All Aboard: Turning the Tap Back On the Travel Industry and How Technology is Shaping It.

It’s been over a year since the COVID pandemic was first declared in March 2020, putting the brakes on the travel industry and changing the way we travel and book.

Fast forward to May 2021 and we are still seeing restrictions in place regarding travel. Nevertheless, these restrictions are starting to lift in the UK and a glimmer of hope shines over summer 2021.  Godel investigates what the travel industry is doing to prepare as the ‘traffic light’ turns from red to amber and the role technology is playing.

The new travel era

Up until now, official guidance stated you must have a permitted reason to travel abroad. But as of May 17, international travel can gradually resume allowing travel to a list of quarantine-free “green countries”. In parts of the UK, hotels, hostels and B&Bs can also re-open their doors to guests as indoor hospitality resumes.

With that in mind, the handbrake is coming off for staycations and cautiously for international travel, meaning bookings will once more commence. A consumer tracker revealed 20% of summer bookings have been transferred from trips that have previously been cancelled or postponed due to previous travel restrictions.

What role is technology playing?

Since the easing of restrictions was announced, it’s been reported the number of bookings has increased by up to 250%. This surge has resulted in more customer demand. The industry has seen the benefits of using AI (artificial intelligence) such as chatbots and machine learning to make customer experience better, making the booking process simpler, offering service quickly and gathering the data to learn from interactions with customers.

The industry has also seen a trajectory of mobile tech, with more people opting to use an online travel agency to search and book travel. Siarhei Adamenia, Head of Mobile at Godel recently discussed the future of mobile and how the last year has changed our perception of mobile technology. Siarhei reflects on how businesses are now adopting a “mobile first approach.”

Mobile

It’s been reported that the rate of mobile app usage has risen exponentially, up to 90%, since the start of the pandemic, with COVID and its impact meaning it’s being implemented on a larger scale. Customers need a more flexible way of booking their trip “there and then”. It also creates a more functional, smarter and data-driven model for businesses.

The pandemic has also seen a rise in features such as moving towards a contactless travel experience, giving customers piece of mind when booking. Automation plays a key role in this by maintaining efficiency, especially when staffing levels are not at full capacity as a result of redundancies, re-hiring when the time comes, and the task of planning for a mystery market.

What’s in the horizon?

A recent Skyscanner survey found that two-thirds believe “the global COVID-19 situation is getting better”, a trend that’s been increasing since January.

The industry is poised and ready, and the roadmap has been drawn along with the ongoing vaccination programme. It will be interesting to see what summer 2021 will bring, and how much the industry can recover and start repairing the fractures the last year has brought. What is to be expected is travel won’t return in the same way pre-COVID. However, the work is being put in to prepare for new challenges… ready for whatever the new normal brings.