Brownell CEO & President Troy Haas shares his thoughts and personal experiences about the return of travel.
What seems like a lifetime ago, but was in fact just last year, we shared our predictions for what travel may look like in the New Year. (Read the original post here.) How did they hold up after a global pandemic, contentious election and a seemingly endless stream of disruptions? Read on. We welcome your comments and feedback.
Prediction 1: The Travel Industry will earn more recognition – and take more responsibility – for being a driving global economic force.
85% Accurate The pandemic threw a spotlight on the travel industry, just not in the way we had hoped. The virtual shutdown of travel, more severe than the years of WW1 and WWII, showed us just how many supply chains, livelihoods and jobs depend on travel and tourism. Many global economists put the number at 1 in 10 jobs worldwide.
Prediction 2: Travel firms that focus on human experience, complemented by technology (and not the other way around) will not only weather any economic downturns, but will also post growth in sales and revenue.
50% Accurate There is no booking engine or algorithm for “unbooking” complicated itineraries. Travelers who were most successful cancelling and postponing trips without significant costs were those who booked through a travel advisor. It was also a scary and uncertain time and having a sympathetic ear with human connections to call on couldn’t be replicated by technology. As one would assume, very few, if any, professional travel firms posted growth. However, the thirst for new experiences has not suffered and will be critical for the growth of our industry as travel rebounds
Prediction 3: Roll-ups and IPOs in the travel agency space will offer a great opportunity to privately-held agencies who offer boutique and concierge-level services based on personal relationships between advisors and clients.
75% Accurate The pandemic has accelerated the pace and scale of consolidation and roll-ups. Mega-firms like TravelEdge and Internova are gobbling up small and medium-sized agencies at a break neck pace. What remains to be seen is how far the pandemic will push back IPOs and what the consequences of these acquisitions and (likely) spin-offs will be. There is a great deal of travel advisor talent being shuffled through these plays and it is unclear how they will fare after the incentives expire and the bloom goes off the rose. Will they find greater benefit in the sheer size the big players offer, or will they yearn for the connection, community and personal touch of a smaller community?
Prediction 4: Experienced travelers consider exploration and experiences a necessity, not a luxury. Knowledgeable travelers will not curb their travel, they but will alter their planning patterns and how they allocate their travel dollars.
100% Accurate Read what we wrote regarding this prediction last year:
“If there is one absolute truth in the travel industry, it is that change and disruption are a guarantee. Economic uncertainty, elections, terrorism, and natural disasters are an unfortunate, yet undeniable thread in the fabric of our work.”
While we didn’t predict a pandemic, the outcome is largely the same. The pandemic has paused but not halted travel dreams. The thirst for travel and having new experiences beyond our own four walls is at an all-time high. Destination popularity has shifted wildly due to border closings, entry requirements can be arduous but have not been a deterrent to the intrepid. Planning patterns are indeed very different with travelers booking trips much more closely to their departure dates, and planning longer trips.
While we can’t predict the future of travel with 100% accuracy, we can see clear trends emerging. The first and most definite: the thirst for travel has never been stronger. When borders open, vaccines are widely distributed and the world is ready to welcome us back the need for trusted guidance from a professional travel advisor will be more important than ever.