Guest Post: Why 2022 is the best time to launch a new travel business

Guest Post: Why 2022 is the best time to launch a new travel business

Chief executive and co-founder of Duffel, Steve Domin, highlights some of the main travel industry trends and says the best time to launch a travel business is right now

Chief executive and co-founder of Duffel, Steve Domin, highlights some of the main travel industry trends and says the best time to launch a travel business is right now 

The COVID-19 pandemic has been unrelenting on the travel industry.

Cumulative revenue loss is expected to reach £241 billion ($324 billion), international passenger demand fell as low as 75.6% compared to pre-pandemic levels, and 68 airlines entered bankruptcy protection or liquidation.

During the last two years, companies in the travel industry have had to adapt to stay in business.

For example, when international travel was no longer possible due to lockdown restrictions, travel sellers focused on local highlights and experiences. As flights were grounded, airlines offered travel vouchers and more flexibility.

The ever-changing market aside, the average customer’s desire for travel has certainly not waned.

In fact, CBNC reported that people want to make up for lost time and are looking for a more seamless travel booking experience with travel technology and apps.

What has changed is how customers are travelling, what they expect from their travel experiences, and, importantly, how travel companies are meeting their expectations.

In the face of great challenges – from travel restrictions and lockdowns, to new variants, vaccine mandates, and more – 2022 is shaping up to be the best time to start a travel business.

With that in mind, here are some considerations and travel trends for the coming months for those looking to start or enhance their travel operations.

Flexibility is key

With the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, travel will inevitably be more practical in some parts of the world and less practical in others.

However, there have been unsurprising surges in international travel whenever borders have reopened, for example when Australia opened up for those visiting family and more recently when France reopened for British travellers.

When UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced updates to lockdown restrictions last year, travel companies saw bookings jump by as much as 1,000%.

Following these trends, experts are predicting that there will be a boom in travel as pandemic-related uncertainty lessens.

Passengers are ready to take advantage of routes re-opening, and travel sellers need to be ready to support this immediately.

For starters, adopting digital-ready booking and screening systems is a must for airlines.

In addition, using digital contactless systems such as self-check-in, self-scan, automated baggage management, COVID-test result screening, and digital health passes will ensure travel goes smoothly and runs in line with local COVID protocols.

Travel experiences are trending

There are also various societal changes to consider. Remote working has given employees more flexibility and freedom than ever before.

It has also intertwined work and home lives leading to two growing travel patterns – travellers looking to escape their home-work environment, and travellers looking for hybrid work and leisure trips.

More than 40% of Gen Z employees plan to take a ‘workcation’ according to KAYAK data.

Last minute bookings are also becoming more prevalent, with consumers displaying more spontaneity in their travel plans due to rapidly shifting rules.

Generally speaking, consumers are trying to find meaning in travel, and as such, they’re seeking out the most memorable experiences.

However, these trends might not stay long-term, but travel sellers need to be well equipped to offer high levels of customisation for all types of travel.

Market predictions

Looking at major investments is one of the best predictors of where the market is moving.

TNMT found that funding in the mobility market including booking software, aviation, ground transportation, hospitality, and on-trip assistance, increased significantly in 2021. This trend is visible across the travel industry.

Throughout history, periods of great upheaval and uncertainty have provoked businesses to adapt and new companies to be founded, transforming how entire industries operate.

Examples include digital payments companies Stripe and Square, which were both launched during a crisis in their industry — in the wake of the Great Recession.

So, following the disruption caused by the pandemic, it’s clear that travel businesses are rethinking their approach to customer service and using tech-forward strategies to make sure they will not just survive but thrive during difficult times.

Unsurprisingly, venture capital firms are making a sizable bet on this and are pouring more money into the travel industry.

A few good examples of this are Breeze Airways closing $200M in funding (August 2021), Hopper getting $175M (August 2021), Fly Now Pay Later securing $75m for their US expansion plans (January 2022), and Easol raising $25 million in a Series A round (December 2021).

Future-proofing travel

Travel companies must meet the highest standards to match customer expectations.

So, if ‘super-apps’ like Airbnb that combine booking, recommendations, travel insurance, messaging, and more are the gold standard, travel companies need to fall in line.

Customers also love that brands like Netflix and Spotify are in real-time, they offer personalisation and are easy to use.

Intuitive apps can streamline the booking process with varied personalisation options for travel and flights.

Now is the perfect time for travel sellers to learn lessons from other industries about how they have adapted during the pandemic and build for the future.

The upheaval of the last two years has paved the way for technology-based transformation, especially in operations and customer service.

Customers don’t want to be met with choice overload from thousands of travel options or be forced to use half a dozen services to manage every aspect of their journey, such as flights, hotels, insurance, visas, excursions, and more.

Instead, travel sellers can now leverage the power of modern APIs to create a digital one-stop shop and a smoother end-to-end customer experience to service how they want to travel today and how they’ll travel in the future.   

APIs enable more new enterprises to become travel sellers, allowing them to tap into the growing travel technology market – and with travel plans for 2022 surpassing pre-pandemic levels, now is a good time to start.

Consumers need to future proof their travel plans today, with the flexibility to cope with unexpected changes tomorrow.

With a flights API, travel sellers can help their customers achieve this while delivering additional revenue streams for their business.

Simply put, technology is truly levelling the playing field for all. The time for change is now, and we can’t wait to see what this means for the industry.