Importance of innovation in the travel industry in the Covid-19 era
I would like to begin on a much-needed positive note in these rather unprecedented times. Although the world is undergoing a health crisis, it is still unclear and early to declare a global financial crisis. However, global recessions have lasted 12-18 months in the past and post-recession average economic growth rates are 2-3 times higher than economic growth rates prior to a recession.
In fact, we witnessed the longest global economic expansion since the 2008 financial crisis that lasted a record 128 months up until the Covid-19 pandemic.
More importantly, the Covid-19 pandemic will ultimately benefit the average consumer and employee, as businesses will be forced to innovate and embrace new ideas that they were previously reluctant on adopting.
We can see businesses, employees and customers save time and money as the pandemic has brought significant changes in business operations and traditions that here to stay.
Let us focus on the travel industry. It is one of the most significantly impacted sectors due to worldwide government imposed lockdowns not seen in over a century. Tourism contributes to 10% of the global GDP amounting to nearly $9 trillion.
Covid-19 will primarily accelerate innovation and digital transformation in India’s travel and tourism industry that contributed to about 9.2% of the India’s GDP in 2018 according to UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
Travel, aviation and lodging companies will be on the lookout for win-win B2B partnerships that will help them recover and thrive in the post-Covid world. Let us first look at some noteworthy shifts in the travel and tourism sector as well as what we can expect the average post-Covid traveler to look like:
- Domestic travel will increase while international travel will decrease. Travellers will prefer to reduce flight time and use modes of transport where social distancing can be easily maintained. We could see an increase in road trips and private modes of travel.
- Large group travel will decline impacting special occasions like destination weddings and organised bonding trips by companies, universities and schools.
- Business travel will decrease significantly reducing business operational costs as well as deplete a big revenue source for hotels and airlines. We have already seen widespread acceptance of virtual meeting softwares like Zoom and Google Duo.
- Luxury lodging and travel could witness a prolonged decrease in prices while for certain locations where population density is higher and for special occasion, select customers may be willing to spend extra to ensure hygienic, safe and private environments while on the move.
- Social distancing will continue to be practiced in day-to-day lives. Practices such as contactless check-in procedures during air travel, reduced food and beverage service during flights and wearing masks, among others, are here to stay.
While post-Covid travellers look far more calculative in every aspect, they will be craving to regain some of those pre-Covid “fun and leisure experiences” that they so dearly reminisce.
According to a consumer survey conducted by Boston Consulting Group, it was found that over 60% of consumers across countries, age groups, and income levels, agreed that they “can’t wait to travel again”.
Financial security was discovered to be the most important factor among younger people during travel planning. It was also found that younger people are far more likely to resume travel than older people who naturally fall in the higher risk category for Covid-19.
This is where startups and companies can innovate and try and make travellers re-live past leisure experiences as much as possible without having them to worry about possible infection.
However, to lay down the foundation for innovation in the travel and tourism space, the public and private sector must be able to provide players real-time data and analytics for purposes of revising budgets, marketing strategies and finding new supply and demand gaps.
Startups companies can step in here to streamline real time data between the industry’s private and public sector. Singapore already has made large investments in its data and analytics platform called Singapore Tourism Analytics Network (STAN), which is able to give tourism players statistics and profiles of incoming passengers, surveys on customer experiences, and up-to-date spending and revenue data.
Experiences at a distance
Travel and tourism players must rethink and recreate experiences for travellers who will expect fun and leisure while social distancing. Experiences can be geared towards younger audiences who are more likely to travel before older audiences; hence pricing will be a crucial factor. Continued importance for sanitisation will create business opportunities in “clean technology” as staff training costs for businesses will increase. Technologies that can help service providers meet hygiene standards in an effective and cost-efficient manner will see success. Using amenities at hotels could provide safe and hygienic environments compared to local pools, gyms, spas, and salons.
There is a great opportunity for players to build customer loyalty as consumers will be looking to stick with a trusted brand to provide them safe and hygienic experiences and environments.
Marketing and advertising
Service providers will be required to continually showcase their sanitisation standards as part of the “new normal”. Advertisement campaigns could also be targeted towards younger audiences as compared to older ones. Search engine optimisation can play a significant role for companies as customer searches will be more detailed and contain more keywords.
Flexibility and 3D tours
Travel and tourism will need to be far more flexible with cancellation policies, booking amendments, prices and can greatly benefit from 3D virtual tours to increase booking probabilities.
It could be possible that seats across an airplane, movie theatre, public transport, amusement park could be redesigned to increase distance and reduce contact.
Possibilities are endless.
Real time data flow, clean technologies, virtual tours, virtual experiences, targeted online marketing, management systems, and redesign will be some of the key areas that will accelerate change.
When significant shifts occur in any industry, great opportunities arise for those who try and cater to those shifts. People are eager to travel again. Players in the travel and tourism industries are on the lookout for win-win partnerships to help them recover and increase market share in the post-Covid world.
Startup and companies have tremendous responsibility and opportunity for significant value creation and contribution towards the nation’s GDP by serving a vital industry.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)