Change is the only Constant in travel

As the above saying goes, nowhere is this more applicable than the Travel Industry that has undergone tremendous changes, seen various stress points during the 1st wave & 2nd wave of Covid. While TMCs and travel industry players saw their business at its lowest – the beginning of the current year (2022) saw some travel bouncing back with leisure travel fast on its way to recovery while business travel was under revival mode. The business resumption also showed clear preference to managed travel as people were worried about travel compliances to varied covid regulations of the destination countries and wanted the travel risks to be mitigated or reduced to maximum possible. The travel industry went to almost 0% in 2020 as Covid ravaged various countries, 2021 saw some return before the 2nd (or 3rd/4th/5th wave entered -as called by the media!)

As was expected, first year of Covid saw emergence of domestic travel/tourism in many countries and as cases declined – some regional travel opened up in Europe. Far-East was completely out of bounds for international travellers as well as regional travellers in 2020 and most of 2021. The beginning of 2022 saw many countries in Europe reducing most of the Covid related requirements as the intensity and severity of Covid infections reduced, tests for international arrivals were done away with in later part of 2021 and Covid test reports were made tamper proof for other countries to accept them. Later part of the 2021 has seen US and Canada also relaxing restrictions and entry to foreign nationals allowed (Non-Family/Non-business). These are the major tourist markets and also see large volumes on business travel that has bounced back. UK has done away with Covid protocol all together, including the mandatory masks, US has recently removed testing requirements for all incoming international arrivals, Thailand & Singapore have opened up, Indian trade bodies are pitching for removal of mandatory passenger locator forms (AirSuvidha self-declaration), Canada plans to relax more rules etc etc.

While above measures are resulting in increased demand on international travel, however the travelers are still anxious about going thru the entire ever changing travel compliance process (yet in place by many countries, including China). 2020 and 2021 saw many travel companies reinventing themselves – without any travel! And the process continues as with talent shortage/gap and spurt in demand – the dependence and reliance upon human interactions or assisted travel has gone up, as Online Booking Tools/Self Booking Tools are of not much help when it comes to guiding passengers on Covid requirements or Quarantine rules of various countries.

The worrisome situation that most of the managers/CEOs are forced to handle are – will the changes made in the travel business model, or tweaking their market segment by TMCs will continue to work or will further changes make these already implemented changes redundant?

07-10 months of 2020 gave an opportunity to many travel companies to rethink on their business model, invest in technology to cater to growing segment of customers who are comfortable doing Online transactions. Investment in Digital payments made the financial transactions easier, overall technology helped change the travel transactions processing.

As we see travel returning and show signs of some normalcy, it will be a while before customer choices and booking pattern stabilize and Covid related rules are done with…till then its reinventing and re-adjustment by travel companies as days go by. The levels of 2019 are yet to return or be surpassed as countries open slowly. Wait and watch will surely help.

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