Lars Larsson, chief executive of Varnish Software says travel firms must prepare now for the return of traffic
The pandemic has had an unprecedented and likely long-lasting effect on many industries, not least the travel industry.
Since lockdown came into force, Virgin Atlantic has had to be rescued by a £1.2bn loan from its creditors, to save 6,500 jobs.
Flybe collapsed into administration, with lockdown measures proving the final straw for the company.
STA Travel has been forced to close down, and Gatwick Airport recently announced that it will be letting over 24% of its workforce go.
These are just some of casualties from bigger, well-known companies.
Smaller companies, such as travel agents, hotel and accommodation providers, have been hit equally hard during this difficult period.
Businesses in the travel industry of all sizes, now need to do everything possible to ensure that they can maximize sales and customer engagement in the face of the challenging environment.
Fortunately, with lockdown measures easing in some parts of the world, some people are desperate to travel again.
Over the past month, travel firms saw record sales ahead of restrictions being lifted. Tui, the UK’s largest provider, said bookings for next summer were up by 145%.
With people missing out on holidays throughout the year, many are looking to try and find good deals for next year, or even last-minute holidays to go away at the end of this summer.
This increase in demand is great for the industry, but travel companies must ensure that they can handle this flux.
Eurotunnel’s website recently crashed due to thousands of people booking trips simultaneously, while a spokesman confirmed they had more bookings in one day than they have had all year.
Knowsley Safari Park’s website crashed after fans rushed to buy tickets when it announced more areas of the park were set to reopen.
People have reported problems on a range of major travel websites, as traffic ramps up.
Prepare now for online success
Obviously, no one could have anticipated COVID-19 and the far-reaching consequences of the pandemic on businesses of all size and sector, including travel.
But as we’ve seen in times of peak demand and seasonality, it’s the travel companies that have time to plan their online strategies that reap the short and longer-term benefits.
For the travel industry to bounce back from the impact of COVID-19, it is important that businesses’ websites are built to handle peak demand.
Another ease of lockdown and travel restrictions is likely to see another spike in demand for holidays and it’s critical that businesses are ready.
With a growing number of travel companies moving away from bricks and mortar to online, getting this right is absolutely key.
Of course, optimising a website for online traffic should be part of a company’s broader, ongoing strategy.
Seasonal traffic often spikes on days such as Boxing Day, Diwali, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and can be also be generated by a company’s own sales calendar.
In order to plan for peak traffic, offer an optimal customer experience and convert visits to revenue, businesses need the systems in place to serve customers efficiently all year round.
Performance is key
So how can travel companies keep their websites running smoothly during the uncertainty that COVID-19 has created, and during times of unprecedented strain?
Performance is key to success and a positive consumer experience.
There is nothing like user impatience, especially in stressful situations, to derail the most careful web performance plans.
Ultimately, it comes down to getting the basic requirements right – having your site and apps work at scale and with speed.
This means employing caching technology that can not only reduce the risk of site outages, but also enhance performance and provide greater control over retail websites.
Think quicker page load times, faster delivery of rich content, and the server bandwidth required to deal with unexpected demand.
Mobile web performance, in particular, is key to meeting the accelerating proliferation of mobile as one of, if not the most used device for surfing the web today.
Technology is available that can support speed in assembling and loading mobile web pages, even when pages include a number of personalised fragments specifically targeted to the user.
Travel companies can’t afford to give their potential customers a chance to get frustrated by lack of mobile support and leave their site; they need to get their website optimised and create a great user experience across all devices.
Getting prepared for the future of travel
Countries are now easing their restrictions and opening up to tourism once again.
However, people are less likely than ever before to use retailers on the high street to make travel plans and book travel.
We are now likely to see fewer physical travel businesses, more e-commerce, and a more important role for technology.
So, if you are travel company and haven’t already nailed your online strategy, now is the time to create a fantastic user experience that can handle peak traffic, give users a great experience and covert sales.