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Resilient together: Why innovation should be at the center of your travel brand’s COVID-19 response

June 2, 2020

A version of this article originally appeared on the World Aviation Festival website. Problem solving has always been at the […]

A version of this article originally appeared on the World Aviation Festival website.

Problem solving has always been at the heart of new solutions in the travel sector. From airline consolidation to economic recessions, our ability to be resilient in the face of adversity has a long track record. So, ask yourself, how will you meet this moment?

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world as we know it. It has shaken the global economy and has placed tremendous pressures on the travel sector to reinvent itself.

An industry that has traditionally been celebrated for bringing people together is now contemplating social distancing measures, as we work to find a responsible and predictable path to recovery. We can no longer return to the way we used to travel pre-COVID-19, and it is needless to say none of us should be planning for business as usual.If you’re in need of inspiration, here are three reasons why your travel brand should use the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity for innovation.

Reason 1: Embracing change puts you at an advantage

It may feel like a paralyzing situation right now. You’re presented with difficult decision making and an overwhelming cacophony of predictions about how the future of travel might look. But, is it actually a time to tackle issues in the industry that have for so long exasperated us all?

We have an opportunity to accelerate changes that had begun at a slow pace and drive faster adoptionfrom truly leveraging new technologies to driving a renewed commitment to sustainability.

For example, adjustments in airline operations and fleet have created a renewed focus on cargo to support global supply needs. Finnair is one of many airlines who quickly rallied in the weeks after ceasing service by removing seats from unused passenger planes.

While the coronavirus has caused unforeseen disruption, it’s also provided us with a pause.

“I encourage everyone in travel to take a breath and start back at the problem you want to solve first,” says Robyn Grassanovits, Vice President Travel Products and Emerging Business for Cirium.

Starting with the problem and identifying what challenges were faced before, to then turning the focus to innovation and rebuilding trust. We should ask ourselves:

  • What do other companies, people or the market need right now?
  • What do we do best/where can we best add value?
  • What are other companies or people really good at doing and how can we work together?
  • What are sectors outside of travel doing to tackle similar problems?

The answers to these questions now will be very different to if you answered them pre COVID-19. As the world changes in adaptation to COVID-19 impact, it’s all about thinking differently.

It’s time to clearly identify the changes happening in our industry, as well as new consumer behaviors, and fully embrace them as opportunities to innovate and deliver new experiences.

Reason 2: There could be short term opportunities

What you do next has to relate to those new experiences and the market segments you can best serve. Data and insights are a great place to start to focus your business model.

Looking at previous case studies, such as SARS and 9/11, we know that leisure travel has traditionally rebounded first. In the same way domestic trips have returned more quickly than international travel.

Based on which markets are likely to come back online first, we all have to ask ourselves – how prepared is our business to service that demand? To find viable opportunities, each company may need to go after new, more risk-tolerant audiences in the short term, rather than wait for the traditional customer base to return.

To do this, it’s important to simplify. Once you’ve identified what you want to achieve, determine what your strengths are and any changes you need to make to clear that goal.

Reason 3: The right partnerships can get you back on track

You don’t have to go it alone to deliver what the market wants right now. It is much easier to pivot and adapt when you’re sharing resources and combining strengths for mutual benefit.

Creative partnerships with other businesses can spread the workload, boost your market reach and streamline priorities. Any company, even a former competitor, may become an ally in this new world. Now more than ever it’s important to keep moving, and there’s never been a better time to take a chance.

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