Accept the travel industry’s new reality and move forward

It’s time that we travel suppliers shift our thinking. We must stop writing off the previous year’s travel industry data as not helpful or unimportant because of the pandemic and how it impacted travel.

The proactive and much more useful approach? That last year’s data is precisely what we need — because we’ve arrived at the travel industry’s new reality.

Almost two years into the pandemic, with two significant COVID-19 variants on hand and others perhaps yet to come, the industry has changed substantially. We don’t know when or if travel will return to pre-pandemic levels and patterns. But here’s some of what our work with top industry experts has shown us.

The past two years’ numbers are exactly what you need

We often hear that we should “omit numbers from the last two years” because they skew our data. Instead, we need to realize that’s the exact data we need to help us better forecast and prepare for what’s to come. We need to focus on data that tells us how people are travelling now. The last two years’ data is exactly what we need to predict this next quarter and next year.

Our recent numbers will also help drive a sales team more efficiently. Salespeople need targets, forecasts, and budgets. We were at a standstill in the last two years. We didn’t create targets, and drove a little in the dark. But now that we have two years’ worth of data, we can better predict and create those near-future targets.

Speaking of prediction: how can we predict the future?

A few months ago, we were hearing that “it feels like May 2020 all over again.” Today, we sense optimism with lifted restrictions. But can we learn from all this to address the current impact and prioritize as an airline would?

How many people caught COVID-19? How many flights did we have to cancel? How did government regulations impact our cancellation rates? What precautions do we need to put in place so we don’t have to cancel flights? How does a closed border affect us, and how do we prepare new routes to fill seats?

Know your customer and seize the opportunity

We need to be proactive in knowing our customers. Some airlines understand there are many fears associated with travelling and safety measures (such as getting sick while travelling and getting stranded abroad) when marketing.

Some were even proactive in seeking the safest and smartest ways to move forward. Air Canada, for example, was at the forefront of adopting science-based safety measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 and get people back in the air. Canada’s flagship carrier was among the first to require temperature screening, mandatory mask-wearing, and testing.

We need that same level of proactiveness when it comes to understanding other consumer behaviours. For instance, while many people are travelling again, it’s no longer just about the destination. Now it’s also about the choice of airline and the traveller’s comfort level with new precautions, such as mask requirements at the destination, for instance. Or simply the cost of living in case of another lockdown where the traveller needs to stay longer at the destination. With travel more complex, people are turning to travel experts to interpret constantly changing conditions and COVID policies in different locations — and, even more importantly, to choose a destination based on the traveller’s preferences and risk appetite.

Focus on B2B channels

According to an American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) and Sandals Resorts survey, almost half of U.S. travellers say they’re more likely to use a travel advisor to arrange post-pandemic travel, even though they only rarely or sometimes used them in the past.

The same survey found that 80 percent of travel advisors reported hearing from new travellers who had never before used a travel advisor to book international trips.

Rising inflation is another reason people are turning to travel advisors. When people know they may not travel as often, they often turn to agencies to ensure their trip will be as successful as possible.

“Travel is coming back, and travel advisors are poised for an epic comeback,” said Erika Richter, Senior Communications Director at ASTA.

These past two years have shown us what’s working and what isn’t in the changing travel industry. Now it’s up to us to accept this new reality and be proactive so we stay ahead of the game.

Written by Abdallah Al Absi, Flex Travel Solutions

Abdallah Al Absi leads compliance and data initiatives at Flex Travel Solutions overseeing and safeguarding all policies, controls and audits. Part of the executive team, Abdallah Al Absi brings over 15 years of experience in management and transformation projects.

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