Travelers planning summer vacations may like to consider companies that fellow travelers prefer. Princess Cruises, Hilton Hotels, Southwest Airlines, and Enterprise Rental Cars rank highest in brand equity for their categories among consumers according to the 2010 Harris Poll EquiTrend study. The annual brand equity study measures over 1,000 brands across 42 categories, five of which focus on travel and tourism.
"In an economic environment in which travel budgets for both leisure and business travel are ever-shrinking, it is more important than ever for brands to set themselves apart from the competition in order to attract a larger base of consumers," says Allison Powell, research director for Harris Interactive's Travel and Tourism Research Practice.
Princess Cruises, a premium cruise line, ranks highest in Brand Equity while the most familiar brand in cruises, Carnival, was ranked lowest. Norwegian Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean rank second and third in Brand Equity, with Royal Caribbean displaying the most brand energy in the category with consumers indicating the brand is 'ahead of the game.'
The highest rated brands in this category include Hilton, Westin, and Sheraton, with Hilton showing a notable increase from 2009 and now leading Marriott, which has lead the category for the past several years. Not surprisingly, value hotels score lower on Brand Equity than the higher end brands, however the reverse is not necessarily extended to Luxury hotel brands; Four Seasons, while seen as one of the highest quality brands, scores lower on Purchase Consideration, likely due to its high-end price tag.
Southwest Airlines continues to dominate all other airlines in Brand Equity for the second year in a row. In addition to receiving higher ratings for Quality and Purchase Consideration, Southwest has a much higher emotional connection with consumers than other airline brands. The low-cost carrier's move to set itself apart from other airlines by not having assigned seats and fostering an environment of high employee morale continues to pay off. Consumers recognize Southwest's good forward momentum by seeing the brand as being "ahead of the game" among airline brands.
Virgin Atlantic and Alaska Air rank second and third in Brand Equity, with Frontier Airlines and US Airways at the bottom of the category.
"Interestingly, while hotels have reacted to current economic conditions by offering the lowest room rates in years, airlines have attempted to make-up shortfalls in revenue by charging passengers for services that were once complementary. It is interesting to note that only one airline – Southwest – made the top 10 brand list for the overall travel category," notes Powell.
For the second year, Enterprise Rent-A-Car ranks highest in Brand Equity, followed by Hertz Car Rental and Budget Rent A Car. Enterprise's highest ranking is driven by rising purchase consideration for the brand over the past three years.
The EquiTrend study evaluates measures including: Equity, Consumer Connection, Commitment, Energy, Brand Behavior, Brand Advocacy, and Trust. The keystone to the program is Equity, which provides an understanding of a brand's overall strength and is determined by a calculation of Familiarity, Quality, and Purchase Consideration.
This year's EquiTrend study was conducted online among 19,708 U.S. consumers ages 15 and over between January 12 and 21, 2010. The total number of brands rated was 1,151. Each respondent was asked to rate a total of 60 randomly selected brands. Each brand received approximately 1,000 ratings. Data were weighted to be representative of the entire U.S. population of consumers ages 15 and over on the basis of age, sex, education, race/ethnicity, region, and income, and data from respondents ages 18 and over were also weighted for their propensity to be online.
Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including automotive, healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, travel and consumer package goods.