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4 Future-Proof Reasons for Travel Companies to Automate Tours and Activities in 2021 and Beyond

It’s been a rapid and wild run for the travel sector in 2020. With the industry looking to move forward and chart a plan towards recovery, travel companies are re-evaluating their operations to set themselves up for future success.

Unsurprisingly, technology is set to play a pivotal role in the years to come, and with the overhaul of digital distribution channels, manual and labor-intensive operational processes are destined to be things of the past.

Tech innovation group Livn recently demonstrated its leadership in the field through its Open Connectivity Hub: an API infrastructure that synergizes industry players, harmonizes systems and infrastructures, merges and streamlines a traditionally fragmented tours and activities (T&A) space, and connects tour operators to travel resellers in real-time.

Though much of the travel industry is scaling down or on hold in the current climate, Livn is poised for a strong recovery and set to launch its updated second iteration of the API in December.

To highlight the major benefits of Livn’s dynamic platform, SkiftX unpacks four future-proof reasons why travel businesses ought to automate their tours and activities in the post-pandemic world.

LIVE INVENTORY

One of the main limitations to securing full occupancy on T&A products in previous years had to do with businesses’ inability to fill bookings and cancellations at the last minute.

Before the pandemic, travel agencies and in-person were the prime channels for bookings in this space.

Post-pandemic, consumer demand is calling for a stronger shift towards ‘instantaneous’ booking options, as travelers seek personal control of their own plans.

This trend dovetails with rising demand for experiential travel, and a pre-existing desire for greater online booking options that allow for spontaneous, fast-confirmation connectivity.

A core feature of Livn’s Open Connectivity Hub is that it solves this problem: giving travel resellers access to live inventory, thus facilitating last minute bookings in real time.

This clearly benefits both tour operators and resellers: maximum sales, while giving next-level responsiveness should any last minute rules or regulations, such as the opening or closing of travel corridors due to lockdown limitations, impact the industry.

HARMONIZATION

It’s well known that the T&A sector traditionally functioned as a fragmented and disparate space mostly because its products are so diverse. To shift this, Livn’s API brings a new level of industry-wide harmonization.

Livn technology translates many tour reservation system implementations into one unified and streamlined API, a powerful synthesis that gives structured access to and interaction with global tour products via a single connection point.

“In our learnings over the last nine years, looking across dozens of systems, we have gained unique technical insight into the most efficient way for data to be transmitted and shared between all parties in the distribution chain,” says Livn’s founder and CCO Steve Martinez, “from source tour operator inventory to end traveler consumption and demand.”

What this also delivers is a clear and well-defined industry standardization>—something previously lacking in the T&A spacewith all information unified, and technical aspects of the reservation process simplified for travel resellers, including structured product content, availability data, metadata, terminology and pricing.

This goes for different channels and verticals (hotel, airlines, etc.) as well as mediums (desktop, tablet, mobile and travel agency environment).

COLLABORATION

Livn’s API works collaboratively, connecting with over 20 different tour operators’ reservation system providers around the world.

In an industry rife with different systems (rarely do two exist with identical, overlapping features, requirements or naming conventions) this alone marks a significant development.

“Our vision is to become the industry standard for T&A API connectivity which the industry has been lacking for years,” said Martinez.

“We have a very privileged and broad view of current tour operator API landscape (through our deep integrations with their reservation systems) and on the flipside (distribution) we have a variety of real life use cases on how this data is actually being used – including bricks and mortar and online travel agencies, content marketing business models, mobile application companies,, local visitor information centres, airline middleware platforms, and Global Distribution Platforms (GDS). This inflection point is one of great responsibility, which very few companies occupy and, we intend on making the most of this opportunity by driving real change and working with all parties involved to bring the sector forward.”

All this is driven by Livn’s core philosophy that learnings and best practices be incorporated and shared for mutual collaboration across the sector.

CONNECTIVITY

No other platform in the T&A space is capable of connecting as strongly or widely as the Livn API. From PAX details, to pick-up points, to cancellations, the platform is able to implement all usable API features from an underlying reservation system. Once confirmed, reservation and ticket information is completely binding, valid and 100 percent traceable.

Livn’s approach is complete integration, a contrast to the ‘partial’ implementations that the space is used to – for example: situations where brochureware content is delivered via an API, while reservation information is transmitted via email.

Likely to be the industry’s most widely connected platform by 2022, it’s the only platform that allows travel companies to use its technical infrastructure to transact without interfering with their existing commercial agreements. Effectively, it’s an ‘open’ model, where travel resellers are charged a small transaction fee for each booking that passes through the API.

Livn’s innovative infrastructure will allow the API to triple the number of connected Reservation Systems by the end of 2021.

