The new normal arrives soon
A recent roundtable TTN organised in partnership with Arabian Travel Market (ATM) Virtual began on a profound note: the normal we know and understand today is about to change forever, as pointed out by one of our eminent panellists Emily Williams, B2C Head of Retail & Product, dnata Travel.
“I think we've all been talking a lot about when things go back to normal and I don't think that normal will ever exist in a way that it was prior to this,” said Williams, “I think we're going to have a 'new normal' and I think it’s going to really impact how people want to travel.”
“Change is inevitable,” agreed VK Balaji, Chief Strategy Officer, TBOHolidays. “Travel will change in terms of customer preferences, safety of destinations and properties, specific product requirement, frequency of travel patterns, cost effective travel and payment methods. Travel agents will have more competition issues due to limited business, lesser margins, cash flow, liquidity and credit crunch, and expense cuts. Work from home will be popular as it will reduce costs – particularly for corporate travel. For leisure too, retail outlets will function with limited staff,” he told our panel and the audiences.
“This is not the end of the book, this is the middle, and we've yet to write the final chapters”
– Maggie Bootsman
While our world slowly returns to normal, with some borders already open and some opening up, cruising will take even longer to recover, our cruise guru Ashok Kumar confirmed. “Most cruise lines are on pause until end of July and situation is continuously evolving. There are still lot of unanswered questions – when aviation will begin, when borders will open, when embassies will start accepting visa applications and when CDC will give approval for cruise lines. It seems travellers will have to miss cruising this summer.”
In a previous roundtable TTN reported an increase in luxury itineraries as people seek more privacy in a bid to avoid contamination and human contact and are willing to pay that extra dollar for their what they perceive as safety – in terms of private jets and resort buyouts. “Only people who are used to travelling with those type of itineraries are going to continue to do so. Once you travel in ultimate luxury, it's understandably very hard to go back to non-luxury itineraries and enjoy them,” Bahrain based Adnan Gilitwala, director, Dadabhai Travel, said. “I don't think a lot of people who were travelling more simply before Covid-19 happened, will immediately make the shift towards luxury travel now because they will likely be worried about cost of living first.”
People from the travel industry have been impacted in a major way with mounting job losses, increasing and endless cancellations resulting in lack of staff morale. Maggie Bootsman, GM UAE, Travel Counsellors, said: “We've just finished a two-week training session for all of our Travel Counsellors globally, instilling positivity into them. We've reached out to all of our key DMCs and all of our suppliers, asking them to do webinars and training sessions and product sessions for our travel counsellors as well. We're very cognizant of the fact that we have a lot of our counsellors doing home-schooling at the moment, which is also challenging for them, so we are making sure that we have a balance - that we don't flood them with too much information that they feel overwhelmed - that they've got the opportunity to have some downtime.”
“This is not the end of the book, this is the middle, and we've yet to write the final chapters.”