Travel is booming. A quick glance at headlines over recent months demonstrates the ongoing demand for travel as pandemic restrictions lift.
That’s the exciting part. Leisure travel is roaring and while business travel overall is experiencing slower recovery, the group booking, meetings and events segments are all doing well. Travel is tipped to defy any looming economic downturn - our own Traveller Sentiment Survey, which launched in August, reveals that people would rather give up other non-essential spending such as dining out, gym membership and even Netflix than travel.
The harder part, but also the opportunity, is capturing all that demand while ensuring a high-quality traveller experience. The summer months have shown that brands across the travel industry can do better when it comes to service levels provided to customers.
As the pandemic hit, many businesses and sectors had to make considerable changes – or pivots – to survive. Airlines, no longer able to carry passengers, pivoted to cargo and much-needed medicines and vaccines. Hotels pivoted to provide shelter to the homeless and long-term accommodation for those that found themselves stranded. Here at Collinson, we pivoted to deliver Covid testing systems and protocols that helped thousands of travellers stay connected and moving across the UK, US and Asia. But these pivots have meant immense changes for the sector. Planes sent to the desert for long-term storage. Staff redeployment and layoffs. Loss of highly-skilled workers to other industries and early retirement. And then the summer boom hit, and the industry was required to ramp up again and much faster than anyone had predicted. So, while high traveller volumes have been great for travel recovery, they’ve also created major challenges for businesses – including Collinson – either still dealing with the repercussions of the previous pivot or who simply weren’t ready for the volumes experienced.
To make things more challenging, the profile of today’s traveller has changed. The lines between work and leisure have blurred. Travellers are going to airports hours earlier than they used to and are often travelling for longer periods. And because of all this, our data shows that they are more willing to pay for premium experiences – whether seeking a little more space or some extra comfort. And, they also want to choose when to access these experiences in the journey. In order to meet this new demand, it is essential that we think of the entire journey and not treat customers as just a passenger or hotel guest.
A collaborative, ecosystem led approach
At Collinson, in the past year, we have added more lounges as well as other experiences, so we now cover 95% of all international flights from the top 100 busiest airports. New digital services are being added to our owned and networked lounge portfolios too, including smart queue management and at-table ordering.
In 2019 we made a strategic investment in French start-up InFlyter, an airport and duty-free ordering platform. Inflyter has recently announced a partnership with 3Sixty, the leading in-flight and retail duty free retailer, to allow customers to pre-order duty free and have it delivered to their home address or hotel, even when flying domestically in the US.
We’ve also recently increased our investment in enterprise self-service platform, Servy, which amongst other things, offers the largest e-commerce platform in airports worldwide. Both investments tap into the desire from travellers for a more contactless, connected and seamless airport experience. And just a couple of weeks ago, the first Chase Sapphire Lounge by The Club opened in Hong Kong International Airport, just in time for the predicted boom in passengers now that travel restrictions have finally been relaxed.
I reference these examples, because we firmly believe that our industry will only survive its next shock, by collaborating, partnering and working through challenges as a collective. This is how we’ll deliver on the high expectations of the post-pandemic traveller and our mission is to increase collaboration with new and existing clients and partners across the entirety of the travel ecosystem.
Undoubtedly, there are still many questions and challenges to address. How can our systems better integrate to deliver a smooth customer journey? How can we use the power of data to improve the in-airport experience, particularly during high-traffic periods? How can new technologies surpass consumer expectation? All exciting opportunities we can best address as a collective and unified industry.