PREPARE TODAY FOR TOMORROW

After a tumultuous 2020, in this moment of pause, the industry awaits its green light to surge ahead. Consumers have their eyes set on travel again, and will continue to seek the most streamlined, instantaneous, ‘low-to-no touch’ booking solutions available.

These consumer demands “all come at a time when the industry is finally starting to show signs of cohesion and standardization,” adds Martinez.

Transition is the name of the game here, as more and more companies align with the growing trend to engage professional partners with vertical specialization, enabling them to free up their resources and capital to focus on their core business model.

“The T&A sector is transitioning into the same easy, reliable and accurate realm the industry has enjoyed for airline, car, and hotel sales – and Livn is uniquely placed in this space,” said Martinez.

The Ethics of Travel Advisors Are Being Challenged, and It’s Not Right

A column in Friday’s USA Today has rankled the travel industry in general and sullied the name of travel advisors in particular.

And it’s not right.

The column is entitled, “Is it ethical to recommend travel while the world is in the grips of a second COVID-19 wave?” and was written by Christopher Elliott. In the piece, which you can read here in its entirety, Elliott not only questions the idea of selling travel now that a new surge of the virus is engulfing the country but also challenges the integrity of travel agents who do so as well as airlines and cruise lines and hotels for offering deep discounts to customers.

Elliott quotes a few experts, particularly those in ethics law.

“With both infections and hospitalizations increasing in many countries, including the U.S., it’s worth remembering the most fundamental ethical principle of all: do no harm,” says Bruce Weinstein, an author and ethics expert. “With that in mind, it is ethically unintelligent to travel now – especially for leisure.”

“I do not think it is ethical for companies to be recommending travel,” says Emily Waddell, who publishes a blog called The Honest Consumer. “The travel companies are just looking out for their own best interest in regards to sales. They’re not taking into consideration the seriousness of the pandemic and how more people traveling could increase the spread of the virus.”

Added Robert Foehl, professor of business law and ethics at Ohio University: “We have an ethical duty to prevent harm to others.”

Okay, as a pragmatist I can see some of their points.

Now let me make mine.

This logic is flawed.

If we were to follow this logic to the letter, then the author and the experts should also use their soapbox to talk about everything that is, allegedly, unethical – both during the pandemic and without this cloud hanging over our global heads.

Such as … where is the outrage for retailers who sell cigarettes, knowing the dangers of smoking and knowing the dangers of second-hand smoke to non-smokers? What about the tens of thousands of liquor stores across the nation selling alcohol, when we know the dangers of becoming addicted to booze? What about the rosy commercials for cleaning products that promise to turn everything sparkling, but fail to warn you that some of the chemicals used to make the product are harmful to your health? Where’s the outrage there?

Granted, I get it. The USA Today piece is directly connecting the ethics question to the pandemic. But again, you could make the same argument with any of the other examples I brought up. Drinking is up — why don’t we castigate liquor store owners who push specials during the crisis? Depression is up — why don’t we criticize schools, for instance, for not doing more to bring their kids into the schools to foster more socialization?

My point is simple – it’s called freedom of choice. Neither travel advisors nor tobacco manufacturers nor liquor salesmen nor the makers of window cleaners are going door-to-door and forcing you to buy their products. They might entice you with sales and specials, sure, but how does that make travel agents any more unethical than any other salesperson?

No, this is a personal decision to travel that rests solely with the client. Just like buying a pack of Marlboros or a fifth of Grey Goose.

There’s no question the entire travel industry is in a fight for its collective lives because of the coronavirus, but the circumstances are extraordinary. Ten percent of jobs in this country are somehow travel related. It’s not just the industry itself but the health of the U.S. economy at stake.

And to suggest, as the column does, that travel advisors could omit, downplay or outright lie about the guidelines and the situation regarding travel at this moment, is not only disingenuous but unethical in and of itself. Times are tough, yes, but travel agents have built an unparalleled reputation they are hardly going to risk for an eight to 12 percent commission. For that kind of reward vs. risk, they better be booking one hell of an around-the-world trip.

(Which, uh, aren’t allowed at the moment anyway.)

Look, the bottom line is this. We’ve already seen how bad the pandemic has been. It has shut down the cruise lines completely and, at one point earlier this year, had planes leaving the gate with just one or two passengers. But to stop selling travel – or, in effect, to shut down the entire industry as the column seems to be suggesting – is not the answer.

And to say that selling travel right now is unethical is a slap in the face to everyone from a hotel CEO to the person who cleans the airport bathroom – all of whom contribute to an industry that makes this country go.

Source: https://www.travelpulse.com/opinions/column/the-ethics-of-travel-advisors-are-being-challenged-and-its-not-right.html

What Is the Future of Travel Under a Biden Presidency?

