POSSIBLE FUTURES FOR A POST PANDEMIC TRAVEL INDUSTRY, PART 2 Comments Off on POSSIBLE FUTURES FOR A POST PANDEMIC TRAVEL INDUSTRY, PART 2 769

The first part of this series outlined the background to the disastrous set of circumstances that the travel, tourism and hospitality industry finds itself in.

It also outlined the first of four scenarios: Travel swings back to normal in 2021.

We continue with the next theory…

Scenario 2:  The end of mass tourism as we know it

In this future, the economic recovery plays out in similar fashion to the scenario described before. However, the emotional and social impact this crisis has on humanity is too deep for people to get back to the old normal.

Months of lockdown and new patterns in social distancing, bio-surveillance and our digital consumption will change travel at its core. Spending more time at home, a higher focus on hygiene and health and shunning away from crowded places will be the new normal.

These attitudinal shifts will also be reflected in policy changes in our daily life, such as health and safety regulations, data privacy and border controls. All of these trends have huge consequences on the travel industry

Urban-based crowded tourism will decrease in favor of outdoor and natural environments and long-haul destinations will be perceived as high risk compared to closer-to-home locations.

Tourist destinations will experience different fates. Countries that have traditionally been net tourist flow senders (Northern Europe, U.S., Japan, etc.) will win, while countries that enjoyed positive inbound numbers (Southern Europe, Thailand, Mauritius, etc.) will be on the losing side.

Beyond washing hands

In a rush to build confidence among travelers, hygiene protocols and labels have started being implemented across all destinations and companies from the early days of the outbreak.

Singapore was a pioneer in its announcing of a nationwide hotel audit scheme branded as the “SG Clean” label, regulating measures like temperature screening intensity at hotel entrances and disinfection frequency rates in common areas and guest rooms. 

Hong Kong quickly turned its airport into its first line of COVID-19 defense by sending all incoming travelers to the AsiaWorld-Expo upon arrival for throat saliva samples, as well as providing tracking bracelets for visitors tied to a smartphone app.

Elsewhere, Emirates has launched on-site rapid coronavirus tests that take 10 minutes for passengers landing in Dubai. The city of Madrid, badly hit by the virus, has launched its own “Hotels COVID-Free” quality stamp.

In this scenario, this patchwork of protocols and certificates all over the world generates confusion and mistrust across travelers. In a coordinated effort by governments, international tourism organizations and major industry associations, a new universally accepted health certificate label will be established in 2021 for air transport and hotel accommodation ensuring consistent standards worldwide.

In aviation, discussions around the end of the loathed middle seat on aircraft will turn into reality, food services onboard becomes a distant souvenir of another era, indicators like cabin air recirculation rates will emerge and face masks will be a part of new standard safety measures on planes.
 
Hotels will focus marketing efforts away from the beautiful pool landscape towards features like disinfection standards, touchless technology for all types of physical interactions and larger spaces between sunbeds. Hotels will switch to room-only food services, transforming breakfast and other food-related spaces into spacious lounges.

What will hurt a hotel’s balance sheet is the need to keep hotel occupancy rates low, with a health buffer of over three nights between guest stays in the same room to eradicate any risk of contaminated surfaces. 

The alternative accommodation industry will enjoy the advantage of being perceived as a less-crowded lodging option but will have a harder time building travelers’ confidence around hygiene and health standards.

Industry leader Airbnb will push hard amongst its hosts to establish a new set of cleanliness and disinfection protocols, but certain travelers will steer away from private accommodation for good.

The travel industry faces a soul-searching moment 

All these measures will have a dramatic impact on the industry economy. In a world where maximizing occupancy rates or load factor has been turned upside down, travel companies will have to take a hard look at their cost structure and their pricing strategies.

Some companies will feel the punch more than others. Low-cost carriers will be forced to rethink their business model. Their strategy of squeezing as many passengers as possible on aircraft, which in turn stay as in the air as much as possible, will become unsustainable. 

Network mega-carriers relying mostly on long-haul flights channeled through massive hubs will also face a gloomy future. Fewer long-haul trips and travelers shunning crowded places will trigger a significant downsizing of airlines with sky-high airplane orders and iconic airport projects coming to a screeching halt.

