Ian Bell, head of travel and Tim Robinson, travel specialist at RSM UK earmark the travel trends that will dominate the New Year 2022.
Agents and operators will need to build more flexibility into booking options to gain consumer confidence and avoid being dependent on the unpredictability of late bookings. The continuing uncertainty will make differentiators, such as moveable deposits, the ease of changing bookings and assistance with testing requirements, very valuable in convincing customers with pent up wanderlust to commit.
The right pair of hands
Despite government furlough support, the pandemic has precipitated a loss of many years of talent from the sector. As the market opens up, a war for talent will emerge as businesses look to replace staff losses to cope with increasing demands from customers who rightly demand the security of booking through knowledgeable professionals. To be attractive, offering flexible working patterns, apprenticeships, training schemes and the ability to work remotely will be key.
Less is more
Opening up with continued market uncertainty is likely to see many operators restrict capacity, thereby reducing their downside risk. This will see businesses focussing on their loyal customer base and not hunting through wider marketing. Reducing capacity should create margin opportunities and a lower reliance on late bookings to shift committed product.
To book or not to book
The peak January booking season is likely to slip a month or two as the consumer absorbs the latest government requirements, and they await the fall out of next review of travel testing measures in early January to consider their options. This is likely to lead to continued shorter lead times and the knock-on impact of reduced cashflow and forecasting uncertainty for travel businesses.
An eye for the future
Someone’s loss is always someone’s gain. Well financed and bold operators will see opportunities in 2022 and beyond for market consolidation to take advantage of the upturn when it arrives.
The COP26 affect
The heightened profile on climate risk and sustainability by COP26 is making consumers increasingly aware of their responsibilities for their own carbon footprint. Operators will need to accelerate how they demonstrate their own ESG considerations to attract consumers.
Whilst Covid brought an immediate need for technological innovation in most businesses, as we move to a world where we live with it in our lives, consumers demand businesses to have all the latest information reflected in their offerings and have predictive technologies to cope with the unexpected so informed decisions can be made. The smarter businesses will have the funds secured for the investment required.