Covid? Just Add New Tech!
"Make hay whilst the sun shines" or "Why waste a good crisis?" Thinking about Covid and the future, many in travel are doing neither. Reading the pundits over on such sites as Phocuswright or PhocusWire (why do people think it is clever to put two capital letters in a word?) anyone would think that the way out of the present travel crisis is simple ... just apply a new bit of tech. Preferably, my tech. Or perhaps one could make sure NDC arrives more quickly than anticipated. Of course, we are all told that clever data manipulation will solve all the problems of travel.
Ironically, the last part of that last paragraph, more specifically, the part about data, is actually true. Data will help quite significantly. Trouble is, that the data held about most travellers is, well, firstly about most travellers and secondly, relates to a period long before anyone mentioned anything about Chinese fish markets.
Data or rather, information that is not to hand and will need to be gathered concerns how the likes of Zoom and Teams have permanently changed the way we work. Whilst the airlines, specifically, have time on their hands (and, incidently, the manpower) instead of running around trying to avoid getting too many parking tickets for a job lot of A320's, it may be just as wise to send the troops out to visit their clients and to establish how the pandemic has influenced business practice and how that influence will, in turn, shape future travel demand.
I feel sure that an airline Captain in full rig would be most welcome at most corporate venues and a targeted, in depth chat with someone as far up the client's corporate tree as they can get, would help airlines plan what sort of demand will return, what shape it will be in and so, target their aircarft and routes accordingly. It is not a pancea but a good starting point. Certainly a better starting point than simply working on a scheme to charge all passengers an extra $5 if they actually want oxygen at 32,000 feet as a route to return to profitability.
This may be done in conjunction with TMC's; it is they who have access to many of (any) airlines busiest customers, of course. At this time, travel, must pull together and for the time being, certainly, put down the cudgel of technology. In this instance, where one is trying to ascertain how future business may work, (and so, future travel may work) technology is useless. It is again ironic that technology, which has long exalted and promoted online meetings, has found itself drowning when suddenly, thousands of people have suddenly availed themselves of their technological solutions. The law of unintended consequences, perhaps?
The task, therefore, is for airlines and perhaps, hotels to talk to as many of their past clients as possible. Specifically:
Establish to what extent home working has changed the customers operational dynamic
Establish to what extent online meetings may diminish the need for business travel
Establish what services clients think they will need in the future
For any travel service provider to simply believe and work upon the assumption that when things return to what passes for normality, so too, air and rail travel as well as hotel useage will be back as it was before after a medium-ish period is in for a shock. Work now to understand how clients are changing their perceptions and understanding of how business may be done, would mean a greater chance of rapid recovery.
In this scenario which we face at present, there are no experts. There are no data sets to help. There is no technological marvel-app. The only way to find out "What's next" is to get out and find out.
Not difficult whilst time and person-power is available.