Will travelers hold suppliers hostage for safety? | TravelResearchOnline

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Will travelers hold suppliers hostage for safety?

A recent Travelport survey offered a worldwide insight to traveler’s thoughts for getting back on the roads, rails, and airways in a post COVID-19 world with some surprising statistics.

While we have heard anecdotal evidence that people are ready to travel again, this was the largest survey of travelers that I had seen–5000.  Are you prepared? Is your agency?

My three big takeaways from the survey included:

  • The industry needs to do a lot to make sure guests are safe. Merely reducing seats on a plane will not do it and travelers are putting their health and safety first. As they should.
  • The boomers (like me) are itching to get out of the house. But the millennials (who grew up with YouTube and Social Media) are currently content with staying put. Time to look at your older client base.
  • 33% of travelers expect to increase their usage of a travel agent in a post-COVID world. Great news for us!

There were ten critical safety measures that travelers want to see to make sure their experiences are as safe as possible and here is where the suppliers will really need to step up.

  1. Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting
  2. Access to PPE (masks, gloves, sanitizing gel, etc)
  3. Social distancing
  4. Temperature checks
  5. Mandatory wearing of masks
  6. Fully flexible or refundable tickets (generally airlines)
  7. Improved air filtration (generally airlines)
  8. Contactless services
  9. Physical barriers at face to face situations (check-in, bars, concierge)
  10. Managed boarding by row (airlines)

Greg Webb, Chief Executive Officer at Travelport said, “Over the last few months, the travel industry has rolled out many initiatives to support a safe, healthy and responsible return for travel. This study highlights the criticality these measures are now playing in restoring traveler confidence. However, for the majority of travelers to return to the skies, the industry now needs to work together to not only ensure a wide array of safety measures are in place throughout the travel journey, but to collectively communicate these changes to travelers using a range of channels and merchandising technologies.”

And certainly all of these changes and protections will come at a cost. Several weeks ago I suggested that travel in a post-COVID world would be a lot more expensive and become more of an elite experience than it was prior to the pandemic.

While most of the ten criteria are pretty much operating costs (shields, masks, staff to take temperatures, etc.) the biggest one will be the physical distancing and flexible ticketing for the airlines.

Airlines have made billions (with a “B”) on fees for changing tickets and packing as many people into a plane as inhumanely possible. Will they be willing to take that hit to their balance sheet? Will they be willing to space people out? Time will tell. Southwest has built a fiercely loyal following due to their flexibility. Will they become the future model for the legacy carriers?

And while the survey truly highlights the aspect of traveling, I still personally wonder how leisure travel will react. Corporate travel is one thing; but leisure is a different animal. When people get away, they want to forget about their worries. When the pina colada runs out on the beach, they want to get up walk to the bar and get another one. Will they remember to mask up prior? Will the experience of seeing a charging rhino on safari be muted because you are unable to see the reactions of other travelers behind their masks. Will the smiling vacation pictures all disappear?

There are a lot of questions and problems to still be asked and solved.  This is a pretty good blueprint—for starters!  Check out the infographic below (and here at the link).

Thoughts?

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