Here's how to pave the road ahead in the 'new normal' of travel

JUST seven months ago, anyone could easily book a trip to any destination in the world with a click on a computer mouse.

Today, we are facing a completely different reality. With unprecedented lockdowns and international travel restrictions, Covid-19 has brought about the fear of contagion and overall global uncertainty, more than any other pandemic in modern times.

While global recovery may be some time away, it is clear that markets will experience different stages of recovery. We have begun to see some optimism and green shoots in markets like Thailand, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand. A new normal of travel will emerge as both industry players and travellers try to navigate the impact of the coronavirus.

In order to capture growth in this current climate, businesses need to be opportunistic, agile and innovative, and partner-centric.

Seizing domestic demand

Drawing parallels with the post-Sars landscape in 2003, domestic travel is likely to be the first step forward. With months of pent-up demand and staying indoors, travellers will turn to their next accessible and available option - domestic experiences. Consumers are already on the hunt for these.

Klook's internal research found that about 60 per cent of the total number of searches in the Asia-Pacific and Europe have been related to domestic experiences, a signal that local interest for domestic experiences is on the rise. The World Travel and Tourism Council also asserts that travel is likely to return first to domestic markets, followed by intra-regional travel and finally, long-haul international travel.

We are also starting to see inter-governmental organisations such as the European Commission and Asean lay the groundwork for intra-regional travel corridors. Identifying the key stages of recovery, being opportunistic and leveraging this momentum will pave the way for businesses to capture growth opportunities as restrictions ease and conditions improve.

Navigating the uncertainties

As we have seen in South Korea, conditions can change very quickly and a second wave may arise.

However, businesses must remain cognisant of market conditions, be agile, and respond quickly to changes. Although businesses may not have the perfect solution, it should not stop them from innovating and adapting their strategies to find the best way forward.

The key here is to remain on your toes and to be unafraid to try new approaches. If businesses do not achieve their desired outcomes in their pilots, reassess the strategy and try again. Should tried-and-tested methods not work, an outside-in approach may reveal something new. If there is one thing the coronavirus has taught businesses, it is that traditional ways of working do not necessarily achieve success.

Everyone is figuring out the best way forward in the new normal and those who accelerate quickest will be in a better position to survive.

Growing with your partners

There is a collective struggle in the travel industry as businesses fight to remain afloat. Now, more than ever, they need to stand by their partners during this challenging period. Keep your ear to the ground and constantly listen to them. Offer them support, alternatives and resources to prime their business for success; foster trust and build that relationship. After all, a business is only as strong as its trusted partners.

For example, in Taiwan, Klook partnered with the local governments of Tainan and Pingtung in March and May respectively to help traditionally offline merchants to digitise their travel activities, monetise their offerings and bring them on to a global stage.

We also rolled out Klook Academy and Partners Hub, a resource centre to help merchants keep abreast of the latest updates from the travel industry and Klook's platform, helping them navigate the challenges.

Travel has become such an integral part of many people's lives and will be here to stay. However, the coronavirus has inadvertently changed the way they approach travel. The road ahead will be challenging, but businesses who seize new opportunities, constantly innovate and remain committed to their partners will be able to better tackle the new normal of travel. What we do now will define how we navigate the future of travel.

  • The writer is chief operating officer and co-founder of Klook