Demand

Traditionally, the travel industry has been easy to forecast and predict. Calendar years could be categorised tidily into ‘peak seasons’, ‘shoulder seasons’ and ‘low seasons’. Seasonality affected this demand and dictated the popularity of travel destinations. For example, the summer seasons usually aligned to ‘peak’ periods of travel and school holidays, and winter travel destinations were usually based on either winter pursuits such as skiing, or sun-seeking ports of call to avoid the cold altogether. But while the travel sector continues to struggle under the strain of Covid-19, its subsequent variants, and ever-changing restrictions imposed by airlines and governments, too many businesses are waiting for ‘normal’ to return. They must understand that this wait is futile – both in time and in energy. There is a new normal for which the industry needs to adapt. This new normal is dictated by world events and by a consumer market that, now more than ever, seeks autonomy and control over their own experiences.

Reflexivity

The travel sector has been among the hardest hit by evolutions dictated by the past two years. As one destination or government opens up, others close. Airlines cancel flights – or entire routes. Travel agents and national carriers have collapsed under impossible financial burdens. Qualified staff must be retrained before airlines can even reinstate routes and flights.

Whilst in the early stages of the pandemic, it seemed rational to wait and see how global events would conclude. But now, two years on, it’s safe to say that disruption has become commonplace and that we ought to embrace it to survive and thrive. Reflexivity to demand is vital in harnessing this market. Seasons and trends are no longer easily predicted or follow logical patterns. They are fast to emerge and even faster to wane. To capitalise on these spikes of activity and opportunity, the structure and infrastructure of businesses in the travel sector must adapt.

 

User-Led

Adaptations to this shift must reflect the expectation of a user-led process. Placing control in the hands of the users necessitates design and infrastructure sympathising and reflecting with this expectation. So, what does that mean exactly? It means accepting that what you think you know, is no longer as accurate as it once was. It means that a lifetime of experience and customer insight in the travel industry has now been completely redefined. This dictates that to adapt and thrive in this new environment, the end-user must become the new expert.

The end-users will and should shape the new norm for the future of travel. But how does that reflect in a business approach to travel? End users are now the masters of their destinies, expect to be treated as such, and will seek and favour systems that allow them to act by this belief system. Antiquated systems that seek to control or define travel for them will continue to suffer.

P&O Cruises are a shining example of how the impacts of the travel sector can be harnessed to improve customer loyalty and pipeline sales. P&O Cruises Australia President Sture Myrmell said the company has “a big reservoir of loyal guests who are keen to cruise again as soon as it is possible to do so. Booking trends for the first part of 2022 are encouraging and compare well with the same period of pre-pandemic 2019”.

 

Summary

Price comparison sites, travel agencies, airlines and hotel booking sites are key features of the travel sector landscape. These business models require – now more than ever – a user-led design that places the power in the hands of the people. No longer can seasonal forecasts or annual trends be relied upon to deliver or regulate sales.

Sales spikes and troughs can occur suddenly and unexpectedly because of internal or external factors, such as governmental announcements, changes to airline policy, or spur-of-the-moment loopholes for foreign travellers. To prepare for, and capitalize on, this new world order design and infrastructure must facilitate a user-led approach to travel. P&O Cruises are a perfect example of how the downtime within the cruise ship industry was used wisely to prepare for a ‘new normal’ in the future of travel.

In the absence of forecastable material, the end-user becomes the new expert on the industry, and as such requires the power to act and control their experiences in a way that is suitable and pleasing to them. To allow them this control, a system that provides for ease and autonomous self-servicing must be prioritised. We are already starting to see the separation between the businesses that are proactive in this approach, compared to those that remain reactive.

Several established industry names have already fallen into administration, whilst others have prospered. For businesses that fall into the former camp, the time has never been riper to take the plunge and adapt to a new future in the travel business.