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Steven Freudmann speaks to Amadeus: "It's Time to Re-think Travel Together".
As we approach the final months of 2020, I’ve been reflecting on this cataclysmic year: what lessons have we learned and how can the travel industry best prepare for the months and years ahead? Put more simply, how will we make lemonade out of all our lemons?
Published - 12/10/2020

ITT Future You Networking Session Connects Yomdel and Bhav Taylor in New Sales Role
'Networking: Strength of the Spider's Web' was one of a number of career-focused sessions hosted at the recent ITT Future You: International Careers Conference, organised by the Institute of Travel & Tourism (ITT).
Published - 06/10/2020

ITT Future You recruits first industry Apprentice Ambassador
In its latest initiative to support the next generation of industry talent, ITT Future You has appointed travel apprentice, Chloe Lee as its first ITT Future You Apprentice Ambassador.
Published - 30/09/2020

Gianni Onorato to Speak at the Virtual ITT Conference
In this session, MSC Cruises’ CEO Gianni Onorato will walk attendees through the cruise industry’s efforts to develop health and safety protocols and restart guest operations in the wake of the Covid-19 global pandemic.
Published - 22/09/2020

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Steven Freudmann speaks to Amadeus: "It's Time to Re-think Travel Together".

When faced with questions about travel in 2020 and beyond, the answer that pops into mind is together. Now more than ever the travel industry must present a united front and work collaboratively to address the challenges ahead. So what are these challenges and how can we address them? I don't have all the answers—no one does—but these are starting points for the conversations I hope to have with the Institute of Travel and Tourism’s industry partners in the months ahead. 

Travelers still want to go places

Let's start with the good news. If there’s anything we learned from the summer, it’s that many travelers are still keen to travel. Even with fears of a second wave of COVID in some countries, many want to explore the possibilities for travel if not now, then as soon as they can in 2021.

Search and booking volumes for short-haul flights have shown some resilience in 2020 according to industry data. In line with this, budget carrier EasyJet said that its planes flew 84 percent full in July and that it would add more than 10 percent to its flight capacity through September than it had planned, although the fast-changing situation means it is difficult to plan with certainty. 

Meanwhile, hotels that cater to domestic travelers are seeing a boom of interest. Sykes Cottages Holdings, which rents properties across the UK, told the Wall Street Journal in July that they experienced a 159 percent increase in bookings versus the same period last year. Even the cruise industry is reporting  “truly remarkable” bookings volumes for next year. The CEO of Norwegian Cruise Lines, Frank Del Rio told CNBC: “Pricing has held up well. And so we’re hopeful that 2021 can be an OK year. It won’t be a record year by any means, but it certainly won’t be the disaster that 2020 has been.”

Dealing with unpredictable travel policies

The travel industry is a global one. A big challenge we'll continue to face is the unpredictable and varied government responses to the pandemic. Some countries and regions have strict entrance, screening and mask-wearing policies as well as robust testing and contact-tracing systems. Others don't. So far, it seems airlines are left on the hook to define and enforce their own mask-wearing policies. 

This is a huge burden for flight attendants already dealing with an extraordinary amount of stress, and an extra source of uncertainty for travelers. Just in the UK for example, the government announced different rules for social gatherings in England, Scotland and Wales, generating much traveler unease and confusion ahead of the October half-term break, a time when local businesses relying on travel were hoping for a boost. 

If we are to fight this uncertainty, the travel industry must create a united front. Together we can recommend best practices to our respective governments to protect our employees, reassure travelers, and encourage safe travel during these times. 

Technology is on our side

While some things are out of our hands, there is a lot the travel industry can do if we are proactive and work together. In 2021, we've never been more prepared to take on a challenge of this scope: we have many technological solutions to make travel easier, more efficient and safer for everyone. 

At the shopping stage, travel providers can trigger pop-ups to notify shoppers and travel agents of travel polices in place at the destination they are searching, and tailor search results based on their home country's specific travel policies.  In addition, online travel companies can use their unprecedented access to data to better understand traveler trends and share this information with the industry to create better and more tailored travel experiences. 

At the travel stage, airports can roll-out mandatory health checks with thermal imaging, temperature checks, or COVID-19 tests. For example in Canada, a pilot program with West Jet airlines and the Vancouver International Airport will test all domestic passengers for COVID-19 and passengers will get results before boarding. Meanwhile, biometric technology and digital traveler ID can encourage touchless passenger experiences at hotels and airports to reduce lines and encourage social distancing. Finally travel agents, hotels, airlines and other travel companies can use instant messaging and two-way communication on their personalized apps to share COVID-19 policies and answer any questions for concerned travelers before, during and after the journey. 

Thinking outside the box

Even with the best technology at our fingertips, we need to think creatively and innovate to entice travelers back. We must look at the opportunities before us and package unique and exciting experiences that travelers can take advantage of during COVID-19 times and beyond. 

For example, a report from The Staits Times said that Singapore Airlines (SIA) is looking to launch “flights to nowhere” that will depart from and land at Changi Airport this month. The Singapore-based newspaper said the flights for domestic passengers are expected to begin by the end of October and could be bundled with staycations at hotels, shopping vouchers at Jewel Changi Airport and a limousine service to ferry customers around, according to anonymous sources. 

Closer to home, a Visit Scotland paper found that tourists will travel less, but with more ‘purpose’, demonstrating community support through activities such as volunteering, re-wilding, localism, and restorative immersion through spirit-lifting experiences. Could this be an opportunity for local rail companies and airlines to partner with local hotels, and outdoor travel companies or local non-profit organizations? If travel companies collaborate to offer unique experiences and packages, we could entice even the most hesitant travelers to venture to new pastures. 

Looking ahead

All of this may sound daunting, but it can and must be done. I’ve dedicated my life to the travel industry because I love the people I get to meet and work with – this is an industry that attracts inherently curious, open-minded and adaptable global citizens. I have no doubt that we are up for the challenge. It will be a wild ride, but I'm confident that if we band together to innovate and push through, we will emerge stronger when the turbulence has passed.

Published: Monday, October 12, 2020

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