The past 18 months of ever-changing travel restrictions across the globe has certainly caused major disruption for the travel industry. Now, as restrictions ease, travel seems to be opening up with the sector focused on a speedy recovery. Although, are travel companies and airport operators ready to make the most of the commercial opportunities coming their way?
Although the pandemic has caused significant hardship for the travel industry, it has resulted in some positives. Technological advancements have improved leaps and bounds and have created further opportunities to develop new propositions to meet consumers’ needs. For example, the pandemic has forced a change in the way people manage and spend foreign currency, as a result of businesses implementing contactless only payments, limiting the use of cash, shifting us into a cashless society. Flexible multi-currency accounts and bank cards from providers such as TransferWise and Revolut, mean that travellers can now benefit from a greater convenience when travelling.
The digital shift
We can already start to see a digital shift within the industry, with the progression of ‘digital health wallets’, also known as ‘health passports’ as well as ‘digital passports’. Some airports have already started implementing biotechnology such as fingerprint scanners as an identification process. Ultimately, the industry has an opportunity to facilitate seamless international travel across jurisdictions using a sole ‘digital passport’ – this will require collaboration and standardisation across the whole industry and related infrastructure. As restrictions ease and passenger numbers increase, so will demand for further advancements in this area.
To help drive decision making in the day-to-day management of sites, airport operators are increasingly taking advantage of the vast numbers of data ’touchpoints’ that can be assessed. From the use of escalators, stairways, lifts and corridors, through to the flow of travellers (time at check-in, travel time to gate, time at gate, etc), this data can be captured and analysed to provide a real-time view of the airport. Operational teams can use these accurate data dashboards to monitor usage and manage resources more efficiently. For example, if an air bridge, elevator, or escalator malfunctions, travellers can be diverted swiftly and safely using digital signage.
Technology can help airport planners achieve a more seamless passenger experience. More efficient check-in and identification procedures can be reached by using biometric supported services such as digital face scans, which are already a widely used feature on mobile phones. Furthermore, greater focus on sustainability and the environmental impact of travel will be key in encouraging an increasingly green-minded and sustainably focused population to travel. Building airports with access to high-speed rail connections for example, could help to reduce demand for emissions-heavy, short haul flights.
The ideal airport of the future will need to facilitate a ‘shareable experience’ for passengers to increase awareness and allow clear communication and messaging to reach potential travellers, helping to promote the travel experience.
Future training for staff
Although it is important to take advantage of increased technological efficiencies, we must remember that this is a service-based sector. Staff will need to be trained and supported through the implementation of technology and software, whilst maintaining exceptional customer service skills.
The industry had played an important role in helping businesses with their duty of care for travelling employees, aiding sector recovery during the pandemic. This focus on meeting the needs of businesses and business travellers must continue – helping them to feel as safe as possible whilst travelling, maintaining best practice in standards of cleaning procedures, embracing touchless technology, and promoting visible safeguards against the spread of the virus.
The importance of travel
Travel has always offered opportunities to create fulfilling life experiences and strengthen human connections, as well as playing as an important role in improving people’s wellbeing and health. When you compare this to social media, Zoom or other virtual mediums – this is not something they can recreate in the same way. By successfully using technologies to address travellers’ concerns following the pandemic, the travel industry can move its way into a brighter future.