Coronavirus: why travel brands need to embrace change and innovate

by | May 21, 2020 | Airlines, News

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world as we know it. It has shaken the global economy into thinking differently and has placed tremendous pressures on the travel sector to reinvent itself.

An industry that’s celebrated for bringing people together is now contemplating social distancing measures, as we work to find a responsible and predictable path to recovery.

We can no longer return to the way we used to travel pre COVID-19 and it’s needless to say none of us should be planning for business as usual.

Embrace change and innovate

It may feel like a paralyzing situation right now, that presents difficult decision making and an overwhelming cacophony of predictions about how the future of travel might look. But, is it actually a time to tackle issues in the industry that have for so long niggled us all.

We have an opportunity to seize where we can accelerate changes that had begun at a slow pace and drive faster adoption, from truly leveraging new technologies to a renewed commitment to sustainability.

For example, Finnair is one of many airlines who quickly rallied in the weeks after ceasing service. Airline operations and fleet adjustments have created a renewed focus on cargo to support global supply needs.

While the coronavirus has caused unforeseen disruption, it’s also provided us with pause.

“I encourage everyone in travel to take a breath and start back at the problem you want to solve first,” says Robyn Grassanovits, Vice President Travel Products and Emerging Business for Cirium. 

Starting with the problem and identifying what challenges were faced before, to then turning the focus to innovation and rebuilding trust and asking ourselves:

  • What do other companies, people or the market need right now?
  • What do we do best/where can we best add value?
  • What are other companies or people really good at doing and how can we work together?
  • What are sectors outside of travel doing to tackle similar problems?

The answers to these questions now will be very different if you answered them pre COVID-19. As the world changes in adaptation to the COVID-19 impact, it’s all about thinking differently.

It’s time to clearly identify the changes happening in our industry, as well as new consumer behaviours driving innovation and delivering new experiences.

Focus on what is needed and simplify

What you do next has to relate to those new experiences and the market segments you can best serve. Data and insights are a great place to start to focus your business model.

Looking at previous case studies, such as SARS and 9/11, we know that leisure travel has traditionally rebounded first. In the same way domestic trips have returned more quickly than international travel.

Based on which markets are likely to come back online first, we all have to ask ourselves – how prepared is our business to service that demand? To find viable opportunities, each company may need to go after new, more risk-tolerant audiences in the short term, rather than wait for the traditional customer base to return.

To do this, it’s important to simplify. Once you’ve identified what you want to achieve, determine what your strengths are and any changes you need to make to clear that goal.

Partner wisely and creatively

This could include creative partnerships with other businesses, which can spread the load, boost your market reach and streamline priorities. Any company, even a former competitor, may become an ally in this new world.

Equally, you can always count on your customers for the truth. Look back at any data insights or feedback stored away; it might unlock a genius idea that seemed impossible before.

If you have a vision of where you want to go, don’t hesitate. Without the luxury of consensus, the market is going to be open to all new ideas. Now more than ever it’s important to keep moving, and there’s never been a better time to take a chance.

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