Failure to take advantage of the COVID-19 travel reset to embrace change and reboot your business, is the biggest risk firms are facing, according to an expert panel at this month’s Travolution Summit.
Technology and data services suppliers agreed that the downturn is an opportunity to reassess technology requirements and address the legacy that remains in many travel businesses.
The re-platforming of the travel sector should see more flexible and direct access to suppliers, more integration and interoperability of tech systems and agility to react to changing market trends.
Pedro Anderson, co-founder of Winding Tree, a new distributed leger distribution platform connecting travel suppliers with retailers, said:
“At a time like this the biggest risk is sticking with the old strategy that does not have long term potential. If you want to do something new, now’s the best time to take that risk.
“Those companies that are starting to work with start-ups and more cutting-edge technology will come out of this on top.”
Anderson added: “If you look at the way distribution works today, pretty much everybody gets inventory from the same places.
“Almost all suppliers are unhappy with the way that product is displayed and with the lack of product differentiation. We all just live with it, but there is an opportunity for a new approach.”
Winding Tree was born out of a desire for innovation, disruption and for change within the travel industry to address issues that hold the industry back, added Anderson.
Manuel Hilty, chief executive and founder of travel systems specialist Nezasa, said some larger firms are looking to tweak their technology to be able to do things better than pre-COVID.
But many smaller firms are looking to make a more fundamental change: “They are saying now we have the time to rethink everything.
“They are throwing away what they have today and building something completely new because there is no better time to do that than now.”
Hilty said the new world of travel distribution will be speedier and more efficient so firms can put new product in the market in weeks rather than going through processes that take months.
“In a situation where no one knows what’s going to happen next, this is a key ability to have,” he said.
Nick Shay, head of travel and hospitality at Publicis Sapient, said the COVID-19 disruption has come on the back of other challenges the sector was facing prior to the pandemic.
“Companies need to be preparing for this future and be able to move forward. COVID-19 has amplified that.
“A lot of companies are thinking about how to build for the future but are having to be a bit more careful about where they make these investments.
“The days of very long big IT programmes are going away, it’s now more around the speed at which you can innovate and try something rather than taking more time and spending more money.”
Shay said firms must look for IT partners they can integrate into their core systems.
“Where we see companies get it wrong is they pick partners or solutions they have not been able to integrate with their core systems and the result is ultimately a poorer customer experience.”
Carlos Cendra, sales and marketing director at Spanish data and insights provider Mabrian, said greater collaboration between the public and private spheres is necessary to revive travel.
And he said firms must re-platform their data requirements so they have more live, real-time insights in the markets and destinations their serve.
“This situation has reinforced the message we have been going out with for five years; that the intuition is over.
“All knowledge we have got from historical data is now useless. The reality is completely new. You must have the most up to date real-time data to get used to the new reality.
“Historical data is a record of the sector but everyone is starting from zero, no one has lived through a situation like this. No one could have imagined a situation like this seven or eight months ago.”