It’s forecasted that air travel will not return to 2019 levels until 2023 to 2025. From now until that period, we will see Air Travel Bubbles and Corridors dictate peoples’ movement. It’s likely that as the world adapts to this model in 2021.
Hong Kong – Mei Mei Song, Director of Brand & Production Transformation of Plaza Premium Group, the global leader and pioneer in airport hospitality services, shares eight key trends shaping the future of travel hospitality which outlines their ‘Revive and Thrive Together’ strategy coupled with putting efficiency at the forefront, as the foundation of the Group’s future growth.
Mei Mei said, “Plaza Premium Group’s vision is to be a leading change-maker in the industry, driving new ways of thinking and bringing them to reality. We have drawn up these trends based on insights identified through market research, business observations, and forecasting. Based on these trends, we are redesigning the travel experience following the massive paradigm shift and change in the business landscape brought about by the pandemic. Plaza Premium Group’s Revive and Thrive Together’ strategy understands that the industry needs to work in partnership to provide travelers with peace of mind in the ‘new normal’.”
1) Agility from the ‘shop-floor’ to the HQ
It’s forecasted that air travel will not return to 2019 levels until 2023 to 2025. From now until that period, we will see Air Travel Bubbles and Corridors dictate peoples’ movement. It’s likely that as the world adapts to this model in 2021. With so many fluctuations, airport and industry players must revisit business continuity plans, introduce sustainable business models, and be prepared to pause and re-model not just their frontline operations, but the entire business structure quickly. A high level of flexibility and responsiveness is required to ensure convenience for their customers and security for their employees. Data centricity will be key to being agile, and business actions from day-to-day operations to customer engagement will need to be driven by both local and global market data and insights. Mindsets will need to be adjusted to ensure employees are ready to react and deploy when required, and this will be an organizational culture shift for many businesses.
2) Brands collaborating to present the unexpected
Collaboration has become more essential than ever in ensuring the airport hospitality industry’s survival. Creative ways of co-created airport experiences and business remodeling can be expected through strategic partnerships between travel service operations, airlines, alliances, corporates, retailers, and other partners. To thrive through such unprecedented times, instead of rivalling, industry players tend to be more open to joining forces to consolidate expertise, resources and diversify revenue streams. Travel brands should also look to collaborate with brands outside of the industry, to present new unique experiences that will be unexpected to consumers whilst also creating benefits.
3) Humanizing digital experiences
Digitalization in every aspect and every industry, in general, has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, and airports are no different. Beyond providing convenience, the new normal of digitalization now equals contactless alternatives that help encourage safe, secure, and hygienic travel. The next challenge facing the travel industry is about humanizing the digital experience, and practicing social distancing while staying close to the traveler’s heart. Combining customer engagement strategies with digital transformation is key to making consumers feel cared for, respected, and prioritized in the same way a human connection creates. “Portable” engagement and loyalty programs that can provide data-backed personalized communications will become more popular in the new age of travel.
4) Beside the traveler every step of the way
Passengers’ confidence in safe and convenient travel experiences will play a decisive role in their decision to travel by air. Since the airport journey has become unfamiliar, travelers are more anxious about moving through airports due to health concerns and the increasing complexity of pre-flight arrangements. Navigated airport experiences such as chauffeurs, meet and greet, travel concierge, lounge, and transit hotels are expected to become an essential part of travel. These services assist travelers to navigate the airport through arrival, check-in, organize fast-track services through passport and immigration control, provide porter services, offer lounge access with private spaces to avoid commercial areas, and provide private washroom and shower facilities at transit hotels, all of which will help travelers minimize interactions with others and ultimately, alleviate stress while at the airport.
5) Airport lounges will not be exclusive to business travelers
Airport lounges will carry more importance than ever before as people, regardless of class of travel, will seek them out for privacy, security, and peace of mind. Travelers will look to invest more in their travel experiences as they become less frequent but more important, and there will soon be more luxury experiences available for higher-spend customers. In addition to lounges, more business and leisure travelers will consider using meet and assist services due to the new airport experiences.
6) Flexible travel arrangements
Purchase flexibility will help revive consumer confidence. According to the Plaza Premium Group’s consumer survey conducted in late 2020, people will adopt smaller booking windows, and look to book their travel within zero to eight weeks of departure. Travelers will seek airline tickets that can be canceled and changed quickly and affordably, and this will soon become industry best practices. Responsible travel companies will need to adopt a customer-centric booking change policy, supported by timely customer services and reservation procedures.
7) Domestic to regional to international
There will be a gradual return to travel domestically, regionally, and internationally, starting with essential travel, followed by business travel, followed by leisure travel. Looking at China as an example, domestic travel in the market is reaching near to pre-COVID-19 figures, the usage of airport lounges and airport hotels over the past months has increased steadily to levels in 2019 achieved through domestic travel only. It is likely that other markets will follow this pattern of domestic travel as they open up more.
Regional travel will take off with business travelers initially, who are frequent flyers. And leisure travelers will also consider regional destinations with the introduction of more travel corridors once they have received the vaccination, our survey suggests. International travel will be the last to resume, however essential international travel will take place for those who are separated from their families, require medical care, or are moving internationally for work purposes.
8) Bringing excitement and energy back to travel
The travel experience has been undeniably stressful over the past year, and until the pandemic is under control around the world, the decision to travel, organization of travel, and the experience will continue to be complex. To help alleviate stress and put the enjoyment and excitement back into travel, airport hospitality brands will need to introduce new customer engagement concepts and activations for travelers to enjoy and delight in.
To find out more about how Plaza Premium Group is pioneering airport hospitality services and shaping future travel, visit http://www.plazapremiumgroup.com/
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