk tarnishing the trust of the largest shares of customers.


Much ink has been spilled and many hands have been wrung over the risk that brands are “getting political.”

But brands taking a “stance on a social or political issue that you don’t agree with” sits squarely at the bottom of Morning Consult’s list of qualities that could lessen consumer trust with travel and hospitality brands. While it’s important to know who your consumers are — and not to lean too far to the right or left in political discourse — industry leaders are better off focusing on simply being a reliable, dependable business than fret over political stances.


Roughly 3 in 5 say their trust in a brand will be negatively affected if they take a political stance. That’s not a small figure.

If any brand within the travel or hospitality industry commits any of the following transgressions, they are most likely to break consumer trust: fail to follow safety precautions, become unreliable, compromise a customer’s data, mistreat their luggage or personal belongings or fail to regularly clean or sanitize. At least 3 in 5 U.S. adults said they would stop purchasing from a brand if it did any of those things.


Four of the five actions that would cause the most consumers to avoid a brand are actions that companies can deliberately work to avoid — whether via improved software to protect customer data or better training and supplies to ensure spaces are appropriately cleaned.

But being “reliable” means different things to different customers. It’s a more emotional driver, and it’s so fluid that each travel and hospitality brand should know what exactly it means for their specific company.

Who Has Lost Trust in Travel and Hospitality Brands

Trust in the travel and hospitality space is somewhat even across most demographics, with some notable exceptions.

COVID-19 travelers, or U.S. adults who have traveled domestically or internationally amid the pandemic, are more likely to automatically trust the travel industry overall than the general public. The same can be said for those planning to travel in 2021 and those within rewards programs for various subindustries.

Share of U.S. adults who say they tend to trust travel and hospitality companies, by demographic


Those who have more experience with industry brands, in general, trust the industry more. That’s good news for the travel space.


of millennials say they have lost trust in a travel or hospitality brand and, as a result, will never use that brand again.

Profiles of U.S. adults and consumers who have lost trust in a travel or hospitality brand and will never use them again as a result

Millennials, wealthier Americans and those with travel rewards programs most likely to have stopped using a brand, with no plans to return, over a breach in trust.


These are the groups for which trust is crucial: millennials, who have more than $1 trillion in buying power and are raising children who will follow their purchasing habits; wealthier adults, who are more able to access the industry and help set trends within it; and rewards members, who have incentives to stick with one specific brand. They’re also the groups who will stick with one brand if they trust that brand.

Respondents were asked which of the following they agree with more, even if neither is exactly right


of business travelers and 57% of wealthier Americans say if they trust a brand, they go out of their way to purchase from them. That’s 17 and 13 points, respectively, higher than adults overall.

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