Covid-19 hit the travel sector like a severe bout of turbulence on an otherwise smooth flight. The industry has been severely damaged but innovation, leadership and technology – especially Irish technology – will accelerate a global recovery in 2021. Here are six key trends to watch out for.
You will need another passport
Airlines, hotels and tour operators were forced to play the waiting game throughout 2020, but the introduction of testing and immunity ‘passports’ could be the jump-starter that travel needs.
Irish firm LetsGetChecked has been the pioneer in this space, partnering with American Airlines to trial end-to-end testing that has been extended to multiple destinations to reopen travel. With a vaccine on the way, we also know that many countries and airlines will insist on proof of vaccination to travel, probably sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, Daon has already teamed up with American Airlines and Denver International Airport to deploy VeriFLY, an app that provides real-time digital credentials to allow users seamless, touch-free transactions; in essence, an immunity passport so people can travel.
Hygiene will be make-or-break
From now on, anyone getting on a plane or checking into a hotel is going to insist on the highest possible standards when it comes to hygiene. Accordingly, travel operators will have to be seen to be doing everything possible to protect their customers.
EI client CW Applied Technology provides hospital grade sterilization for hotels through UV light technology, while others like P3 Hotels and Avvio allow for seamless self check-in and check-out. Again, the focus is on building confidence and reassurance among potentially gun-shy travellers.
Altada uses the power of AI and machine learning with canines to track people with Covid, including early detection and people that are asymptomatic in locations with large numbers of people such as airports. These abilities will help drive safety, reassurance, and trust and will be key until everyone is vaccinated.
Business trips will have to wait
It’s going to take time for corporate life to return to normal, and even longer for corporate travel to follow suit. There are big questions about duty of care and companies will have to think carefully before allowing employees to travel.
In tandem with that, people have taken to remote working and virtual meetings like ducks to water. Some work trips and events are now simply unnecessary while others will become hybrid affairs, mixing virtual with in-person attendance.
Where flexibility is required, the likes of MeetingsBooker provides automated bookings to help corporate clients source local workspaces for teams that are working from home but who need to meet, either regularly or occasionally. This is in addition to their existing very robust solution for booking events and stays at hotels all while providing automation for hotels and office buildings who provide the supply.
Cogs and Marvel an award winning live and digital brand experience agency work with leading companies on events and more importantly the experience people have before, during, and after these events. Now very much core to their offering is heavily curated virtual events.
Local will lead the way
We saw a surge in staycationing last year, and the focus will remain on domestic leisure travel while corporate and international wait for the dust to settle. Looking at the data, it’s clear that people are opting for much closer destinations (within a 2-3 hour drive), where home rental providers like Airbnb can give people more control of their environment.
Wherever you are travelling, you are going to see an abundance of care and caution at every turn, with innovation providing that all-important reassurance factor.
Booking will be better
There will be huge innovation behind the scenes as well. For example, travel sellers will continue to enhance their systems and be more competitive in the race for direct bookings.
Irish firm Arvoia does this brilliantly, using an independent AI cloud with over 2.3 billion data points and trillions of behavioural insights (travel, hospitality, mobility) to deliver the most sophisticated prediction and personalization products to drive sales and delight customers.
Airlines will also look to make up a revenue shortfall from food and baggage through additional ancillary offerings in the booking experience. A great example here is Sim Local, which helps travellers switch SIM to avoid excessive phone charges, or Coras which provides tickets to major events across the globe. The ability to drive new revenues while offering more choice at the right time in the right place will ensure the industry offers a complete retail experience.
Irish solutions for a changing world
Around the world, Ireland is synonymous with travel. Our people and technology have played a significant part in building the industry, and now they have focused even more on product and are offering solutions to rebuild and restore confidence.
We are also seeing Irish companies pivot to focus on solutions to accelerate the travel industry recovery. Daon, LetsGetChecked, Altada had no track record in travel but have stepped up to really help the industry in a meaningful way.
We will get there
If 2020 was travel’s annus horribilis, the good news is that green shoots are emerging fast. People want to travel, and Irish innovation will help them do that. Here’s to safe and happy travels in 2021.