Expert Opinions Beyond 2020: four imperatives for travel recovery By Industry Expert / Posted on 24 November, 2020 14:23 With the pandemic rewriting the playbook of travel providers, Nuno Guerreiro, regional director, South Asia Pacific at Booking.com, shares the keys to unlocking future growth opportunities in the new normal The impact of the global pandemic has left few facets of our lives and the world unchanged. Travel too will be forever re-shaped by this extraordinary moment. But the big question remains – when is it right to travel again, how will we do this safely, and how different will the world look? Our research at Booking.com indicates that travellers will look for a heightened level of travel safety and more sustainable travel offerings, as well as evolve their preferences for where they will travel to and with whom. Newfound appreciation for doorstep delights will endure alongside an abiding love of the far flung, and travellers will find new ways to blur the lines between work and travel; all of which will catapult a demand for deeper value from the trips we book in the future. These overarching trends will certainly shape the travel industry in 2021 and beyond – but what are their exact implications? Here are the four key imperatives for travel recovery. Instill trust Consumers will only travel when they feel it’s safe to do so. They are seeking enhanced transparency and it is critical that the travel industry is open and forthcoming about precautionary Covid-19 measures undertaken. With 73 per cent of Singapore travellers noting they will only book a particular accommodation if it’s clear what health and hygiene policies are in place, properties need to be able to showcase the measures they have implemented and whether they’ve met safety standards. This empowers consumers to book with confidence with the transparency provided which, in turn, offers long-term loyalty. The same applies to cancellation policies, refund processes and trip insurance options – properties can better manage and meet guest expectations through price transparency, allowing guests to make well-informed decisions during the booking process which would ultimately result in better reviews for the property. Provide greater flexibility Some 53 per cent of Singapore travellers consider refundable accommodation a must-have for their next trip, as do 42 per cent when it comes to the flexibility to change dates without being charged. Flexibility as an offering is the best tool for guest reassurance, alleviating concerns driven by the pandemic’s uncertainty. The industry will need to come together to respond and offer deeper value, better choice, increased flexibility and transparency, as well as more thoughtful experiences for tomorrow’s travellers as they scrutinise spend in 2021 and beyond. Elevate experience through technology It is now more important than ever before for the industry to leverage technology to create a seamless, frictionless experience, perfectly tailored to each and every customer. Predictive search, targeted offers and other services will become smarter, and the more intelligent they become, the more value they will add to the travel experience. 5G impact on internet speed and latency will also greatly enhance a traveller’s experience by providing helpful, real-time suggestions based on concurrent situations and local information. Technological innovation will define the way we search, book and enjoy travel – moving far beyond the transaction itself and looking end-to-end at the customer journey, from discovery to experience to post-trip. Inspire new ways of working and living We see an increase in digital nomads as people pine for a change of scenery, with travellers potentially extending the length of their trips and working while they are away. In fact, more than half of Singapore travellers (59 per cent) said they would take the opportunity to extend any business trip to also enjoy leisure time at the destination. Part of innovating the search experience includes enabling search for whole accommodations or properties that are work-friendly, including features such as laptop compatibility, free Wi-Fi and proper spaces to work. 2020 has been a year like no other and while it will be some time before travel returns to pre-pandemic levels, all signs point to the fundamental and enduring role that travel plays in all our lives. It continues to bring moments of joy and inspiration to people across the globe during times of uncertainty, whether through dreaming and planning, or cherishing the trips we have been able to take. Looking ahead, the travel industry needs to continue to remain agile, by adopting a more sustainable mindset, supporting local community recovery and continuing to evolve to meet changing traveller demands with an emphasis on health and safety.