In seeking a barometer of the state of the travel industry, we posed a series of questions to industry leaders to get a measure of how they view - and are reacting to - the ever-changing status-quo in the post-Covid world.
There is a lot of discussion about the value proposition of travel industry companies, the role of technology and the concept of travel as we know it. It is evident that almost everything has been disrupted by the pandemic. But is the travel industry going to reinvent itself? Or has the existing trading model actually shown to be resilient? Even though the impact of the pandemic exceeds anything we have seen so far, such as 9/11 or the 2010 eruptions of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull, what is the true impact being felt by its leaders?
The impossible actually occurred. Travel came to a complete halt not just for ten days in one region, but in every corner for the world nigh on a year. This is a global, once-in-a-century event. What is the impact on the industry from such extraordinary times?
Our first interviewee is Tom Roefs CEO ofMunckhofGroep. Thank you Tom for taking the time to answer our questions.
What will be the most relevant difference in “post-crisis travelling” in comparison to what we were used to?
At this moment this question is impossible to answer. We are still in the middle of the pandemic and although the near future looks a lot brighter we are still not sure what the final impact will be.
Is Covid just another crisis for the industry to weather, like 9-11?
No, this is a global crisis which makes it completely different. Covid is not just an incident but due to the scale of impact (the whole world is involved) and the fact that we are already over a year affected by it makes it far more complicated than all other crises we had before. Add the uncertainty of future development and it makes for a period of “sailing in the dark”.
Have the last 18 months forced your company to re-evaluate your value proposition?
Not really. As a TMC, once again, we have proven our added value for our customers in these extremely difficult times. As their single point of contact for all travel and travel-related issues and questions our position as intermediary has become even more important.
How will you measure and articulate your value back to market after travel resumes?
We have been doing that from day 1. For that reason we have been able to meet and exceed our customers expectations. We have kept all our existing customers on board and won a lot of new business due to our pro-active approach.
Aside from volumetric, what commercial challenges do you see in the short/medium term for your business?
We were able to keep all staff on board (including our Sales force and Account Managers) and used the Covid period to optimise our processes, invest to in technology and digitalisation. We feel we are ready to be a front-runner in the recovery of travel. The main challenge will be the travel-readiness of our customers (both bookers and travellers) and the ability to travel to the various destinations in the world. We foresee a “traffic light” situation for the short and medium term in which countries / areas switch from ‘green’ to ‘amber’ and ‘red’. Meaning a lot of cancellations, re-bookings, refunds, etc..
What is your view on the industry’s reaction to crisis and what can we learn for the future?
A global pandemic can only be overcome by a global approach. We have seen that by working together on a global scale between governments and leading pharmaceutical companies that we have been able to quickly find several vaccines. Our industry needs to find a way to operate as one on a global scale more often to secure our future.
Do you feel that current travel tech providers are able to react to new market demands?
Disruption is likely the most important booster for innovation. A number of tech providers have responded quickly to the new market demands. So far I have been positively surprised by a number of tech companies. Not only considering the tech developments and innovations themselves, but also their ability to change to a new business model. These are the companies we really would like to work with.
Who do you think are the companies to watch in the coming years and why?
In terms of travel companies, the ones who are able to deliver a seamless hybrid model. Customers are looking for the best combinations of high service, excellent technology, thought leadership and commitment.
What do you think the market will look like ten years from now?
There will be consolidation in the market, less players and more specialisation towards target groups (from volume point of view).