As recovery unfolds across the globe, travel players must prepare for new realities and rethink their operations in order to fully capitalise on the rebound, opined Frederic Ho, vice president of APAC, Jumio Corporation.
As global travel restrictions continue to ease, anybody who can will start packing their bags again. In fact, the resurgence in travel is expected to be so pervasive that the term “revenge travel” was coined to describe consumers hastening to make up for disrupted 2020 plans, which will likely cause a growth spurt in the travel industry.
Tourism has become a key driver of many of the region’s economies, with the sector accounting for 12.1 per cent of South-east Asia’s gross domestic product in 2019. Globally, Asia was once again the biggest growth driver in the international tourism market during the first eight months of 2019, before the pandemic dealt a severe blow to its rise.
To prevent further losses, governments are now looking intently at reigniting aviation by cautiously allowing cross-border business travel and by introducing mandatory Covid-19 testing for inbound travellers.
But is the travel industry ready to fully capitalise on this upcoming return to the skies?
Travel players may be eager to emerge from the crisis, but the truth is, they may not be looking at the same landscape they used to know. As uncertainty looms, companies need to find new ways to gear up their business to pre-pandemic levels and come out stronger than ever.
This involves not only addressing new travel risks and anxieties, but also taking the golden opportunity to reimagine their operations — from travellers’ experiences, to the business’ processes — so that they don’t fall into old traps.
Understanding new travel realities
One of the lasting legacies of this pandemic will be a greater emphasis on sustainability and health as the public becomes more conscious of the impact of their travel choices.
The pandemic presents an opportunity for industry players to rethink their customer’s journey — from when they book their first flight, to the moment they return — and integrate more sustainable practices throughout the cycle.
All travel stakeholders including governments, businesses and industry associations should also look to adapt to the changing habits and pain points in this new era.
Fully digital passports and e-passports with embedded smart chips, for example, can ease immigration procedures and checks. These chips leverage biometrics technology, and contain the passport holder’s photograph and personal information (e.g., full name, date of birth).
Governments around the globe have already started using e-passports so as to securely authenticate the identity of travellers. E-passports that integrate near-field communication (NFC) functionality to read the information from the e-passport chips can further negate the need for travellers to pass around their physical IDs at airline gates, thus easing some anxieties as we seek out a more contactless society.
Digital health IDs are also being explored to streamline travellers’ health declarations. These IDs can incorporate recent Covid-19 test results, health declaration forms and contact tracing data to validate and verify that the traveller is negative. This provides airports and hotels with a safe way to reopen, while protecting travellers’ health and safety.
Plugging gaps in operations
It is also crucial to remember that some of the challenges that existed in the industry well before the pandemic have not disappeared.
One of the biggest impediments to growth for companies is high booking abandonment rates from online travel sites. A study by SalesCycle showed that abandonment rates in Asia stood at a whopping 85.5 per cent. And this, despite Asia reporting the lowest levels of abandonment in the world!
Mitigating this issue means creating a smoother and more user-friendly booking experience that eliminates tedious form-filling, slow load times and repeated requests for the same information.
An effective solution to encourage follow-through is streamlining the capture of data, including passport and payment information. Additionally, the use of sophisticated technologies such as real-time identity verification and liveness detection (to prevent against online spoofing schemes) can create more efficient check-in processes at airports, ferry terminals, and hotels.
Fraud is another hurdle that has not disappeared, with pre-pandemic projections estimating that US$11 billion could be lost to travel fraud by 2020.
For businesses in the travel industry, it is essential to be able to verify the customer’s identity with a high degree of accuracy without adding too much friction to the booking experience. Traditional forms of authentication, such as emailing documents or video calls are time-consuming for consumers and aren’t scalable.
A new approach to solving this problem uses the consumer’s smartphone camera to authenticate their identity against a government-issued ID card or passport in a process that is seamlessly integrated into the provider’s app or website. This ensures that the customers transacting are really who they say they are, without creating any additional identity proofing steps.
Optimising your customer’s journey and bolstering business security are important business drivers in any sector. That said, for the travel industry, it may be tempting to fall back to the status quo without considering the benefits to the industry and the consumer by adopting these new technologies now.
However, as a sector that’s just beginning to chart its path to recovery, it is especially essential to delve into these areas, which would prove to uplift the experience for consumers while future-proofing the business for the years to come.