In 2019, the future of travel and tourism took a detour because of COVID-19. Little did we know this detour would turn out to be a global catastrophe that brought the whole industry to a total standstill. Airline companies, travel agencies and tourism-related businesses went off the rails, implementing brutal measures that halted all forms of progress and growth. While other industries are steadily recovering and rebuilding, the travel and tourism sector is still moving at a snail’s pace.
According to a World Tourism Organization report, international tourist arrivals increased by only 4% in 2021, remaining 72% below that of 2019. This equates to more than a billion fewer international arrivals compared to pre-pandemic times. Despite this year’s UNWTO expectations for increased travel activity, 33% of respondents felt things will only improve in 2023 and 63% believe it would take longer for the industry to recover.
The pandemic, however, accelerated the rate of digital adoption, resulting in the introduction of innovative solutions and the integration of advanced technologies. As consumer behavior, expectations and priorities changed, companies began implementing digital solutions to ensure that people can travel as safely, healthily and securely as possible.
Here are five trends the travel and tourism sector can leverage to rebuild travel confidence and ensure business resiliency:
The New Digital Boom. Technology used to be Millennials’ and Gen Z’s forte. Now, Baby Boomers are becoming technology-empowered. A Mobiquity finding reported that 88% of Boomers are turning to digital channels since the pandemic began. As the digital gap between generations is disappearing, the travel and tourism sector must double down their efforts in developing robust digital strategies to meet new demands, enhance engagement, cultivate trust and remain relevant.
Convenience with Contactless Technology. By combining AI and contactless technology, this touchless system has the potential to underpin the passenger airport experience. Physical touchpoints can be replaced with intelligent tools like automated gates with built-in QR readers, indoor navigation systems, biometric facial recognition and contactless payment. Moving from bricks to clicks reduces contact with frequently touched surfaces, increases passenger flow efficiency, lowers congestion, and optimizes passenger times.
Cybersecurity and Transparency. Digital ID or Virtual Vaccination Passport will play a vital role in safeguarding the health and safety of many. The shift to digital travel credentials means that brands need to invest in cybersecurity to protect their users’ personal information and build a framework of trust. By leveraging the immutable nature of blockchain, businesses can maintain compliance, combat fraud and prevent data breaches while giving customers control over what relevant travel details they wish to share.
The Rise of Virtual Tourism. As travel restrictions are relaxed, people are more than ready to escape the confines of their homes and venture out to places they’ve been yearning to travel to. During the lockdown, virtual tourism became a stand-in for real vacations. Now, the tables have turned as marketers are using VR to fuel the desire to travel by offering glimpses of a destination before their customers book their reservations. Naturally, virtual tourism will never replace the real thing but a robust VR platform can help travelers test drive various travel experience options, giving them a much better idea of what to expect than they would from simply reading a tour guide.
New Customer Habits, New Insights. Travel and tourism will never be the same again as historical data garnered over the years have lost its relevance in the new normal. Capturing new data is key to unlocking business opportunities and this can be done with advanced analytics. With the ability to perform in-depth analysis and obtain more profound insights, businesses will gain the ability to make data-backed decisions and deliver relevant offerings, meet demands and manage variables to drive growth and increase revenue.
Moving forward, there’s still a lot of work left to do – from implementing new technologies and digitalizing workforces to creating relevant messages and streamlining travel experiences. Businesses need to rethink strategies, refresh offerings and reconnect with customers to meet the preferences of the post-pandemic traveler. The good news is this sector is in an excellent spot. The industry is pivoting in the right direction and will ultimately return more resilient than ever.
As the travel and tourism landscape continues to evolve and modernize, one thing remains: technology should make traveling simpler. It’s supposed to improve a vacation without burdening travelers with unnecessary baggage. Hence, brands should progress with people in mind because getting them to delve into the experience is something that can never be replicated. The only real drawback is it is much more difficult for travelers to switch off their devices during a retreat. On the other hand, they can finally cure their wanderlust.