Planning your Product in a Pandemic: What Travel Providers Need to Know
Author: Jonathan Ralph, General Manager, Travel, Preverisk
It is a broken record that has kept playing for over a year: COVID-19 has decimated the travel industry and left operators, both large and small, desperate to find solutions to resume operations safely. However, with a swathe of vaccines now being rolled out across the world and the first signs that international governmental policies are beginning to ease, a return to leisure travel has never felt quite so tantalisingly close. So, what do travel providers need to know as they begin planning for the recommencement of operations? At Preverisk, we recommend cool heads, common sense and three main principles: de-risking your offer, staying informed and taking a broad view.
The first area to understand is the impact of the vaccine rollout on your source market(s) and destinations. Access to the vaccine, government policies and consumer attitudes dictate that each country will move at different speeds when it comes to their population’s immunity. As such, it is important that a travel provider maintains a diverse product offer that can be tweaked as the landscape evolves. Once the UK permits outbound travel once again, we may find that demand for non-traditional destinations overtakes some of the more established resorts, simply as a result of a more effective vaccination programme or due to lower case numbers in regard to COVID-19. Travel providers will therefore need to consider (and plan for) different recovery speeds within their product portfolio. In any case, it will be just as important as ever (if not more so) to ensure that current COVID-19 controls and prevention measures are observed.
Another essential focus should be the sources of information you use to take strategic decisions. With so many vested interests in the marketplace (on a national, continental and global level), it can be easy to get lost in the noise. Maintaining reliable and impartial sources that deliver actionable management information in a timely manner will be a difference-maker when it comes to restarting operations smoothly. At Preverisk, we collate and analyse centralised epidemiological data sources (such as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) to provide impartial analysis on the state of play in European source markets and destinations. If a travel provider can understand the trends occurring on a country level, it will be able to adjust its recovery plan for each destination and tailor its capacity accordingly – avoiding unnecessary risk.
Finally, as with all situations of great uncertainty, maintaining a broad view of the situation (and staying light on your feet) can put you at a significant advantage. The challenge here is slightly different depending on the size of the operation – larger businesses may not be able to react as quickly to changing circumstances as smaller, more agile, travel providers but can potentially have greater access to new products and destinations. However, the travel providers that thrive will all share a common trait – they will offer products that customers demand and where safety has been considered, at the time when the market is in a position to travel again, adapting their destination scope to suit the new landscape.
As an industry, we have battled through more hard times than we might care to remember. COVID-19 is not the first crisis we have overcome, nor will it be the last. Now that there is finally some light at the end of the tunnel, the time for prudent forward planning is now.
Preverisk will be speaking at ABTA’s upcoming virtual Health, Safety and Security in Travel conference on 16 June alongside leading health and safety experts, legal experts and other travel businesses. The one-day event offers in-depth and practical guidance and training to help you manage your health, safety and security risks in preparation for international travel restarting. Download the agenda, view the full speaker line-up and register at abta.com/abtaevents.