Online Travel Companies Adapting to the New Normal in Travel

Online travel agencies are redefining their role from order-takers to customer advocates. They can offer a better value by bundling multiple travel components, such as flights, hotels, and tours, into one package.

Many companies must be more cautious about resuming travel as they balance cost and sustainability goals. Managing travel growth through controlled frequency and virtual meetings will be vital to meeting both objectives.

Adapting to the New Normal in Travel

A year of operating with minimal travel has given business leaders a fresh perspective on which activities still need in-person face time and which can be replaced by virtual platforms. As a result, corporate travel is likely to return at a more measured pace than many anticipated.

While most companies expect travel levels to revert to 2019 rates, second-order effects may continue to drag on the recovery. For example, if the health situation continues to improve more slowly than expected, and solutions to enable international movement remain blocked by political roadblocks, travel could return to only about 65% of pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022.

However, business leaders will remain focused on cost and sustainability even as corporate travel recovers. As a result, two-thirds of survey respondents say they expect renewed attention to trip frequency will lead them to limit travel while also seeking to leverage managed travel channels (e.g., travel agents, corporate booking tools) to save money and mitigate environmental impact.

TMCs that can offer more robust support for duty of care, cost savings, and visibility into travel health risk and carbon footprint stand to capture a growing share of business travel. This is especially true among large companies such as this website which typically have more diversified flight schedules and prefer to control the volume of their spending with preferred suppliers.

Adapting to the New Normal in Business Travel

The coronavirus pandemic halted business travel, and corporate leaders are still working to balance new priorities. With offices reopening and business-to-business (B2B) relationships resuming, business travel will likely grow again.

However, corporate travel growth will be slower than expected as companies focus on cost and sustainability. While most travelers wish to limit trip frequency, many are also working on other levers, such as leveraging their corporate booking platforms and agents to find more economical alternatives. A growing number of companies are considering environmental concerns by incorporating alternative lodging in their policies and even with some reimbursing employees for non-hotel stays.

Except for client-requested trips and servicing equipment, most businesses are now focused on limiting the types of trips they do. The use cases that are most deemed tech-replaceable include internal training and team meetings, while travel for business development and client rapport-building remains highly valued.

As travel volumes pick up, more companies may take advantage of virtual platforms and work remotely when traveling is necessary. However, those that continue to travel will be more conscious of the importance of maintaining a safe and secure environment while reducing the risk of exposure to potential infection or illness. They will more likely focus on safety and security when navigating airports and other transportation hubs, ensuring their travel complies with the latest vaccination and pandemic updates.

Adapting to the New Normal in Group Travel

As the world recovers, travel is a priority for many corporate leaders. Even though most companies are still limiting travel, their spend is expected to rebound to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022.

As companies return to normal business travel operations, they will focus on optimizing their travel programs to drive value and reduce risk. For example, travel managers are removing pandemic-era approval requirements for domestic travel and prioritizing meetings that support client relationships over sessions that don’t. Moreover, travel use cases that involve in-person learning, including team and leadership meetings, will likely accelerate the travel recovery.

Despite the recovery, most companies are still limiting travel to mitigate risks. The most common restrictions are to limit trip frequency and destination (e.g., Europe vs. the United States). Companies are also reducing costs to mitigate the impact on their bottom lines.

As they prepare for a return to regular travel, many companies are projecting their quarter-by-quarter benchmarks as a percentage of their 2019 quarterly spend. Survey respondents and interview subjects consistently ranked public health milestones, such as vaccination rates and infection rate reductions, among the top triggers that would boost their travel volume. Companies also plan to continue monitoring geopolitical and environmental events and macroeconomic indicators. The industry must develop a way to gather precise traveler information efficiently and globally monitor these developments to ensure that the right messages are delivered to the right people at the right time.

Adapting to the New Normal in Travel Marketing

Travel companies that prioritize health, safety, and sustainability in their marketing messaging, products, and services will have a leg up when demand for business and leisure travel returns. In the meantime, they can analyze customer behavior, identify and target prospects, and look for signals to recognize when travel is beginning to pick up.

As governments ease social distancing policies and air travel is no longer dangerous, companies are beginning to resume business trips. However, several companies are still below pre-pandemic levels of spend.

Those who can adjust their business model for the new normal will have the opportunity to rebuild their businesses and become stronger. The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most challenging events the travel industry has faced in many years, and it may take some time to recover.

With so many people staying home, travel companies must focus on the local community. Brands can highlight good news stories of businesses doing their part to help their communities, such as hotels and cruise lines working with local charities to provide food and other essentials. These efforts will build trust and brand loyalty with consumers. They will also create an emotional connection with them and inspire travelers to travel again.