Travel Forward Virtual has completed its three-day conference, leaving the industry with a plethora of technology-focused takeaways to help frame the travel’s rebuild and recovery phase.
“Data” in its broadest sense was a common theme across the sessions, reflecting not only the importance of accurate insights upon which future plans can be based but also how some of the learnings from the peak of the pandemic can help the industry move forward.
Andrew van der Feltz from Expedia Group Media Solutions shared data which showed that, even when lockdowns and restrictions were at their most intense, travelers were still “dreaming about their next travel.”
His advice – destinations and brands should stay active even when the opportunities to travel are limited – is worth considering if or when another wave of travel restrictions arrives.
Forward-looking data revealed in the same session advised listeners to prepare for a last-minute and latest market, with the vast majority of Expedia’s global customers looking for departures within the next three weeks or sooner.
Accurate data is a pre-requisite for many of the industry’s plans to innovate its way towards recovery. In a session about the connected trip, David Adamcyzk from Booking.com Group outlined the various data points – from flight details, accommodation, in-destination to personal preferences and social signals – that need to be accessed and integrated into a single point of service.
“Customers need to feel that everything is integrated,” he said, “so they can book and manage their trip as and when they want.”
A key component to that integration is curation. Manuel Hilty of Nezasa, which is building a hyper- personalisation end-to-end itinerary planning tool, noted that there is even more complexity behind the scenes. “To succeed, we must only give the customer the choices they want to make. They don’t need to see everything and we strive to automate as much of this as possible.”
Data is also part of the industry’s ongoing drive to make the search shop and booking experience better for travellers. Airlines were looking at more effective ways to retail their inventory before the outbreak, with IATA’s new distribution capability seen as the distribution game-changer.
Lufthansa’s Kevin Young noted that “the momentum hasn’t stopped” during the air slowdown. Last month this momentum culminated in a new product – NDC continuous pricing. This allows airlines greater flexibility over pricing than the traditional approach, which should benefit both travellers and airlines.
Richard Gayle, Event Director, Travel Forward, said: “Every session, every speaker, every question in the chat box, contributed to the bigger picture conversations around technology’s role in helping the travel industry to recover from the pandemic.
“Data, end-to-end journeys, personalisation, NDC – these and others were hot topics before the outbreak and have if anything become more business-critical during the recovery phase.
Innovation never stands still in travel. Travel Forward has been forced to rethink and adapt in response to the pandemic, and, like the rest the industry, will come out the other side in a much stronger position.”