Navigating the recovery of global travel in the shadow of the pandemic is no mean feat—at least for the first half of 2022.
Global alignment on international travel requirements will probably remain elusive in the months ahead. Though uncertainties remain on the periphery, we do sense a new air of optimism as borders reopen.
Whilst air travel is increasing, airline capacity remains limited and unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023 or later. While business travel will return steadily, leisure travel, meetings and conventions may lag in recovery. Leisure travel needs new focus for consumers to start travelling with a new purpose.
Travel may mean learning new skills, acquiring new knowledge and enjoying hobbies. Throughout this pandemic period, what we realised that while every part of the business has evolved, changed or disappeared, one factor remains constant—our customers.
"It is important that we continue to engage, educate and get [travellers] ready to travel again," says Steven Ler, president of NATAS.
They will want to travel as that is still part of their lifestyle. They will have new expectations aligned with the changes in travel. Hence it is important that we continue to engage, educate and get them ready to travel again.
The crisis is far from over and it is especially true for the travel agent sector who are uniquely exposed to this pandemic given that for many of us, our focus is on international travel.
Hence while everyone of us has slowed down during the pandemic, it did not deter us from looking for answers and wanting to make sense of the changes we are seeing and in aligning our products and services to the perceived changing needs of the traveller.
To boost travellers’ confidence to travel again, it is important that travel agents widen their lens to focus on behavioural and regulatory imperatives and translate them into seamless and painless journeys for the travellers.
We are all hoping for that pivotal point where real recovery starts to take place. Alas, pandemic resurgence and re-establishment of travel restrictions are delaying recovery.
Nonetheless, in the long run, people will need to travel. And when they do, we want to be sure that we are well poised to take advantage of returning demand in a timely manner.