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In 2019 the outlook for travel was fairly optimistic in comparison to some other major sectors. It was at a place of maturity in customer experience, using the ability to emotionally and personally connect, whilst leveraging consumer behaviours to create buy in and deliver enhanced customer journeys.
Some disruption was evident, including financial fragility caused by the emergence of new players and go-between providers, like AIrBnB, and also a growing interest in personalised, sustainable eco-tourism. Both factors were impacting on the traditional value, luxury and price based market. Plus, technology was giving regional providers global reach, and bricks and mortar travel retailers were being challenged by digital startups.
The arrival of COVID-19 increased existing pressures, while lockdown and flight bans created income stasis and refund deficits. Cost sustainability is now a huge factor, especially for standalone venues and cases where low operating margins coincide with high cost distribution or intermediation, with go-betweens and resellers draining income flows.
Thankfully, the industry is trading again, but the extended airline recovery period is likely to create immediate price hikes and a lack of availability in the leisure market. For business travellers and the corporate market, this recovery will be much longer.
We can expect short term growth in domestic markets, as people have less money and opportunity for international journeys. With global destinations limited, travel will become a simpler more meaningful and relationship-based activity. Lasting consumer trends will result, including a renewed interest in sustainable tourism and purposeful, enriching travel.
Two segments are emerging: The smaller, local, mid-market meaningful avenues for travel, versus luxury propositions. As companies jostle for space in this new world, mature customer service will be vital. But, there is a substantial learning curve required to develop as a seasoned customer advisor, with the depth of understanding needed covering the sector, brand and processes.
In tandem with the rise of homeworking, leisure travel will become blended with business needs, creating the new concept of ‘Bleisure’. Put simply, the human experience of travel and the need for personal contact and connection will be at the forefront of all these changes, and will be increasingly valued and promoted.
To discover more about customer service models post COVID-19 read our new Whitepaper, a joint publication with Gobeyond Partners, part of the Webhelp group, on Reimagining service for the new world which is underpinned by our unique industry perspective alongside new research to discover the operating models of the future.
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