Pandemic-linked travel restrictions have hit the travel sector hard, and continue to disrupt. This will make the flexibility and convenience of technology ever more critical in recovery.
The appeal of increased flexibility is demonstrated by the growth of platforms such as TravelPerk, a business trip booking platform, which, having recently acquired its British rival Click Travel, expects to grow by 200% in 2022.
The CEO and co-founder of TravelPerk, Avi Meir, notes that in contrast to before the pandemic “most trip searches are for trips less than 6 days away. Flexibility is therefore one of the most in-demand perks in business travel. Travelers will rely on flexible fares to give them the peace of mind that they won’t lose money if they need to change or cancel a trip on short notice.”
The travel industry has suffered mightily during the course of the pandemic. Passenger demand decreased by 65.9% between 2019 and 2020, according to the International Air Transport Association. Furthermore, the estimates of the UN World Tourism Organisation show a loss of $1tn, which has put 120 million jobs at risk.
The industry will clearly need every tool it can muster to claw back customers.
Meanwhile, Cleartrip, the leading online travel and leisure aggregator in the Middle East and India, has signed a multi-year deal with Sabre Corporation, a software and technology company whose technology platform manages more than $260bn annually within the industry. Sabre’s Bargain Finder Max API will enhance Cleartrip’s ability to offer customisation to shoppers by allowing customers to customise their trip searches based on itinerary and fare preferences.
Another online travel platform, Level.Travel, recently gained investment from Baring Vostok, which focuses in private equity investments in promising tech companies. Founded in 2011, Level.Travel now caters to 400,000 tourists and offers flights from 62 different cities in Russia. It enables customers to search for trips in real-time, integrating tour operator systems and its own content base.
“According to Ipsos Comcon, 66% of Russians prefer to travel on tours. Of these, 80% are ready to choose tours online,” Maksim Loganov, an associate of Baring Vostok said. “At the same time, the online share of the Russian travel market is only 7%, but this market is rapidly digitalizing.”
The digital shift, globally, predated the pandemic and may help move the sector to a position of greater strength when it comes to recovering from the effects of COVID-19. This crucial head-start in technology and choice (and a continued trajectory of development globally) is going to be exactly what the industry needs in a post-pandemic world where flexibility plays an increasingly important role.