The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been devastating in countless ways. However, not unlike other seminal (but thankfully rare) events that have previously rocked the travel industry - such as 9/11 and the global financial crisis - the outbreak has also served as a trigger to help the sector assess, reflect and change, and ultimately emerge more resilient in the future.
Since February we’ve been scenario planning around the likely dynamics of air travel and hotel stays in a post-Covid world. As the short and longer term picture has become more clear, here are examples of some key pivots we’re taking to adapt to a different future in the near term, bring the value of upgrades to users sooner than later, and help our airline and hotel partners optimise the incremental recovery.
1. Adapting to new differences in market, business, and travel readiness – We have remapped our launch approach to support a return to travel that will be exceptionally steady when it comes to international journeys. As such we are prioritising to support our airline and hotel partners optimise the recovery in regions where travel ‘readiness’ is set to be earlier and more concentrated than for long haul routes. With talk of travel bubbles and air bridges being formed that will supersede quarantine, the reinstatement of localised travel within countries such as Australia, Japan, Switzerland, and the US are being mooted as green shoots hotspots of recovery for domestic travel. From our expectation to launch first with a majority of long haul routes now this represents a pivot to now support on what is set to be a surge in demand for domestic travel.
For hotels which are likely to particularly experience earlier spikes in demand than airlines we are now also talking to their integration partners, as well as hotels directly, in order to facilitate integration with their third-party systems. Ultimately this means that we can provide the benefits of our closed marketplace sooner than later, and give more control to hotels on how to manage strategies for occupancy – across both premium and standard room inventory.
2. Planning for the rise of the staycation – Following on from the above, the expected spike in domestic travel will lead to a rise in hotel bookings from ‘staycationers’ and special occasion getaways. Those properties used to a healthy footfall of international visitors every year may find themselves targeting difficult to reach (but equally high value) domestic travellers that might sit outside their typical guest profile or existing loyalty program. With hotels expected to see bookings earlier as a result of the staycation trend we are working with smaller and boutique hotels as well as large chains to help them manage capacity and optimise room inventory to maximise revenue – specifically by connecting them directly with those guests who are willing to pay extra to upgrade their room.
3. Investigating product enhancements - We are exploring in-app enhancements that will bring further continuity and substantial added value to our travel partners. While flight and hotel upgrades remain absolutely core to our proposition, we are also identifying ways we can bring additional ancillary revenue opportunities to our partners helping them provide the tailored experiences that these new types of guests are looking for – all in one place.
The demand for less friction-filled and more enjoyable customer experiences isn’t going to change after the crisis. For returners to travel, the delivery of better, more seamless experiences through mobile, combined with the smart use of data to anticipate guest and passenger needs and personalise their experience will be on the critical path to delighting customers and creating future loyalty. We are working with airlines and hotels to help them to do just that.