The travel industry is at a crossroads.

The devastation of the coronavirus pandemic has put airlines, cruise line companies, hotels, car rental businesses, restaurants, tourist attractions and suppliers and vendors to the industry on the brink of financial disaster.

If we aren’t there already.

So now that Democrat Joseph Biden has been projected to win the 2020 Election – pending final state certifications and expected litigation from President Donald Trump – the question must be asked.

What is the future of the travel industry under a Biden presidency?

To know the severity of the situation one must consider the numbers.

In a great article, Forbes noted that according to the World Travel & Tourism Council, the global travel and tourism industry will lose 174 million jobs this year if current travel and quarantine restrictions continue. In the U.S., a report produced for the US Travel Association found that the Leisure & Hospitality sector accounted for 11 per cent of pre-pandemic employment in the United States and that 39 per cent of all jobs lost in the US economy is attributable to declines in travel.

“The American travel industry congratulates President-elect Joe Biden on his victory,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement. “We applaud President-elect Biden’s objective of helping the industries most heavily impacted by the pandemic. The travel industry accounts for more than a third of overall U.S. unemployment, and policies to promote relief, recovery, and stimulus for travel businesses are integral to a U.S. economic turnaround.”

Ironically, as polar opposite as the candidates were – and as polarizing as this election was – there are similarities between President Trump and President-Elect Biden when it comes to the travel industry.

Both men want an extension of the CARES Act stimulus package in order to provide airlines with another payroll protection program bailout after thousands have workers have already been laid off.

Trump banned flights to and from China when it first became apparent the coronavirus was making an impact in the U.S., and later put restrictions on travel to and from Europe. Biden supports flight bans and restrictions if the science says so, i.e. an order from the Centers for Disease Control.

Where Biden differs from Trump is the cause of all the angst in the industry – COVID-19. Biden has said he would have been, and now will be, more proactive than the reactionary effort of Trump. To that end, at least two major television networks reported that Biden will announce on Monday a 12-member task force to deal with the pandemic.

“We share the emphasis on combatting the spread of COVID-19 expressed by the president-elect while building economic growth,” Dow said. “The right combination of technologies and behaviours already exists to allow the restart of travel without compromising health and safety, and making rapid and reliable testing more widely available will be a key element of an even broader economic reopening.”

The industry is also hoping that the Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act of 2020 becomes law. According to Forbes, the act introduced by U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) is designed to provide relief and recovery measures for the convention, trade show, entertainment, travel and hospitality industries and their workers through a package of tax credits. The multi-billion-dollar meetings and conventions industry has been particularly devastated by bans on meetings and shows; Las Vegas, home to 150,000 visitor shows like CES, currently limits gatherings to 50.

Sara Nelson, the influential president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said the key is getting the stimulus package.

“You’ve got to get relief in place as soon as possible, both for economic reasons but also for health reasons,” Nelson told Conde Nast Traveler. “So the relief bill—and I refuse to call it a stimulus bill, because we’re in the middle of an emergency—the relief bill deals with both the economic crisis and also the health crisis. I think if you look at any lame duck session, there’s not great hope there, but if we had people who actually ran for office because they believe in this country and they care about this country, then Congress would act, and at a certain point it doesn’t matter what the President of the United States does.”

One other difference is infrastructure, which presumably includes America’s aging airports.

“The infrastructure plan is going to be critical, and it also needs to have a care component,” Nelson said. “Vice President Biden has in his plan a recognition that infrastructure isn’t just physical, it’s also human interaction—it’s childcare, it’s individuals who can do contact tracing. There’s a big human element to infrastructure.”

Still, Nelson remains optimistic. When asked what she thought of the psychological impact the election is going to have on travelers, or if travelers will see themselves differently depending on which man was elected, Nelson said: “People are going to be ready to go, they’re going to want to see each other. The virtual meetings have connected people in a new way, but what we have seen in the travel industry is that the more people are connected by technology the more they want to travel—because people naturally want to be together. And if you think businesses are going to say, “Oh, we don’t have to have those expenses, we don’t have to pay for those plane tickets and the hotel rooms”—the first time somebody gets a deal because they went personally, that all snaps back again.”

Nelson did take a shot at Trump, however.

“I also think we’d be a lot further along right now if we had actual leadership that not only helped contain the virus but also communicated what we’re doing in various industries to keep people safe,” she said. “We have a pretty extraordinary story to tell in aviation about how controlled the environment is. It takes everybody doing their part and following all of the rules, but when that happens it’s one of the safest spaces in America right now.”

Source: https://www.travelpulse.com/news/features/what-is-the-future-of-travel-under-a-biden-presidency.html