At the time of writing, the travel, leisure and hospitality industry remains at the sharp end of COVID-19 related disruption. Restrictions on domestic, regional and international trips are starting to be lifted, which should allow some business and leisure travel to take place.
But without a globally co-ordinated and consistent plan in place from governments, supply and demand patterns will be skewed. Yield and inventory management systems will be stretched to the limit trying to predict trends and allocate capacity, while many front, mid and back office processes will need a rethink.
The business-critical importance of next generation technology in travel and hospitality was made crystal-clear. Tech giant Amadeus processed nearly 2.5 million re-accommodation transactions per day at the height of the pandemic, compared with the usual 150,000 per day.
Amadeus’ ability to scale up almost overnight by a factor of 15x was facilitated by its commitment to open systems and its move to the cloud – two topics which have been centre-stage at the previous two Travel Forward events, the travel technology event co-located with WTM London.
This year’s Travel Forward will revisit these and other familiar bigger-picture themes such as artificial intelligence, payments, extended reality and more. Here are some ideas and talking points, which outline why it is in your short-, medium- and long-term interest to consider being present.
Take stock, reassess, move forward
All travel businesses – from the blue-chip enterprise tech giants to SMEs and startups – have been forced to look at every aspect of their operations. Some have committed more strongly to their pre COVID-19 positioning; others are looking at diversifying or specialising; others are undecided.
At Travel Forward you will be able to experience the mood music for yourself, to get a sense of where the industry is at and where it is going, and where your business can – or cannot – fit into the future.
For many tech providers, diversification does not mean throwing everything out and starting again. A tweak to the product here or a tweak to the promotional materials there can open up new markets and new customer segments.
Facing the fact that face-to-face matters
In the immediate aftermaths of 9/11 and the 2008 financial collapse, the death knell was sounded the loudest for business travel, for cheap air fares and for large industry events. The same is happening now in the era of Covid19. But these sectors – and the wider industry – survived the storms.
Large industry events are the most exposed, hit by not only the reduction in business travel but also volatility in air fares and room rates which impacts the cost of attendance for exhibitors and visitors alike.
Event organisers are rethinking the practical side of event production in light of the pandemic, but are not losing sight of their core mission – to get buyers in front of exhibitors, attract the right visitors, sign up the best keynoters.
Exhibitors have a role to play too. By justifying their presence with a quantified ROI or a list of potential prospects, securing the budget for events should be easier.
Knowledge is power
Travel Forward, and its co-located event WTM London, attract a global audience of buyers, exhibitors and visitors. The conference, keynote and seminar programme is a de facto education/personal development stream, with experts from across the industry sharing practical insights, fresh-to-market research and trend updates.
But the opportunities to learn are not limited to the theatres and stages. Every visitor to your stand has the potential to increase your knowledge about what your competitors are doing, what trends that visitor has seen in their own market, what COVID-19 has taught them about their own tech provider.
Exhibitors are used to tracking interaction on the stand – perhaps “what did I learn?” could be added to the stand visitors’ log.
Presence and correct
More than ten years ago, Chris Anderson from Cornell University’s hospitality department came up with the idea of “the billboard effect” – hotels which sold rooms via OTAs could gain brand awareness and bookings from users who saw the property on the results page and went direct. There was a value, he argued, simply in being present.
What impression does it give to customers and prospects if you are not at the show when your competitors are? What are you hiding by not turning up?
Showing up is a sign to the market that you have weathered the initial COVID-19 storm and are confident in your own ability to adapt to the next phase, whatever that might be.
Technology played a key role in helping the travel industry turn an impossible situation into a manageable one. Businesses which had a strong tech strategy in place before the pandemic coped better and are in prime position to benefit first from any recovery.
But there are some whose tech stack wasn’t up to the job under crisis conditions and will be looking to switch suppliers, or at least have the conversation.
Being at Travel Forward puts you at the head of the queue for these prospective new customers, giving you an advantage over your stay-at-home peers.
Travel will be different because of COVID-19 in ways we are yet to find out, but the need and desire of humankind to explore will not go away.
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