How to Get Your Travel Business Ready for the Post-Pandemic Boom
With lockdown restrictions easing in many parts of the world and borders reopening, there is a renewed sense of optimism in the industry.
Travel searches on Google and online portals have started going up, and understandably so.
People have been holed up for so long now, there is an extremely high level of pent-up demand. So much so that a new category of travel has emerged – Revenge Travel!
According to a recent study conducted in the US, 68% of the respondents said they plan to travel this year.
We bet that as a travel professional, you are keen to start traveling too. (We know we are).
Many of our existing customers are reporting an increase in online searches and bookings.
So, all of this begs the question – Is your business ready for the post-pandemic boom?
To answer that question, we first need to see what’s changed since the pandemic started.
Emerging travel trends after the pandemic and how travel businesses can adapt
1) People want Everything Online now
The world witnessed a massive digital transformation as a direct result of the pandemic. With lockdown restrictions pretty much everywhere, the use of the internet grew exponentially. Just recount the no of Zoom meetings you’ve had in the last 15 months. We bet you can’t!
Online shopping also boomed during the pandemic. With stores closed, people had no choice but to order everything online. Now, it has become a habit.
The fact is, people have got used to doing everything online now. This is going to apply to travel too. A lot of people were already planning and booking travel online before the pandemic. After the pandemic, this behavior is only going to get more pervasive and travelers would want an end-to-end digital experience.
What you can do
Simply having a website is not enough anymore. Travel providers need to get ready to bring everything online – operations, marketing, sales, customer service.
Invest in an affordable online travel solution that provides a smooth online experience to your clients on all devices while making it easier for you and your staff to manage your back-end operations like inventory, commissions, accounting and reconciliation with suppliers and clients.
2) Safety and Hygiene are a Top Priority
People want to travel, but they also have safety in mind. When choosing a destination, they are likely to take into account several factors, including:
- Spread of the virus in that destination
- Entry requirements at the destination (vaccination, negative PCR etc)
- Availability of desired sightseeing, attractions or activities at the destination
- General safety and social distancing protocols at the destination
Similar concerns apply when it comes to planning flights, accommodation and local transportation.
What you can do
Keep your clients updated with the latest news and information relating to popular destinations via email, blog posts and your website.
Be transparent about any restrictions pertaining to major attractions or activities at a particular destination, regardless of whether it’s on your itinerary or not. Tell them upfront what’s open and what’s not. Your clients will appreciate you looking out for them.
Plan their itinerary in a way that minimizes the risk of disruption.
3) More Trips Closer to Home
Initially, a lot of people are more likely to travel domestically, especially road trips. There might be some reluctance to take flights, especially among those traveling with infants.
So weekend getaways and short stays at resorts closer to cities are likely to be quite popular among families with kids.
What you can do
Look to promote hotels and tours at destinations that are either drivable or require minimal use of public transportation, especially for customers traveling with kids.
Offer car rentals instead of taxis or minibuses to customers traveling to other states domestically, or those traveling internationally as that’s a safer means of getting around.
Create quality blog articles and social media posts covering weekend getaways and short trips, to start ranking on search engines for such queries. Cover lesser-known accommodation options, locations and attractions to give people something they probably didn’t know.
4) Increase in longer, more Luxurious Vacations
Another expected trend as per research is that when people do travel internationally, they are likely to do so less frequently but book longer vacations. They are also more likely to book apartments and homestays, rather than hotels for such trips. Demand for vacation rentals has soared during the last year or so, outpacing hotels.
Other than the obvious safety reasons, another contributing factor would be remote working. As work from home has become a norm across many industries and regions, people now have the flexibility to travel and work at the same time. So they would prefer to stay at someplace which is spacious, feels like home and is affordable for longer stays.
Popularly known as ‘workations’, these trips are longer in duration, as your travel plans are not constrained by work pressures in terms of deadlines or deliverables. People also don’t need to worry too much about using up their leave allowance.
What you can do
Expand your inventory of vacation rentals and homestays and start offering them to your clients, particularly if they are millennials. They are more popular than hotels among people who go for workations.
5) Increase in the Share of FIT Trips
Consumers are also more likely to favor vacations with their near and dear ones over the next few months, as opposed to traveling with large groups of strangers, for safety reasons.
They are also more likely to prefer customized itineraries that fit their specific needs, rather than prepackaged holidays.
What you can do
Invest in a cloud-based itinerary builder with an in-built customer management module that allows you and your staff to create fully customized itineraries and quotes based on client inquiries from anywhere, anytime.
6) Need for Flexible Booking Policies
Even as travel restarts, there will be a fair bit of uncertainty in the minds of consumers. What if there is another wave, either in their own country or the destination they’ve booked? What if the destination bans flights originating from their country? What if they need to cancel their trip because either they or somebody close to them got infected?
In all these cases, trips can get canceled or may need to be modified. So, people would prefer to book flights, hotels or tours that provide free cancellations/modifications or pay later.
What you can do
Try to negotiate agreements with suppliers that allow for flexible booking terms to accelerate recovery. Large OTAs are already offering this, so if your booking terms are inflexible, they will book with them instead.
Also, offer your clients good travel insurance that provides coverage against things that are likely to spoil their trip, such as cancellations, curtailment, delays, medical emergencies, baggage loss etc.
While things have started to pick up, it’s still going to be a while before we get anywhere close to the pre-pandemic numbers. Like we mentioned earlier, there is still uncertainty around the spread of the virus, as we’ve seen countries open borders only to end up closing them again because of rise in cases. So naturally, a lot of people are still cautious about traveling, particularly internationally.
So, it’s important for travel professionals to try and pick up their business slowly and steadily, focusing on domestic travel first, and later on international trips once things are better, and there are no signs of any new waves. Whatever happens, personalization and providing a seamless online experience are going to become paramount.
We at TravelCarma are on a mission to help as many travel businesses get their business online as possible while conserving cash. So we are offering a special ‘Resilience Package’ packed with all the online tools travel agencies need to get ready for the future, at an affordable price. Click here to know more.