By Jamel Chandoul, Senior Vice President Retail Middle East and Africa, Amadeus.
Everybody is looking forward to leaving the pandemic behind. We all wish for the devastating consequences of the virus to become ancient history so we can all start living the ‘new normal’. That’s why, as an industry, we need to restore the trust of the travellers and help them feel safe to travel again. National authorities worldwide also need to act to control the pandemic and reduce restrictions to open the door to more travel options. I am convinced that players in the travel and tourism sector need to move from a vision of “al Moudafii” (one who defends his position) to that of “al Bani” (one who rebuilds things).
Globally, 92 per cent of the world’s population has some concerns about travelling again. A private-public joint task force towards Rebuilding Travel is definitely needed. This is what we have read between the lines of our latest survey in the region. As many as 62 per cent of UAE travellers admitted that their biggest concern is safety and the cleanliness of public transport, another 55 per cent confess a fear of mixing with crowds at airports or transports hub. Just 4 in 100 UAE travellers have no cares about travelling during COVID-19.
According to the recent survey by Censuswide that was commissioned by Amadeus, it’s clear that corporate travellers are less concerned than leisure travellers. Almost 50 per cent of the latter indicate anxiety over other travellers not wearing masks, while only 39 per cent of business travellers shared this concern. The notion that weighs heaviest on travellers’ minds is the national restrictions that prevent them from traveling.
We will be able to Rebuild Travel only by fully understanding travellers’ new expectations and seamlessly adapting to their evolving demands and perceptions around cleanliness, health measures, and social distancing. Technology will support us in this demanding task. Our research shows that 78 per cent of UAE travellers would be likely to use an app if a travel company partnered with a trusted healthcare company. On top of that, our surveys show that 91 per cent of travellers believe that technology will help increase their confidence to travel, an increase from 84 per cent in September 2020. When asked which technology would increase confidence to travel in the next 12 months, mobile solutions were highlighted as a popular choice among UAE travellers, with the top three technologies being: mobile boarding (e.g. having your boarding pass on your mobile phone – 52 per cent); Contactless mobile payments (e.g. Apple or Google Pay, PayPal, Venmo – 49 per cent), and mobile applications that provide on-trip notifications and alerts (also 49 per cent).
Additionally, travellers still want travel to be flexible and to be protected against eventual disruptions or cancellations. They want travel to be personalized, with relevant offers brought to them by informed travel agents who are using the latest technology and serving them as genuine travel advisors and not just order takers. Business travellers will also demand real time updates. As we look to rebuild travel as an industry, we will need to address these changing requirements. Should we aspire to rebuilding a travel industry that’s even better and more resilient than the one we had before? We must do so. True, it won’t be easy, and it will take a huge collaborative effort from everyone. But where there is a clear vision and a plan of action, we can achieve remarkable things. So, let’s stick together and work towards a real sustainable “Nahda” (Renaissance) of travel and tourism. We owe that to our children and to our planet.