No more PCR tests before arriving in England and most travel restrictions out of the window. International arrivals will instead be asked to take a lateral flow test on arrival and only to self-isolate if it comes back positive.
The UK government’s recent announcements were warmly welcomed by the UK’s aviation and tourism sectors, including Cormac Barry, the CEO of CarTrawler, the world’s largest provider of technology solutions for the global travel industry.
Barry joined CarTrawler as chief executive in April 2018, after having been CEO of Paddy Power division Sportsbet for more than seven years. Some of his biggest clients include EasyJet, American Express, WizzAir, Uber, Hotels.com and Emirates.
City A.M. caught up with Barry to see what he makes of the pandemic onslaught, and how the travel and aviation industry can move forward.
The travel sector has been under immense pressure in recent years. One thing that seems to come out of this pandemic is the need for flexibility, such as flexible cancellations and Covid-10 contingencies. Is it the new normal?
With all the uncertainty in travel caused by the pandemic, the demand for flexible travel has increased – and, with that, so too has the demand for travel insurance. Whilst consumers have become resilient and have adapted to dealing with Covid in their lives, their number one concern is travel restrictions and in turn convenience and flexibility are key.
“When booking travel, the number one priority is flexibility around cancellation policies.”Cormac Barry
From surveying our partners’ customers this month we’ve seen that Covid-19 safety has become close to a non-issue with relevancy dropping from 21 per cent to 9 per cent between August 2020 and November 2021. Travel brands that stay stringent in their travel policies and do not evolve will struggle to maintain a loyal customer base with so much uncertainty.”
Will only those brands that offer, say, consumers flexibility, car rental booking, competitive pricing and a seamless experience win in tomorrow’s market?
Brands that can offer consumers flexible booking, competitive price points, and a seamless experience (both online and off), will undoubtedly win in the 2022 market. This year, the industry saw non-traditional car rental players like Uber enter the market. These brands have thrived by meeting new consumer demands underpinned with great technology. To compete with these emerging players in 2022, airlines and other travel brands will need to adapt to the evolving needs of consumers.
Trends and data were crucial in the initial recovery. Why and how will that continue to be an essential metric in the future?
An in-depth view of trends and insights was crucial to the initial recovery of the travel industry in 2021 and will be as essential a metric going forward. The importance of insights and trends was evident in the early days of the pandemic when any sign of green shoots was crucial to understanding the trajectory of recovery.
Ancillaries showed their worth during the pandemic for airlines, what opportunities do you see to make the most of ancillary revenue?
Airlines should be looking for new opportunities to maximise ancillary revenue. Ancillaries really showed their worth during the pandemic, particularly those ones that could be bought independently of a flight, such as car rental, mobility and using loyalty programme miles.
“Airlines understand that it is not enough just to offer a product, but you need to optimise and sell it at the right time in the customer journey whilst also ensuring it’s relevant to the customer.”Cormac Barry
When flights were grounded, these revenue streams were crucial for airlines as their core business was hugely affected. Ancillary revenue has already begun to recover from the pandemic. Some airlines like our partner WizzAir reported that in 2020 ancillaries accounted for 55 per cent of total revenue.
The pandemic forced businesses to speed up their digital transformation initiatives, and post-COVID-19, consumers will expect the same efficiency, don’t you agree?
Covid forced businesses of all sizes to speed up their digital transformation initiatives, moving essential apps and services to the cloud as employees shifted to remote work. With travel expected to increase again post-Covid, consumers will demand the same types of efficiencies they experienced while working remotely and accessing a range of apps and services from the cloud.
In 2022, there is an expected convergence of travel tech and health tech and in an ideal world travellers could have access to a single source that includes their passports, health records, such as proof of vaccination, and other essential information to allow them to travel freely across borders.
Sustainability is becoming an ever-increasing core concern for consumers. Do you feel that is a priority for many travellers, or not really?
There is no getting away from the fact that travel creates a significant cardon footprint and unquestionably, sustainability will be a core concern for travel consumers in 2022. It’s a trend we’ve seen evolve over the past few years, but one that’s been supercharged by Covid-19 – over lockdown, ethical practices were under scrutiny – as well as the UN’s recent COP26 conference.
Now that airline passengers can actually buy carbon offset at the point of purchase, travel customers will come to expect all travel businesses to observe the same number of – if not more – sustainable practices that they do themselves.
“The real challenge for travel companies will be to make sustainable travel competitively priced so that no consumers are priced out of the market.”Cormac Barry
Hertz’s high-profile purchase of 100,000 Teslas to expand their rental fleet is an early example of what will become a growing trend in the industry, as a growing number of travel organisations make investments now that will allow them to expand sustainable options down the line. Another example of key travel brands efforts is our partner United Airlines who recently flew the first commercial passenger flight using 100 per cent sustainable fuel.
If they do so successfully, they’ll have a competitive differentiator that their competitors would bite their hand off to replicate. Having said that, the frameworks are not yet in place to facilitate full adoption. There needs to be funding mechanisms and attractive incentives in place to transition to more sustainable travel.”