The travel industry has seen its fair share of challenges over the last fifty-or-so years, yet it has always bounced back stronger. And while 2020 was indeed its biggest test so far, there are positive signs as we begin 2021.
This year is set to be one of the most important as the world starts its recovery from the Covid pandemic. Amongst many things, a vaccine means travellers can begin thinking about going on holiday again, but how will travel brands ensure they meet the modern-day traveller’s needs?
The companies that innovate will lead the way, acquiring more customers as holidaymakers set their sights on new adventures. And a combination of technology and innovation will help the industry grow, with 2021 seeing many of these new ideas bear fruit.
The role of e-commerce in innovation
Getting to the airport and starting your holiday is only one aspect of your trip, but the real journey begins at the booking stage. Covid will likely change the way we think about both booking and going on holiday, and with airlines needing to find ways to recover costs, could this be the end of discount travel and cheap holidays altogether?
If the prices of getaways skyrocket, brands who previously succeeded with discount and package deals will need to find alternative ways to thrive this year while providing customers with affordable solutions? The answer lies in digital processes.
Many holiday companies already have a robust digital approach, but that will need to evolve further throughout 2021. Aspects like flexible holiday bookings should be an ever-present option, especially while quarantine rules are in effect. An increase in offering “buy now, pay later” services will also help brands keep ahead of the curve and provide fluid solutions for customers without impeding their pocket.
Diversifying services to grow in 2021
Buying now and paying later has become a primary focus during the pandemic, and the market is growing by 39% year on year. It has redefined how we view fast credit, offering people convenient ways to make purchases while offering flexibility that benefits both consumers and businesses.
In the travel industry, the need for flexible payment options will be a necessity during 2021. People will look for different ways to fund their trips, and having the chance to spread costs will make travel more accessible when large sections of the population get vaccinated.
Having different methods for financing a holiday also gives consumers more time to plan their trips. If a traveller can pay for flights and accommodation in instalments, it means they can better manage their finances. This will encourage more people to go on holiday, turning “lookers” into “bookers”.
Gear up for longer holiday requests
The short city break isn’t dead, but it will have to give way to longer holidays during 2021. Most travellers spent last year dreaming of their ideal destination, and all that time at home has fueled the fire for new experiences – but they need to be worth the effort.
Expect to see people travel less but stay for longer when they do venture somewhere new. A recent study found that 55% of travellers would holiday somewhere for more than 14 days when they go away this year, which means travel brands need to consider extended vacation experiences.
Creating a flexible approach for longer holidays where people are going for two weeks or more will help travel brands maximise their bottom line. Meeting demand is one of the best ways to grow throughout 2021, and long, bucket-list type experiences are likely to be the number one trend with travellers. It might just be time to pivot your offering to cater for longer travel experiences.
Safety through technology
The focus on safety in 2021 will be greater than ever, even with a vaccine in wide distribution. Travel brands have already pivoted their setups and processes to offer minimal contact, and this year will see an increased effort to provide contactless interactions driven by technology.
A recent survey from Amadeus revealed that four in five travellers believe technology will increase their confidence in travel over the next 12 months. As holidaymakers start travelling again, the need for transparency and refined services based on cleanliness will grow in importance.
Contactless check-ins and pre-on-flight meal selections to limit interaction with the crew will become more frequent: brands like United Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Avinor have already trialled contactless check-in experiences. By the end of 2021, a contactless holiday experience should become the new normal.
Augmented reality is the future of innovation
Innovation comes in many forms, including augmented reality (AR), which is ripe for use in the travel industry. It’s a different approach than tech-led initiatives like contactless interactions but is something brands have been working on even before the pandemic.
Right now, the tech is still in its infancy. Yet, the possibilities make it hard to ignore – AR could prove to be a long-term trend in the sector. With the use of our phones, AR means we can teleport ourselves to the most remote corners of the world without even leaving our homes.
While that might sound counterproductive, dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that AR has the potential to inspire people to travel more. If reading about travel destinations is enough to whet someone’s appetite, imagine what actually seeing yourself on a beach or snow-capped mountain could do? Augmented reality could become a primary driver for inspiring travel in the not-to-distant future.
The challenges of 2020 will live long in the memory of the travel industry, but they can also act as inspiration and a way to tackle 2021 while innovating the sector. From focusing on contactless holidays to offering flexibility at checkout when consumers book their trips, brands who adapt can be at the forefront of the industry as it gears up for a much busier 2021.
Fly Now Pay Later is finding its own way to innovate this year with the recent launch of Anywhere for Business, a solution for smaller travel brands aiming to help providers innovate by offering financial.