Short-haul flights, already under attack pre-coronavirus from the flight-shaming movement, will see the shift of travelers towards lower-carbon-emitting transport means like high-speed trains. 

Corporate travel apocalypse

One of the most radical transformations in societal attitude will be around business travel, fueled by virtual meeting practices adopted during the lockdown period and new corporate travel policies implemented to curb expenses during the cash crunch.

The irreversible decrease in business travel, by any measure the most profitable clients of the travel industry, will hit the balance sheets of travel companies like a sledgehammer.

The implosion of meetings and events activity during the crisis was a watershed moment for the industry. The unstoppable rise of virtual conferences and webinars during the lockdown period and the perceived danger of large crowd gatherings will transform major convention centers into indoor leisure spaces or city landmarks of a past golden era. 

The rise of a new distribution landscape 

Two types of travel intermediaries will suffer a Darwinian process of natural selection.

  1. Traditional offline travel agencies that were behind the digital curve will slowly fade into extinction in this hyper-connected world.
  2. The few travel management company survivors will be the ones rapidly adapting to a significantly smaller market and to a change in paradigm in servicing and duty of care.

On the online travel agency front, there will also be major changes in play:

  • Servicing and connecting with customers during the darkest moments of the crisis will turn out to be the most powerful loyalty program any marketer could conceive. Speedy refunds for cancelled bookings, transport and lodging rebooking alternatives for clients stranded overseas and an ongoing and candid communication strategy will win the hearts and pockets of customers.
  • Deploying bots and machine-learning algorithms, allowing for automation of back-office processes and customer service interfaces, will make the most successful players future-proof for disruption in the years ahead.
  • Many will integrate a traveler’s health data across the entire industry’s service chain, in an ecosystem where health information will become a mandatory data field for all actors.

Faced with our rapidly increasing digital life, where tech giants try to keep users locked into their ecosystem, the most successful travel players will start to integrate daily users’ services like inter-urban mobility, local entertainment booking facilities and food delivery services, in order to remain relevant in the customer’s mind.
 
This trend towards Asia-like super apps in the Western World will spark a frenzy post-crisis, with merger activity between travel tech giants and mobility and food delivery tech players, whose valuations suffered a massive downward correction during the economic deadlock due to their weak balance sheet.

* Check scenario 1 here, then 3 and 4 when they are published next week.About the author…

Mario Gavira is a tech executive, angel investor and board adviserAirlineAirportGround TransportationHotelOnline Travel AgencyPrivate AccommodationTours and ActivitiesCoronavirus

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Mauritius B2B Hospitality magazine, a quarterly publication and blog for the industry professionals. Want to reach the hospitality decision makers in Mauritius/Rodrigues? Contact us +230 57 94 64 37 or [email protected]

THE FUTURE OF THE HOSPITALITY SECTOR POST COVID-19 Comments Off on THE FUTURE OF THE HOSPITALITY SECTOR POST COVID-19 380

As the hospitality industry resumes operations, it has been the moment to adapt, redesign and implement new ways and ideas to help the sector accelerate recovery and reinvent the hospitality of tomorrow.

What are the most prominent trends in hospitality today and what will the new customers’ demands be? How are hotels adapting their business operations to receive travellers and go back to business but still remaining sustainable? What are the best ways to gain guests’ confidence back? What is the role of technology in the process? These and more topics will be discussed in this webinar on the future of the hospitality sector post COVID-19, focusing in the Middle East region.

Source – https://www.unwto.org/event/the-future-of-the-hospitality-sector-post-covid-19

THE MALDIVES, MAURITIUS, SRI LANKA, WHO IS DOING WHAT TO RESTORE TRAVEL CONFIDENCE ACROSS THE INDIAN OCEAN Comments Off on THE MALDIVES, MAURITIUS, SRI LANKA, WHO IS DOING WHAT TO RESTORE TRAVEL CONFIDENCE ACROSS THE INDIAN OCEAN 666

After the recent round of short interviews with hospitality leaders in the Maldives, Mauritius, and Sri Lanka, these were the key messages that will win customers back. 

