No more trips as we know them so far

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Travel industry will change a lot in returning to the new normal

Travel industry -including both business and leisure travel sectors- is one of the most impacted industries by COVI-19. But, how is it going to look like the new travel industry in the future? It’s normal we start already thinking and re-thinking about that so called ‘The New Normal’. Because we understand that there will be undoubtedly real physical changes to make travel safer.

The return to normality after the health emergency is the main question that is being asked in many families and companies, which, after the impact caused by COVID-19, will have to review aspects such as the displacement of their professionals, as well as corporate policies, focused on ensuring the safety of employees.

Some insights we are learning from this pandemic to tackle the crisis in the travel industry is that we will need to leverage even more than before on real-time data, agile and disruptive technology and open collaboration.

We understand that we need to provide travelers with better real-time data and flexible travel management tools to stay on top of the quickly changing COVID-19 situation. Executives and corporate travel leaders will need the data and insights that enable them to determine where employees can travel safely, and flexible corporate travel management tools that enable organizations to take action quickly and decisively to protect employees, all while being cautious about budget and compliance with regulation.

In this context, cloud-based technology companies with focus on rapid innovation for the travel and transportation industry, will help accelerate the recovery of the sector. These companies are collaborating with leading travel companies to bring to market new Business Travel Continuity features and ensure the health and safety of their traveling employees while controlling costs.

My current role at SAP is advising c-level executives in different industries in the impact of disruptive technologies on their business models. Specifically, with regards to business travel industry, we are offering our customers advanced services based on disruptive technologies like AI, predictive analytics and IoT with the goal to improve  the traveler’s experience. Some examples here are tools for geo-localization and continuous monitoring of the traveler, claim management automation, duty of care regulation information and 24×7 customer support through bots and other related AI-based tools.

Because, nowadays measuring the Traveler’s Experience is everything. To achieve that, we need a robust business technology platform  to proper correlate the travel experience data with the operational data. But, how will the new travel business processes look like after the pandemic? We will need to consider at least the following areas: the new reality of demand, the new financial and supply chain stability and the employee protection.


The first step begins with understanding the demand and supply of the travel sector. The truth is that we are already seeing a huge decline in bookings. Then, how do we make sure that our customers and travelers can operate in this new environment? There are places with advanced outbreaks and places with a lower grade of pandemic, so business leaders needed to have certain plans in place when travel managers needed that visibility.

From SAP we have a privileged position to offer real-time information to online travel agencies (OTA), travel managers, cost control managers…We can correlate the data that came from the different travel providers (agencies, airlines, etc) with the data from our systems to see where and how the outbreaks are. This is very relevant because employers could then tell business travelers how to act in different situations, for example, If you’ve been to Spain or Italy,  you can tell them not to come into the office this week, because it is now closed. 
SAP is able to rapidly innovate based on feedback from customers (using XM tools integrating X-data (Experience data) with O-data (operational data). And also we need to have visual  dashboards and act based on that -in real time.

Therefore, we need to manage travel business during an outbreak that is in different places at different times and with different degrees and procedures. This will be important for enabling travel managers to protect traveling employees while controlling costs moving forward.

Companies will need the tools, technology and data that gives their travel manager insights and the ability to act on them. 

The second important point is to make attractive the current offer to the traveler. For that, we need to have a single view of customer, including existing and past trips. We need to stay in permanent touch with our customers, measuring constantly the customer satisfaction and and securing messaging with targeted information – e.g. informs when certain routes start operating for frequent flier.
Additional features offered to our customers like chatbots or self-service tools informing during our trip will be also essential to increase the customer loyalty. In this sense, we can think about additional features like informing the travelers about alternative flights, waiting times at security check-in gates, ATM’s available at the airport, etc.

Supply Chain stability will vary from country to country

The third point to be considered is to make your supply chain more resilient and make your offer transparent. To maximize your portfolio visibility and availability we can think about tools that help us predicting future demand and allow us accurate simulations of sales and operations according to supply demand match.
The stability of our Supply Chain Is critical and we need to maintain a viable and qualified supplier network from diverse suppliers and Multiple countries. We need to Ensure flexibility and agility to add or remove supply partners based on shifting demand and availability. And we need also to Manage and modify costs and service levels in response to availability and demand.

Then, the forth aspect we need to look at this stage, is the essential one: the protection of the traveler. We need to be able to communicate with employees at any time as work shifts to virtual and part-time to ensure an engaged workforce. We must enable full organizational visibility, including to contingent labor, external workers and service providers. We must also survey and monitor employee sentiment and experience while maintaining compliance, ensure continued learning & development for all employees.

The price will be pushed into the background against security. In fact, the protocols will change and people will prefer nearer and more convenient destinations

Duty of Care topic will be above all the topics in this block and we will need to be sure we can locate and attend our travelers no matter where they are and be sure we can attend them properly ensuring we can get them back home in case it is necessary. Other topics to be considered now is to have new insurance coverages for covid-19 attendance or having an immunity certificate in case it is required in the future.

Will COVID-19 immunity certificates be required at Airports?

And last but not least, the fifth point to be considered is the cost and spend control. We need to safeguard our financial performance. For that, technology will be essential so that it will enable us to do more with less, some examples are the following: Matching Demand and  Supply and define a gradual restart, handling passenger backlog with existing tickets and want to fly, Run financial stress tests for all scenarios, monitor and help predict potential financial implications resulting from rapid demand swings or Manage liquidity in real-time to help ensure ongoing operations.

So, in conclusion, perhaps business trips will be less common in the future but with greater focus. Perhaps we will travel more in the national market than in the international one.

What new measures will be launched? We can anticipate some of them but the reality is that the new normal will be a totally different one than the previous one.

Traveler’s safety will obviously be the focus and priority for companies and travel service providers and they will have to increase the levels of information, on-site support and assistance during the trip. But it is also obvious that the needs and desires of travelers (leisure or business) will be different and we will have to anticipate further action.

Ernesto Rincon

Ernesto Rincon

I am leading the Innovation Business Development Team for South Europe region at SAP. I am advising C-level management at strategic customers on the impact of Digital Transformation and Innovation on their business models. I am also leading the Digital Finance practice at University Carlos III of Madrid and I am Co-director of the Master of Tech Processes Sales at Sales Innovation School.

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