Role of travel consultant back in focus amid pandemic
Travel will rebound in the future. While the question of when, and how long it will take to get there remains unanswered. People's desire to travel in the business world is resilient. What we've seen through SARS, Ebola, terrorist attacks and numerous natural disasters is that the travel industry has always rebounded.
Travellers are taking this situation very seriously from a global health perspective, but it's not impacting their personal view on travelling internationally and the majority are actively planning their next trip, albeit with numerous factors at the forefront that may not have been as important three months ago.
How will the traveller view the agent in the future? I remain hopeful that the future of travel will have an emphasis on a travel consultant. Why? Because when things go wrong you have an expert to reach out to. We have seen this play out over the past three months when people are scrambling to figure out how to get home, the travel consultants are 10 steps ahead already rebooking their clients on flights home, offering alternative options when borders close or extending accommodation when phone lines are busy via other channels. Most of our travel consultants spent countless hours bringing customers home.
“As people around the world struggled to get out of certain countries ahead of the travel ban, or spent hours on the phone fighting to get their money back on flights they had to cancel, the pros of a human travel agent versus an online travel agency might have come into sharp focus”
– Ciarán Kelly
As people around the world struggled to get out of certain countries ahead of the travel ban, or spent hours on the phone fighting to get their money back on flights they had to cancel, the pros of a human travel agent versus an online travel agency might have come into sharp focus.
With regards to the cost of travel, views vary currently and it’s difficult to predict accurately. Some believe and expect fares to stay low as airlines struggle to get customers back on board in the near future however there’s also the opposite view, increased fares, but what happens still remains to be seen. I think it bodes very well for airlines to lower fares as its possible planes could be a little less full in the near future. The easiest and obvious way for airlines to try to fill seats is by reducing fares.
On the flip side however, airlines are going to have to do anything they can to get people back into the skies, whether that's a free checked bag on your flight back, free wifi or whatever. Between having losses to make up and potentially emptier planes, airlines could raise ticket prices but it’s also likely the airlines and hotels will all adopt more lenient change and cancellation policies as they have been doing over the last several weeks.
I think they will keep these policies in place for a while until travel starts again and then they will not be as relaxed.
There won't be a magical day on the calendar when the Covid-19 pandemic will be done with. It will be a slow recovery that differs across the globe, meaning that travellers might have to continue to contend with various travel bans, visa rules and lockdowns.
* The writer is Managing Director – UAE, Middle East & Africa Regional Leader for FCM Travel Solutions