MALDIVES – No social distancing, but a rather physical distancing in the Maldives.

One month ago the Maldives reopened the country borders to international travelers and since then, welcomed nearly 4500 tourists mainly from the UK, USA, UAE, Germany, Swiss, and Russia. With strict health and safety standard procedures implemented across the country, starting from the airport to the resort islands, the ‘new travelers’ have already voiced their appreciation for the level of care and hygiene on various social media and forums. But if being welcomed by the resort representatives wrapped in PPE and armed with face shield, gloves, and masks might not feel like the most relaxing start of a much-needed holiday, Afeef Hussain, Regional Director at LUX* Resorts in the Maldives, reassures that guests do love the feeling of safety 

“Being able to arrive at the resort and start enjoying their vacation right away not having to worry about anything, is what our guests want”

Together with high levels of hygiene, another key element to restoring travel confidence is the value of the experience. Afeef Hussain shares that the ‘new travelers’ are not going to spend the same amount of money they used to. Therefore, the value of the vacation is under great scrutiny and determines whether your customer might decide to return to your hotel or to travel somewhere else. 

“There is no such thing of ‘new normal’, but rather a ‘new mindset’”

To ensure that each action taken to uphold the hygiene standards at the resorts is mutually beneficial, Afeef says that whatever is done for the guests, is also done for the team members. This ensures their wellbeing and wellness and translates the Company’s core message of ‘care’ into action.

SRI LANKA – Borders are closed, but our resorts are not.

Sri Lanka has recently delayed the opening of the country borders, but hotels and resorts across the island are back in business with the local market. The execution of health and safety standards at each property has been instrumental to restore a domestic travel confidence, says Arjuna Perera – Sales Manager at Theme Resorts & SPA based in Colombo. To start with, Arjuna Perera and his team produced a video message to show all the procedures and reassure their customer base. 

‘We immediately created a survey, to help understand what are our customers’ priorities at this critical time’ 

But, as we know, the local market demand alone does not cover it. A voucher system propelled by Arjuna’s sales team successfully generated over 1000 room nights. This shows that flexibility is another key factor to encourage travel demand. Flights can be canceled or delayed, quarantine systems are changing by the day. ‘All we need is a bit of flexibility’ says Arjuna ‘and the results are showing us that people are keen to travel, they just want to feel safe’. 

But how do we ensure social distancing in Sri Lanka? For Theme Resorts & Spa, more than distancing, we talk about isolation, but in a good way. The nature experience of some of their properties is guaranteed to the point that to reach some of their glamping sites, you will have to be picked up by the hotel concierge somewhere in the jungle.

MAURITIUS – A contactless experience and smart use of technology.

As Mauritius prepares to reopen borders next month, the health & safety checklist of the destination seems to grow longer.

The use of technology, however, plays a key role in the destination, currently undergoing a digital transformation with a brand new website, a travel platform in the making and a range of digital solutions for tourists. Airline and travel industry expert Youvraj Seeam, based in Mauritius, shares that to pick up on travel confidence, we first have to observe the consumers’ changing behaviors and thereafter understand the new demands.

“For this to be truly successful, we need collaboration with all the stakeholders across the industry”

Youvraj shares that tools like the Travel Recovery Insights Portal of ARC & Boston Consulting, the McKinsey Travel Pulse, or the Traveller Trends Tracker by Adara must be on top of today’s agenda for the modern marketer. This would enable industry leaders to have more visibility and start making progress along the way.

Based on his experience in the airline industry, the key message needs to revolve around hygiene standards and procedures from the moment the traveler checks-in, boards the plane and reaches the destination. Once arrived, says Youvraj, a contactless experience needs to be in place to ensure a safe transit until the guest ultimately reaches the hotel.

 About the author:

Dolores Semeraro is a multilingual professional speaker and trainer, fluent in the Chinese language. She provides strategic direction and training courses to companies and tourism institutions helping them to speak today’s digital language of their audience. Her vision is to create a sustainable digital connection between travel industry stakeholders and their desired customers.