Just seven months ago, anyone could easily book a trip to any destination in the world with a click of a button. But today, we are facing a completely different reality.
With unprecedented lockdowns and international travel restrictions, COVID-19 has brought about the fear of contagion and overall global uncertainty, more so than any other pandemic experienced in modern times.
While global recovery may be some time away, what is clear is that markets will experience different stages of recovery. We have begun to see some optimism and green shoots in markets like Thailand, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand.
A new normal of travel will emerge as both industry players and travelers try to navigate the impact of the coronavirus. In order to capture growth in this current climate, businesses need to be opportunistic, agile and innovative, and partner-centric.
Seizing domestic demand as the first step forward
Drawing parallels with the post-SARS landscape in 2003, domestic travel is likely to be the first step forward. With months of pent up demand and staying indoors, travelers will turn to their next accessible and available option, domestic experiences. Consumers are already on the hunt for domestic experiences.
According to Klook’s internal research data, about 60% of the total number of searches in APAC and Europe have been related to domestic experiences, a signal that local interest for domestic experiences is on the rise
The World Travel and Tourism Council also asserts that travel is likely to return first to domestic markets, followed by intra-regional travel and finally, long-haul international travel.
Additionally, we are also starting to see intergovernmental organizations such as the European Commission and ASEAN lay the groundwork for intra-regional travel corridors.
Identifying the key stages of recovery, being opportunistic, and leveraging this momentum will pave the way for businesses to capture growth opportunities as restrictions gradually ease and conditions improve.
Navigating the uncertainties arising from COVID-19
As we have seen in South Korea, conditions can change very quickly and a second wave may arise. However, businesses must remain cognizant of market conditions, be agile, and respond quickly to any changes. Although businesses may not have the perfect solution, it should not stop them from innovating and adapting their strategies to find the best way forward.
The key here is to remain on your toes and to be unafraid to try new approaches. If businesses do not achieve their desired outcomes in their pilots, reassess the strategy and try again. Should tried-and-tested methods not work, an outside-in approach may reveal something new.
If there is one thing the coronavirus has taught businesses is that traditional ways of working do not necessarily achieve success.
Everyone is figuring out the best way forward in the new normal and those who accelerate quickest will be in a better position to survive.
Growing with your partners
There is a collective struggle in the travel industry as businesses fight to remain afloat. Now more than ever, businesses need to stand by their partners during this challenging period. Keep your ear to the ground and constantly listen to them.
Offer them support, alternatives, and resources to prime their business for success - fostering trust and building that relationship. After all, a business is only as strong as their trusted partners.
For example, in Taiwan, Klook partnered with the local governments of Tainan and Pingtung in March and May respectively to help traditionally offline merchants, enabling these offline operators to digitize their travel activities, monetize their offerings, and bring them on to a global stage.
We also rolled out Klook Academy and Partners Hub, a resource center to help merchants keep abreast of the latest updates from the travel industry and Klook’s platform, helping them navigate the challenges.
Travel has become such an integral part of many people’s lives and will be here to stay. However, the coronavirus has inadvertently changed the way people will approach travel.
The road ahead will be challenging, but businesses who seize new opportunities, constantly innovate, and remain committed to their partners will be able to better tackle the new normal of travel. What we do now will define how we navigate the future of travel.