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The travel industry in 2021 | A year full of challenges (and opportunities)

COLUMN – March 08, 2021: We live in a strange world. It may be tempting to see the future black and full of uncertainties. Myself and many others travel bloggers have chosen not to do this, because we think this is the time to switch mentally. Even if they may be hard to spot, there are opportunities, including in the travel industry. Even if we are humble and humble about what lies ahead, now is the time to seize these opportunities. 2021 will be a year full of challenges, but there are definitely opportunities as well.

2020 | A disastrous year for the travel industry

In my wildest dreams I could not have imagined how wild the year 2020 would be. The coronavirus is keeping half the world on lockdown and taking its toll across the globe. Hundreds of thousands lose their jobbankruptcy follows bankruptcy. 2020 is an extraordinary disastrous year for travel companies and anything to do with tourism, there is absolutely no doubt about that.

Room for innovation

At the same time, we see how quickly and radically we can all adapt to new situations. Digitization made great strides in a few months that would otherwise take years (IATA's Travel Pass / ePassport, for example). Innovative ideas suddenly arise in every corner. People change their entire value system, personally and professionally. Companies adapt their business beliefs and goals and new perspectives emerge, often from a more sustainable or ethical point of view.

Also read: It's official: EU gets vaccination passport called Digital Green Pass

This year is therefore undeniably a turning point for the travel industry. 2020 will be a year to remember. The pandemic, but also because we were forced to think outside the box and to work harder on something that actually contributes positively to the world. BetterBooks.nl is one of those projects that was born from such a thought. It can and must be better. Because we travelers, and we the travel industry, no longer want to cooperate in untenable situations for hotel owners, as Booking.com has been doing for years with ever-increasing fees. An old-fashioned business model only intended to make a select group of shareholders richer. Enough is enough.

Big changes coming

If we've learned anything over the past year, it's that we're all a little more vulnerable than we ever thought. I'm sure many of us, even with our closest friends, have argued with the utmost conviction about the right measures. Because of these disagreements we've developed, friendships that used to be rock solid may be broken. Indeed, this crisis revealed personalities and aroused emotions that we once had so much control over.

Reflecting on our (travel) behavior

For months I have noticed that people in my direct or indirect environment are asking themselves the big questions. People who were never involved in political matters are now suddenly protesting. There are quite a few who suddenly try to investigate everything very carefully online.

But it goes much further than that. You also notice that people ask questions about simple matters, such as travel behavior that used to be oh-so normal. A plane ticket to London for 10 euros – book and go!

Also read: Skyscanner | How to save (a lot of) money on flights

Asking the big questions

Now that we are at home so much, no longer traveling and can really think about our lives, the big questions come to the surface. Wouldn't it be better to take the train to Berlin instead of the plane? Is it worth being stuck in traffic for two hours a day to get to work? Why can't I work from home, or find a job closer to home? Do I still like my job? Is earning a lot of money really that important? How can I spend more time with my family in the future? How can I make my house more sustainable?

2020 and 2021 have become the years of the big questions. I therefore assume that many of these "big questions" will lead to "big decisions". Are these people finally going to be the ones to take change seriously enough to actually push through?

I would consider that very positive. The turning point that is the pandemic offers us a unique opportunity to think about certain things in a more fundamental way.

Travel organizations, there is work to be done

  • Accept change – Accept that some things have changed for good. The sooner you acknowledge and accept the situation, the faster you can move forward with your life. The world has changed, so deal with it.
  • Fulfill (new) expectations – Next year will be the year in which we will appreciate the little things even more; spontaneous visits, personal contacts, a little lightness and spontaneity. Especially since we will probably have to live with corona measures, restrictions and a lot of inconvenient regulations for a while. Companies in the travel industry in particular have a great opportunity here, because many people like to travel and have not been able to do so for a long time. They should think carefully about what they can offer in concrete terms.
  • Understand your customers – Be clear about refunds, bear the costs as much as possible instead of passing them on to customers. Be flexible when no one else is. In the early days and weeks of the crisis, this may have been difficult. But now enough time has passed and we have been able to learn from experience.
  • Be open to real change – Let's welcome change with open arms. We have to adapt, and we have to do that now. Think of new working models as a positive effect, not a negative effect. Digitize your processes. Those who don't digitize their processes by 2021 will be left behind.
  • Sustainability and society first – Climate change, reducing CO2 emissions, Black Lives Matter, Gender Neutrality and Better Life labels, there are many sustainable and social issues that the public finds increasingly important. And most important of all: the consumer is increasingly starting to talk with their wallet. Have you got some things right? Then let your customers know.

Travelers, change your travel behaviour

Not only Travel organizations need to change. You, the traveler, can also contribute. We've been seeing that for quite some time now campers can no longer be dragged† Because well, traveling by camper is kind of safe during the corona pandemic. But there is more than that. Look more specifically for eco-hotels. Or do not book airline tickets within Europe, if you city ​​trip also can do by car or train.

New Round, New Opportunities

In the travel industry, let's look at 2021 as a new beginning. A new round with new opportunities, ideas and possibilities. If 2020 has taught us anything, it's to be more grateful for what we have. To be humble about what we have achieved. To maintain confidence in the positive impact we will have in the future. Covid-19 has shaken things up tremendously, but we should never allow ourselves to lose our optimism because of this. Be ambitious! The past is the past, your attitude can only affect the future.

For example, I took a big step in 2020 by buying this website and reviving it in the middle of the corona crisis. I am confident that my tank of energy and positive outlook will lead me in the right direction. That in no way means that I have no respect for the challenges ahead, 2021 will definitely be another challenging year. Also for me.

What we need more than ever is a pursuit and a desire ❤️. Even in a highly uncertain world, we can contribute to sustainable progress. For ourselves, our families and all people in the travel industry.

Yes, we can!

Written by: Chris Thomassen
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