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The Tour Operator’s Role is to Make Travel more Accessible and Enjoyable

The World Travel & Tourism Council’s annual research shows that the Travel & Tourism sector not only accounts for over 10% of global GDP but for one in ten jobs on the planet, and one in four new jobs created globally in the last five years. COVID-19 has dramatically altered life as we know it and the Travel & Tourism sector is uniquely exposed. As we consider the impact of the crises, we realize it could fundamentally alter the future of the Travel businesses.

Consumers are anxious about travelling again and are looking to professional travel businesses for information on what is safe, what is open, which hotels have implemented enhanced hygiene measures, and they want an advocate there for them if something happens before, during or after their trip. At the same time, travellers are willing to adopt new processes

In this article, I will share the  implications of new trends for the Travel businesses post Covid-19 and the future of the entire Travel and Tourism industry as argued by the World Travel and Tourism Council

The Traveller Behaviour

Some consumers are naturally fearful about travelling again as there is still so much uncertainty about COVID-19 and the differences in procedures across countries. In fact, according to an IATA survey, more than 80% of travellers were as concerned about potential quarantine restrictions as they are about catching the virus during travel.

With respect to consumer desires, there is a need for information and trusted guidance. Expectations may be frequently translated into support from a travel advocate who is very familiar with all stages of the journey. This is the greatest opportunity for travel advisors to emphasize their role as a trusted resource, which becomes the most fundamental component of their value proposition. The human connection becomes more essential, and an added layer of service to support clients is now critical to help travellers to travel with confidence.

Safety comes first and travellers’ awareness of good practices in health and hygiene has and will continue to grow, influencing their expectations for travel. Even after a vaccine becomes available, the traveller is likely to remain more cautious of health issues going forward.

Travellers will remain wary in the short to medium term about the possibility of future outbreaks and their ability to get back home in case of a lockdown.

The New Experience

Building customer confidence online is becoming increasingly important in travellers’ decision-making. With information gathering primarily taking place through online channels, businesses should not only make sure their own promotion and messaging is present, but also expand access to information through innovative formats and ensure clarity around cancellation policies.

Travellers will need confident access to the latest requirements for travel to their destinations, including health, data and travel insurance rules. Travel Agencies can provide tremendous value by providing up-to-date resources and helping travellers navigate choices.

Innovation & Technology

Amid stay-at-home orders, digital adoption and consumption are on the rise, with consumers now expecting contactless technologies, among others, as a basic prerequisite for a safe and seamless travel experience.

While digitisation has been an emerging trend within the Travel & Tourism sector in recent years, stay at home orders have led to digital acceleration with more consumers becoming adept at using technological solutions in everyday life including online shopping and virtual meetings. Still, travellers remain cautious about cyber risks and data privacy; something which has become apparent with the emergence of contact tracing apps

Communication is Key

As businesses aim to reassure travellers that they have taken all possible steps to ensure high quality of service and safety, communication, and particularly marketing and positioning will be critical. Given travellers renewed interest in safety and hygiene, there is a need to provide travellers with easily accessible, digestible, accurate and timely information and facts and being open to answering questions to inform their decision-making.

Going forward

While the road ahead may appear uncertain; we anticipate that the challenges along the way can and will be converted into opportunities by the Travel & Tourism sector.

Success will be defined by the ability to stay connected with clients; pivoting and adapting to reflect how consumers will want to travel in a post COVID world. The key is being flexible in all facets of the business and meaningfully engaging with consumers to validate our ability to advocate on their behalf and earn the “trusted advisor” status that will secure long term relationships.

The tour operator’s role is to overcome challenges and to make travel more accessible and enjoyable, thus inspiring travellers. The more operational tasks will be automated, and the human connection will make the experiences invaluable.

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