Industry Perspectives

Six travel experts share their pandemic learnings

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We ask travel industry leaders, experts and partners to share their experiences of a year like no other - and offer up their hopes for 2021

This year has been a year like no other: tough, challenging and stressful for nearly everyone. But the promise of a coming vaccine means we can all exhale, take stock of the year, and start preparing for a brighter future. We ask travel leaders to share their experiences of 2020, along with their hopes for 2021. 

Thomas Emanuel, Director at STR, says: Seeing the International Hospitality Investment Forum (IHIF) conference in Berlin cancelled at the beginning of March just days before it was set to begin was a real indication of what was to come. We quickly moved everyone to the safety of their home office and worked to keep the industry apprised of daily performance trends. 

The pandemic was a reminder that our way of life is ultimately fragile, and we should not take things for granted. At the same time, we don’t believe that travel has been irreparably damaged and the desire to travel, experience, network and learn has not diminished. 

The road to recovery will be long, but the journey should start in 2021 and provide reason for optimism. Once vaccines become widely distributed, we are confident travel will pick up and accommodation demand will return over time. 

Patrick Brand, Owner of Spinoza Suites, says: As a small accommodation located in the centre of Amsterdam, the effect of the pandemic was huge for us. International tourism stopped and the domestic market wanted to go on holiday to the countryside or coastal areas. Business picked up a little during summer, mostly due to visitors from neighbouring countries, which makes up about 80% of our business. With this slower speed of life, we focused on maintaining our reputation, content and online presence. We also worked with the Hyatt Regency next door to offer packages together, which I think shows that this crisis stimulated creativity. People are open to working together to help each other.

We are optimistic for the future. We offer privacy and our check-in process is automated when guests request it, which may be a unique selling point for us in the coming year. I think that leisure travel will bounce back because people have been locked down for many months. They are keen to get out and experience the world. Business travel will take longer.  

Andrew Bate, CEO of Safely.com, says: I arrived in March early for the ITB Conference in Berlin, only to learn it had been cancelled. We began preparing the day after I returned. Cash flow was challenging at first as we had to give refunds for cancelled reservations. 

We expected our reservation volume to drop, so we got together to work on transformational projects. We improved our data science capabilities, built a new version of our technology, integrated with a dozen new property management systems and added a travel-protection insurance policy. 

Going forward, I think consumers will care more about the details in their insurance and cancellation policies. I also predict there will be an increased demand for private accommodations - homes and apartments - for both leisure and business. 

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housekeeping cleaning door
It was a year of deep cleaning and a focus on safety protocols

 

Mike Liverton, CEO of Jetstream, says: The pandemic has been definitive for Jetstream - in a good way. It has ensured we focus on being operationally efficient, remaining super lean and nimble. We’ve put increased emphasis on our cancellation policies and booking flexibility. 

The last few months have also cemented many of our partnership relationships - after all, we are in it together. We’ve doubled down on listening to guest concerns and have heard that professionally managed and cleaned homes, resorts, apartments and other alternative lodgings are their growing preference. 

I see this trend increasing into 2021 with so many people adapting to a new way of working from home and contemplating the transition to a hybrid lifestyle of working while travelling.

Georgios Kaloutsakis, Deputy CEO of Abaton Island Resort & Spa, says: This year showed us that travelling is not a luxury consumer experience but a need for all of us. Keeping the machine running was a big challenge. 

We focused on making our property as safe as possible for guests, while simultaneously motivating and inspiring our staff to continue to offer great services while maintaining hygiene protocols. 

Matt Landau, vacation rental professional and host of The Vacation Rental Show, says: At first, the biggest challenge of the pandemic for vacation rental professionals was simply keeping our heads above water financially. When travel came to a halt, we were forced to make difficult decisions regarding guest refunds and staffing. But our sector was fortunate to rebound quickly. Almost immediately, when travellers began flocking to vacation homes, the top challenge shifted to regulation. 

When travel restrictions begin to ease when vaccines are introduced in 2021, we’ll hit the road to continue shooting our documentary about the home-sharing movement - and how it’s helping communities recover and reconnect in the wake of the pandemic.

 

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Takeaway
  • The pandemic prompted quick action by experts and partners to safeguard their employees and adopt cleanliness protocols
  • With demand at an all-time low, many hoteliers and property owners turned their attention to projects designed to improve their processes and build strong partnerships
  • The promise of a vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel, with most people queried forecasting a slow but steady recovery
  • Some experts foresee “work from anywhere” and a gravitation to more private accommodations - both homes and apartments - as lasting trends