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Consumers struggle to get refunds on travel and hotel booking apps

November 5, 2019, New Delhi: India’s travel market is growing at a rapid pace and is expected to reach around $55 billion by 2020, according to reports. India’s aviation sector is also one of the fastest growing in the world. With greater awareness and higher disposable income, Indians are traveling like never before and online travel sites and apps are acting as their best friends. Thanks to them, booking flights, hotels, etc. has become very easy. But there are many flaws in the use of these sites and apps, as reported by various consumers.

With the improvement in technology, many consumers prefer to use online booking sites and apps instead of traditional travel agencies. LocalCircles conducted a consumer pulse survey of online travel apps and websites that received over 27,000 votes from over 12,000 unique consumers across 200 districts in India. The results of the survey are given below. 85% of consumers in the first survey said they use online travel sites to book their trip while only 11% said they don’t.

85% of consumers say they use online travel sites/apps to book travel

85% of consumers say they use online travel sites/apps to book travel

Previously, when booking a trip, you had to go through a travel agent who took days to respond to your request and also charged you high fees to make the reservation. And in the event of a situation where the ticket should be canceled, your money will be blocked for days. Online travel and accommodation marketplaces like MakeMyTrip, OYO, GoIbibo, Yatra, Hotels.com, etc. have made the life of the Indian traveler a little less stressful when it comes to making those reservations.

78% of consumers in the second survey said online travel sites/apps made it easier for them to book travel, while 11% said it did not. Another 11% said they don’t use these sites/apps at all.

78% of consumers say online travel sites have made it easier for them to book travel

LocalCircles survey - 78% of consumers say online travel sites have made it easier for them to book trips

60% of consumers in the next survey said the travel sites they use don’t disclose convenience fees up front and add them to the total. Only 30% said travel sites disclose convenience fees up front and add to the final amount at checkout. 3% said there was no disclosure and they were charged separately on the card later, while 7% said their sites didn’t charge a convenience fee at all.

60% of consumers say travel sites don’t disclose convenience fees up front and add them to the total

LocalCircles poll: 60% of consumers say travel sites don't disclose convenience fees up front and add them to the total

This issue in particular has been reported by a number of consumers who say convenience fees are suddenly added at the very last step where payment is made. Some consumers don’t even realize that they are being charged a convenience fee and that the amount mentioned on the last page is different from the one on the previous page.

Only 33% of consumers say hotel reviews on online travel sites/apps reflect reality, 47% find them biased towards the hotel

LocalCircles Poll - Only 33% of consumers say hotel reviews on online travel sites/apps reflect reality, 47% find them biased towards the hotel

Reviews have become an integral part of consumers’ online shopping process for any product or service. Consumers look at reviews of any product/service given by other users, and these reviews often lead the consumer to decide whether to purchase the product/service or not.

In the following survey, only 33% of consumers said that hotel reviews on travel booking sites/apps reflect reality, while 47% find them biased. 3% found they were biased against the hotel while 17% said they didn’t check reviews at all.

Only 25% of consumers save their bank or card information on online travel sites/apps

LocalCircles Poll - Only 25% of consumers save their bank or card information with online travel sites/apps

When asked if they save their bank or card information on travel sites/apps, only 25% said they do, while 68% said they don’t save the information. This indicates that a large number of consumers in India still do not trust travel sites with their credit or debit card information. Consumers have also reported that some sites forcibly store their card information on their sites, even if they specifically refuse.

Handling booking cancellations, timely refunds and price reliability are top consumer challenges with online travel sites/apps

LocalCircles Poll - Handling reservation cancellations, timely refunds and price reliability are top consumer challenges with online travel sites/apps

The final question asked consumers what their biggest challenge was with online travel sites/apps. 35% said they were confident in the prices and 28% said canceled bookings were a concern. 21% said getting timely refunds was a problem, while 16% said they had no problem.

Many travel agents complain that their business has suffered from the launch of many online travel booking sites such as MakeMyTrip, Yatra, etc., as people feel more comfortable using them. These apps may be popular, but given the issues raised here by consumers, it is important that the government establishes rules to appropriately protect consumer interests. LocalCircles has written to the respective government authorities to include travel, hotel and other accommodation services in the e-commerce rules under consumer protection law as well as in the e-commerce policy. It is also working with various branches of government on how best to streamline convenience fees with both consumer interest and business costs in mind.

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LocalCircles takes social media to the next level and turns it into communities, governance and utility. It allows citizens to connect with communities for most aspects of daily urban life like neighborhood, constituency, city, government, causes, interests and needs, to seek information/assistance in case of need, to come together for various initiatives and to improve their daily urban life. LocalCircles is free for citizens and always will be!

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