In March 2020, Covid-19 became the biggest disruptor in modern travel. Now, six months on, international borders are slowly starting to reopen, and travelers are eager to return to some normality. This guide presents new research-based perspectives on what it’ll take to get the world moving again.
It’s been a trying year for the travel industry. But now, with borders reopening, plane fleets taking off again, and movement gradually returning worldwide, the sector is beginning to look at the best steps towards recovery.
Based on research from travelers, travel suppliers and agencies, leading travel technology company Travelport recently released its Guide to Travel Recovery. The guide provides insider perspectives on the current and future states of play, with crucial advice on how to get the industry moving again.
Across key travel areas – Air, Hotel, Car, destination marketing organizations (DMO), and Travel Agencies – SkiftX unpacks the guide’s major themes.
With air travel the heart of post-pandemic recovery, airlines and airports are rebuilding consumer confidence through stringent hygiene procedures, both on the ground and in the air.
Many travelers are prepared to fly again, but only with specific safety measures in place: enhanced cleaning during and between flights, airport sanitization, social distancing, temperature checks, contactless check-in, in-flight air filtration, mandatory mask usage and distanced boarding processes.
Airlines and airports now need to ensure that safety measures across all touchpoints of the journey are documented and effectively communicated to travelers.
“ … we’re putting more emphasis on educating and building confidence in the customer in terms of how safe air travel is […] working with manufacturers to show how air is filtered through the aircraft, to make sure that our customers are aware and confident that air travel is still safe,” said Korean Air Executive VP, Kenneth Chang.
In order to consider making a booking, 73 percent of respondents in the guide wished to see a program of deep cleaning and sanitization.
Consumer preference now includes contactless check-in, social distancing procedures, and deep cleaning, as well as room door seals, frequent sanitization in public areas, enhanced PPE, plexiglass barriers, and revised procedures for food and beverage offerings. All of these are all likely to be part of the ‘new normal’.
Hotel partners also recognized the need to deliver strong communication on the safety measures from booking to checkout, as a way to strongly reinforce customer confidence.
Collection and drop-off protocols are key areas of concern for travelers, with 72 percent of travelers supporting thorough disinfection between rentals, ample PPE gear at pick up and drop off, and minimal human interaction on-site.
Rental companies are now adhering to the highest standards of cleanliness, delivering contactless traveler experiences through greater digitization, while offering greater flexibility and transparency in rates and policies.
Partners in this sector saw customer communication as central to rebuilding confidence, while highlighting the importance of investing in external and cross-sector data to better gauge emerging consumer trends (e.g. from airlines).
Destination Marketing Organizations
DMOs are set to be a driving force behind industry recovery, as travelers look to them for accurate, up to date information on case numbers, entry and exit requirements, health screening, and quarantine arrangements.
Areas of importance for DMOs include securing government support, liaising strongly with travel agents to streamline communications, collaborating with supplier partners, and refining digital strategies. Gaining access to reliable data is key to identifying emerging travel trends.
Travel Agencies are likely to be even more sought after, with consumers looking to them for expert insights and up-to-date industry information. Younger market segments are likely to lead the new demand in this sector.
“We need to better communicate with and advise our customers on what they need to be aware of [safety measures]. On the corporate side, we want to look at new ways to engage our customers from a digital perspective, to enable their bookings and for arrangements to be a lot more coordinated,” said Executive Director, Head of Business, UOB Travel, Steven Ler.
While international travel is only reawakening, domestic travel is showing signs of growth, a trend likely to sustain as long as border uncertainties continue.
As the world adapts to working from home, leisure travel is returning much faster than business travel, with younger market segments leading the charge.
Providers and agencies would do well to maintain flexibility around policies and prices, embrace online retailing and contactless processes, while harnessing new data sources for emerging consumer information.
The jury is still out on a recovery timeline – anywhere from two to five years to return to 2019 levels, at this point – yet most travelers have expressed readiness to consider booking again as long as providers implement strong safety and hygiene requirements and reassure through clear communication every step of the way.
What You’ll Learn in This Guide:
- What safety measures are most important to travelers, and whether implementing them will restore enough confidence to influence them to book
- The measures travel suppliers are taking to make travel safe, and if they align closely with what travelers want
- How all of this impacts the way travelers perceive the role of, and interactions with, travel resellers in the booking process
- What are the first commercial opportunities that are emerging as recovery gets underway; and
- How the travel industry can act collectively to accelerate recovery.