We are 18 months into the global pandemic and the travel industry is still feeling the impacts, and will for some time. However, during the last 18 months, everyone in the industry—from small hospitality companies to big travel brands—have had the opportunity to reprioritize and think of new ways we can all bring the industry back better and come out on the other side of this pandemic stronger and more sustainable. This was the key theme of the Skift Global Forum that took place last week, and I was excited to be a part of it. I got to attend the event in person this year, where I saw our Senior Vice President, Wendy Olson Killion, share a brief presentation entitled “Building Back Better: Traveler Trends & Insights Driving Recovery.” In this she dove into insights from our Q2 Travel Trend Report, which shows a rise in searches across Expedia Group sites, and the lengthening of search windows across the globe.
Here are our top five takeaways from the wider event:
The Return of (Some) Business Travel
Speakers who graced the stage were excited to be there in person. Marriott’s CEO Anthony Capuano even said during his interview on stage with Skift that the in-person event was reflective of the desire for business travel to return. Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber, suggested that while business travel is coming back, we can expect that internal business travel (internal meetings, office visits, etc.) will come back much slower.
While blurring the lines of “business” travel and “leisure” travel, the “work from anywhere” trend is expected to stay for a while, according to many speakers on the Skift stage. Companies like Sonder, according to its Co-Founder and CEO Francis Davidson, are providing their employees with the freedom to work wherever they want.
Pent-Up Demand – Will it Last?
We know across the industry that travel is returning – and has been for a while now since the onset of COVID-19. However, in some places, travel has returned better than ever, and the industry is questioning whether that is a temporary or a lasting trend.
For example, Air France-KLM CEO Ben Smith said there has been so much pent-up demand that this past summer the number of flights and the capacity between France and Greece were higher than in 2019. And, according to the Family Travel Association, demand for family travel is now at pre-pandemic levels; 88% of families are planning travel in the next 12 months. President and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA, Dana Young, also reported that the state has seen a 6% increase in demand compared to 2019.
What’s Next for Loyalty Programs?
The pandemic brought on many challenges for loyalty programs across the industry as program contributions have dipped for most hotel brands over the past 18 months. Hotels, among others, are rethinking their programs in new ways, including Expedia Group, where we just announced plans to unify and expand the loyalty offering to include all brands and products. This means that Expedia Group customers can soon enjoy the most complete travel rewards offering in the industry.
Create compelling campaigns for your destination
With travel demand on the rise, destination marketers have the opportunity to reach eager travelers.
Destination marketers can take advantage of our insights into traveler behavior to connect with travelers, create excitement about their destination, and build compelling campaigns to stand out from the competition.
Inclusivity on the Rise
Marlene Valle gave a presentation discussing how the travel industry around the world is designed for hearing and able-bodied travelers, which makes it a challenge for deaf travelers like herself. Marlene encouraged the industry to do better, sharing a couple of lessons for those in attendance, including the importance of offering alternative forms of communication for all travelers. She also encouraged brands to be very clear about accessibility features on their website and prompted disabled travelers to discuss their needs ahead of their trip to ensure those needs are met.
The Time is Now for Sustainability
Sustainability was a trending topic across the entire conference, with many leaders taking the time to announce or discuss their plans for their businesses to step up their sustainable efforts; from Marriott International CEO, Anthony Capuano, announcing their plans to go net-zero by 2050, to Google launching eco badges for hotels. Skift researcher Seth Borko explained how carbon cost reducing is resulting in an overall increase in carbon emissions, thus requiring more focus than ever before on limiting travel’s ongoing impact. Skift urged all travel brands to think about the carbon aspect of sustainability and how travelers can help.
We are addressing the topic of sustainable travel in an upcoming webinar with guest speakers from UNESCO and Iberostar. Make sure you register to join the discussion live or on demand.