Under the aegis of the Gulf Travel Show some very interesting panel discussions were held with industry leaders. The CEO of DDP Group SanJeet conducted an interview with Jamel Chandoul, Senior Vice President Retail, Middle East and Africa, Amadeus and Ernesto Sanchez Beaumont, Managing Director, Amadeus Gulf.
Q Why did Amadeus conduct this particular study?
Since the onset of COVID-19, there has been a great deal of speculation about what travellers will do or not do. We felt the traveller community needed to be part of this important conversation. For over a decade, we have cultivated a global community of leisure travellers through CheckMyTrip, which is an award-winning travel management platform. We decided to ask this community directly for their opinions on the topic in order to get the most transparent and accurate view of how COVID-19 has or has not impacted their confidence in travel.
Q What is the overall message the industry should take away from your study?
Travellers have not lost their appetite for leisure travel. The majority of them are itching to go as soon as it’s permissible and safe for them to do so. They intend to continue using every major mode of travel (air, hotel, rail and car), even those who said they were less comfortable will continue to do so. They also want more control over their travel experience, which means customising traditional packages to suit their expectations and needs. Personalisation is going to be an even bigger component than before COVID-19.
Lastly, we found travellers placing a higher premium on support from travel agents. They see a great deal of value on problem solving at all stages of the trip.
− 63% of all those surveyed globally were open to custom travel experiences, either advised
by travel agents or designed themselves (70% globally)
− With an array of uncertainties still unfolding, Amadeus sees the potential for travel sellers to play a bigger role in helping consumers successfully navigate their options throughout all phases of their trip experience to strengthen confidence.
Q What are the most important insights for travel agencies now as well as in the future?
Travellers want to go farther, longer and less often. This means travel agents need to help their clients make the most of their time and monetary investment. The primary reason for travel overall is to reconnect with family and friends (64% cited this vs 52% globally), with a greater desire for an unfamiliar setting by 22% (40% globally).Travel agents should gear their consultation more towards helping travellers meet these two objectives. And there is opportunity.
Nearly 82% of respondents in the Middle East (vs 72% globally) say they would consider international trips once restrictions are lifted. COVID-19 is definitely influencing travellers’ choice of destination. Whether it’s the severity of the disease, recovery status or measures to prevent the disease – travellers will need reliable sources of information to make decisions. Travel agents can play a key role in their decision-making process.
Q What do your findings show when it comes to when we can expect a full recovery?
Our research reveals how a portion of travellers feel about their travel planning, and use of travel modes, insurance and agents at a specific point in time. Traveller attitudes and ultimate behaviour are subject to a variety of forces, including government restrictions and quarantines, plus supplier capacity.
Q Your study says that travellers now place a higher premium on support and problem solving. What do you mean by this?
Most of us expect our holidays to go smoothly, with only a minor problem or two that we can manage ourselves. It is only after you experience a serious issue that you realise the value of support – having an actual agent that has your back and can solve problems along the way instead of just saying sorry and hoping you have a better experience next time around. By problem solving, I mean tracking down viable options when your flight is unexpectedly cancelled due to government restrictions, ensuring your luggage can catch up with you at the next destination if there are delays and finding reliable dining choices for your family in an unfamiliar setting.
Q How is Amadeus helping their customers / other travel agencies utilise these findings to sustain and grow their business in spite of the continuation of COVID-19?
We see five key opportunity areas for agencies to further strengthen their operations and staff to address the expectations and needs resulting from our study. One of these is around Dynamic and Diversified Offerings – we encourage our customers to re-evaluate their current portfolio and look for ways to explore and test new travel niches such as catering to celebratory milestones and more customised international immersion experiences with partners. We also think travel sellers should consider adding health and safety services such as telemedicine and pharmacy networks to their repertoire. Another opportunity we see is for travel sellers to Transform their Systems and Channels – basically, this means ensuring the right data and content can be accessed and deployed in each channel throughout the organisation.
Q What other interesting findings did you observe specifically from MEA participants? How would you characterise their views towards leisure travel going forward?
- Nearly three-quarters of all travellers say they want to travel within the first three months of restrictions being lifted. The challenge travellers face is more about when, where and how they can best venture out. For example, nearly 82% of respondents in MEA say they would consider international trips once restrictions are lifted, but only 55% say they expect to have the same or more budget for leisure travel as they did before (vs 69.6% globally). From how far, to how long, to how often – travellers are clear about what they are willing to consider to start travelling again. Another opportunity we see is for travel sellers to Transform their Systems and Channels.