Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a sea change in how we travel, where we choose to travel, and how we interact with other travelers while travelling. Despite the unpredictability of the situation over the past two years, there are reasons to remain cautiously optimistic as we approach 2022. Travel is arguably considered safer now than it was at the start of 2020 due to enhanced safety procedures – including testing – and vaccine roll – globally.
In India, a 400% increase in advance bookings of plane tickets for the holiday season 2021 was noted; however, with the emergence of the Omicron variant, the travel industry must once again pivot and roll with the punches. In this volatile environment, that makes forecasting for the year ahead even more challenging – but there are key areas the travel industry needs to focus on to facilitate the safe return of travel this year and beyond – of the :
Testing will continue to be a key part of the journey
COVID-19 testing protocols for travel are expected to remain in 2022 and beyond. According to a recent industry report by Collinson in partnership with the Center of Aviation (CAPA) featuring the views of more than 400 C-Suite and senior travel industry experts, 54% believe testing protocols COVID-19 will remain essential to reopening borders until the end of 2022, and an additional 26% expect this to continue until the end of 2023. At Collinson, we have worked with over 30 companies airlines, airports and other members of the global travel ecosystem to assist in the safe resumption of travel through our travel medical services. With international arrivals requiring an RT-PCR test upon arrival in India, our strategic partnerships with brands such as Matrix to provide COVID-19 testing will continue to help travelers and is a travel necessity that we plan to keep to a minimum. throughout 2022.
Embracing technology to facilitate safe return from travel
Health and safety procedures, just as we have seen over the past two years, will remain a priority in 2022 as travelers will not feel safe traveling unless there are procedures in place. strict rules in place, for example, temperature checks for entering the airport, pre-flight safety and hygiene briefings, pre-flight testing and testing measures on arrival. The travel industry must continue to embrace technological advancements to achieve this, with contactless technology already helping travelers maintain social distancing and personal hygiene. For example, Collinson’s Ready 2 Order digital food and drink ordering solution (currently being piloted in select lounges in India) ensures that customers can access food and drink by ordering via a QR code or by pressing an NFC-enabled device on the signage at each table or seat in the airport lounge while resting comfortably and maintaining social distancing.
Continued collaboration between governments and the wider travel ecosystem remains essential and more progress needs to be made in 2022. It is essential to advance the design and implementation of interoperable health and passport applications as as travel borders begin to reopen. However, challenges remain with the Collinson x CAPA survey revealing that 74% of respondents expressed concern about reports of COVID-19 test results and fraudulent vaccination passports. The industry must ensure that it works together to address these personal data concerns and issues of trust, both by the public and between governments.
Need for global herd immunity
Finally, it is widely recognized that global herd immunity will be the main driver of a return to normality. Vaccine inequality is a major obstacle, however, initiatives such as Collinson’s partnership with the WHO Foundation for their global “Go Give One” campaign are intended to help countries facing this issue. Recognizing the role that governments and organizations in the travel ecosystem must play, we have also formed the Global Travel Sector Vaccine Coalition – currently made up of Collinson, Virgin Atlantic and the Pacific Asia Travel Association, alongside the WHO Foundation. We encourage more travel organizations to join in to be a positive force in helping global immunity.
Positive steps towards 2022
While many challenges remain, encouraging signs suggest that the worst is behind us. The aviation industry has taken many positive steps to help secure global travel recovery – with IATA announcing that industry net losses are expected to narrow to $11.6 billion in 2022 after a loss by $51.8 billion in 2021. Domestic travel in India has also seen encouraging growth, with domestic air traffic growing by 52% year-on-year (3) in December 2021.
In 2022, we can expect more turbulence, but key to the future of the travel industry is collaboration between the private and public sectors to ensure that we work collectively for a safe return.
The author Priyanka Lakhani is Senior Vice President, Commercial EMEA, Collinson. She has over 20 years of experience designing and implementing customer engagement and retention strategies.