Technology started playing a pivotal role over the past few years across the globe and the processes in the travel and tourism sector changed rapidly. Today, during the time of the pandemic, it has been put to test like never before by all industries. Mamoun Hmedan, Managing Director, MENA and India, Wego shared his views with TRAVTALK.
Could you share how technology can reshape post COVID the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors?
In the times of COVID-19, technology is playing a significant role in reshaping the travel and tourism industry. Tourism boards and countries are relying on technology to promote their destinations in the midst of coronavirus to inspire travellers and keep their interest in the destination alive until travel resumes. From virtual experiences to interactive maps, quizzes, and tours, travellers can dream now of the destinations and travel tomorrow.
At Wego, we’re bringing content to our users in the comfort of their homes until it is safe to travel again. We are providing inspirational and informative content on our blogs and social media channels as well as providing travellers with the latest information on travel restrictions to keep them updated.
Researches show that around 70 per cent of people expect to see an increase in the use of mobile devices and apps to assist the passenger journey. We will see more investment from airlines, airports, and hotels in technologies such as touchless biometrics, self-service, automation, mobile devices and apps.
Will there be robots who will serve clients?
A lot of countries are discussing the possibility of having robots to test travellers at the airports and ensure social distancing at public places. Despite the number of trials being announced, studies show that only 27.4 per cent of people anticipate the use of robots for customer service tasks.
Will there be a different way for travellers booking their vacations now?
Travellers will book their vacation slightly differently now. They will look to more contactless hotel stays using smart technology and ensuring the highest safety and health measures are adopted by the operator. The destination they book will also depend on the quarantine rules and COVID-19 cases in the desired attraction.
Where do you see technology in the next two years?
In the latest Arabian Travel Market event, it was revealed that messaging platforms will be a key tool for travel and hospitality brands to interact with consumers. Tourism, travel companies, and hotels are using AI to accurately and continuously sort through data. AI helps companies draw conclusions about business performance as well as trends associated with customer satisfaction, and even intelligently manage inventories.
Stronger together with TBO Holidays
The travel industry is currently facing the worst of times, yet industry specialists are taking steps to ensure that the rebound will incorporate a better outlook. As Dubai opened to international visitors, hope sets in; Gaurav Bhatnagar, Founder, TBO Holidays share his views with TRAVTALK.
What were the main issues you faced during the lockdown?
The first and foremost challenge was ensuring safety of our employees and enabling them to work from home. The other major issue was handling tens of thousands of refund requests that we got from our travel agent partners. We set up a separate team dedicated to COVID refunds which worked 24/7 to ensure we get maximum refunds done in time.
How did you keep the clients engaged?
We launched our “Stronger Together with TBO” campaign. This was an agent outreach programme where we launched a series of courses, webinars, and panel discussions on TBO Academy. The idea was to ensure that our travel agent partners were constructively engaged during the lockdown.
Currently what are the main areas you focus on?
We have built a very extensive domestic product for our key source markets globally. We are also preparing two new products for launch. PAXES is our corporate self-booking tool which will allow corporates and TMCs to completely automate their travel management process. And, our religious travel product will be unveiled as soon as Umrah opens again.
What is your opinion about Dubai opening for international visitors?
WTTC has recognised Dubai as a safe destination, giving the city a Safe Travels stamp that validates the stringent hygiene and safety protocols that the city has put in place. The WTTC endorsement further enhances the worldwide efforts of Dubai Tourism to encourage travellers to make Dubai their destination of choice. It is too early to expect tourists in large numbers, however Dubai’s Summer Surprises has been a key event in the city’s annual calendar and is likely to focus on local and regional visitors in the short-term.
At TBO Holidays, we have witnessed a gradual pick up from the local market in the past few weeks and are hopeful that regional and international travel will resume as Dubai takes cautious measures to open up its borders for travel. Recovery will be in stages; however, we are expecting some form of recovery to start from October 2020 onwards in time for Dubai’s peak season.
Could you share some of the strategies employed by TBO Holidays as Dubai opened for visitors?
We have introduced a country specific COVID-19 information section to help travel agents review and educate their customers on safety measures and guidelines implemented in the UAE.