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Reflections On The Changing Face Of The Travel Industry

In the current scenario, with flexibility of work from anywhere, people are now opting for less travelled, less populated places with good internet connectivity to stay and work. This has led to an increased demand for staycations, philantourism, short term rental and vacations. The collective effort of the companies and the travellers have helped the industry to stay afloat and enrich the experiences of travellers.

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The Travel and Hospitality industry took an unprecedented hit due to the pandemic. As we started the year 2021 with hope of leaving the pandemic behind, the year turned out to be worse as the second wave created havoc worldwide.

Industry numbers quote that the tourism industry has been hit by close to USD $950billion due to pandemic over the first 11 months of 2021.

As tourism is an important source of income for many developing countries, accounting for 50% of total exports for many small economies, the fall in numbers led to some serious challenges in the industry, in turn forcing everyone to adapt and innovate.

2021 Biggest Challenges

Travel bans continued to adversely impact the travel ecosystem and uncertainty in ever changing regulations and policies discouraged travellers who might have otherwise travelled on leisure. Increase in travel costs owing to reduced frequency of flights added to the existing challenges. 

If we look at travel for business, many corporates are eager to restart their travel and engage with each other face-to -face, but ever-changing regulations and travel policies continue to be a dampener. 

Additionally, the Work from Anywhere set up continues to grey the lines between leisure and business travel. 

However, all is not lost. Some of the measures taken by various governments like vaccination roll out, strong guidelines for airlines, airports and hotels have ensured there is confidence among travellers and it can be seen in the slow but steady rise in number of people travelling and willing to travel now. Additionally, some of the features the industry has been struggling to get customers to embrace, were adopted seamlessly due to the situation. No one would disagree to that fact that the pandemic was one of the biggest factors in digitizing multiple sectors that were slow to evolve earlier. 

Going Contactless and Tapping into New Technologies

Even though we are social beings and the need for in-person engagements continues to entice us, being safe while travelling has become the top-most priority of every individual and business.

This has led to the adoption of new and enhanced technologies by travel companies including airlines and hotels. For example, airlines introduced an array of mandatory services from web check-in, mobile boarding passes and auto print luggage tags to pushing travel advisories dynamically based on the current pandemic scenario. Hotels have digitized their menus, keyless entries and more!

Contactless experience is the need of the hour and technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning or the Internet of Things are being explored to their best capability. 

Travel networks have taken initiative to move forward with digitalization of their processes to adhere to the pandemic but also to make their customers’ experiences seamless. 

Airlines have accelerated use of virtual assistants that helps in booking process and personalization. One of the examples will be paperless flight deck environment using tablets and mobiles for crew. Though this has been around for some years, the pandemic has accelerated its adoption across the industry. 

Similarly, hotels are now gearing up to ensure contactless, seamless and exceptional hospitality services to guests. Few examples include keyless entry, personal entertainment, check-in and checkout kiosks along with online F&B ordering using voice recognition technology. 

New Markets and Opportunities

Every cloud has a silver lining. In the current scenario, with flexibility of work from anywhere, people are now opting for less travelled, less populated places with good internet connectivity to stay and work. This has led to an increased demand for staycations, philantourism, short term rental and vacations. 

Overall, the collective effort of the companies and the travellers have helped the industry to stay afloat and enrich the experiences of travellers.

As we move to the year 2022, we will see travel companies innovating and transforming their business and technology further and be ready for pre-covid travel numbers.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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travel industry

Vinod Kesvan

The author is Senior Director, Software Engineering, Sabre Bengaluru GCC

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