The beauty of simple travel

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Traveling these days can be such a complicated, arduous experience. It starts with searching for an airline or hotel reservation for the best price, followed by waiting for an overbooked flight to depart and signing a complex car rental agreement. Whether the end goal is beachside bliss, a room with a view or even just a decent night’s sleep before a big presentation, holiday makers and business travelers across the globe recognise that simple is best.  

According to our 2012 Global Brand Simplicity Index, Hilton and Holiday Inn were the top-ranked brands in the hospitality industry. During a recent stay at the Holiday Inn in Chengdu, China, I was impressed by the thoughtful and considerate staff that was obviously trained to make guests feel like the centre of attention.

This experience underscored another interesting travel-related finding in the survey. In the East, customers know they can rely on big hotel brands to deliver a high-quality, classy experience time and again. Respondents in the West don’t give global chains the same kind of automatic credit for luxury, but still prefer their familiarity and convenience. Here Holiday Inn might not be the place where you’re made to feel special, but it’s an easy choice for a city break or a quick stopover.

On the flip side, car rental companies still haven’t cracked the simplicity code. Picking up and dropping off of the car is usually very straightforward, but everything else—what’s included in the price, navigating the contract and insurance options—muddies the experience. Unsurprisingly, companies like Avis, Hertz and Europcar ranked toward the very bottom of the rankings. 

Also scoring low on the simplicity scale were low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet. Despite its no-frills product offering, Ryanair was rated one of the most complicated brands on the Simplicity Index. Consumers did not take kindly to extra charges that only popped up when they were almost at the end of the booking process. Conversely, airlines such as Virgin Atlantic reaped the simple advantage despite being pricier, which fits with our finding that customers are willing to reward simplicity by paying up to a 6% premium. 

The lesson for brands is that while it may be easier to convolute a product, brand, service or experience, there is far more reward in making it simpler. With the obvious economic payback, there’s no excuse to be complicated.

 Elspeth Ross is a senior strategist for Siegel+Gale’s London office.

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