Covid disrupted the entire eco-system of the travel industry, that survives on skilled manpower to offer exemplary customer services. So, whether its Airline, hotel, car rental, cruise company or any other player in the chain – all of them today are facing shortages of skilled manpower. Recent events at various airports in Europe, US, Canada are current examples of manpower crisis in the travel industry.
Having said that, it’s the supplier side that is also facing the brunt. Many travel management companies, tour operators, support service providers are looking for experienced team members, most of them were either given the pink slips during the lockdown and since then have either found another vocation or now not keen to come back to the industry. As the travel industry traffic picks up, the complaints on customer services are pouring in due to inability of the industry player to meet up with demands.
Automating things is not helping either, as Covid rules are ever changing and travelers are apprehensive about traveling lest they get stuck at either the destination or transit. Horror stories abound with airports photos of thousands of baggage stuck or left behind due to glitch in the system and no airport staff available to assist passengers, or destinations like Hong Kong that stipulates strict & mandatory 7nights quarantine rule at few designated hotels for all nationalities upon arrival. Things are so bad, that now passengers are first booking the hotel in HKG and then based on booking the flight!
At the supplier’s end, travel companies who took the opportunity to re-assess their infrastructure during Covid lockdown, upgraded their technology and touch points to capture the now tech savvy new breed of clients will surely find it easy to survive as travel starts to bounce back. While the large global TMCs or those with positive cash flow were able to upgrade the technology – many smaller ones missed the boat, while among those who did upgrade technology and their strategy – found it difficult to implement a working combination of their processes, people with customers. In fact another surprising discovery during last 2 years in the travel industry was that while AI and ML is making progress by leaps and bound, the communication to end customers in travel industry is still being processed manually. Majority of it! For majority of Travel & Tour operators, email is the preferred mode of client communication, followed by phone calls.
Strange that while management of these established travel companies does recognize the need to modernize and use tech strategy to survive and grow, yet the ground survey does not show much infiltration or success on technology initiatives. Probably the top leadership has no clear focus or strategy or they are bound with limited budgets, especially post Covid as industry has gone thru a lot.
It is time that senior management of travel companies, irrespective of their size of operation, woke up and took a holistic stand on way forward using technology as an enabler of their company growth. The need to fine tune their thought process is immediate, find tools and platforms that are interoperable, rather than syncing multitude of different platforms or services being used. If the infrastructure is well geared to handle the travel that is bouncing back, your team would be happy to work and provide a great customer service that clients are now looking for. Happy employees bring more business!