The next steps for travel are long and led by digital – PhocusWire

If the past 18 months have taught us anything, it is that nothing is certain.

Travel restrictions, mask and vaccine requirements, as well as office openings are all in flux. This has underscored the need to be agile and find new solutions.

But we’ll only be able to rebuild consumer confidence in travel and pave the way for sustainable recovery if the ecosystem works together. There are already some great examples of different players coming together to help address COVID-19 testing challenges.

United Airlines, for example, continues to partner to deliver solutions that make it simple for customers to understand and meet all testing and vaccination requirements directly through its digital channels.

As a result, in mid-August, United announced that its customers can access COVID-19 testing locations at more than 3,000 new Walmart and Albertson Companies locations across the U.S., through the airline’s website and mobile app in its Travel Ready Center.

This functionality means customers can now have their results delivered within four to 48 hours of their test and directly submitted to United’s website and mobile app to be reviewed for their flight. Making testing and obtaining results convenient is crucial to helping airlines carry on in this new world order.

To enable this service, all the companies involved had to be data-driven and nimble. They also clearly recognised that collaborating is key to everyone’s future success. Where a company’s next business opportunity may arise is not entirely foreseeable.

Three years ago, few would have predicted that pharmacies in retail outlets would be such a crucial partner to the aviation industry. But what was predictable was that being digitally, cloud enabled would be key to business agility.

Future-ready

Right now, the broader travel industry is in a less-than-ideal position in technological readiness and digital transformation. Travel has, for example, been slow to adopt the cloud mainly due to concerns about data security, concerns about system downtime, and the impact of organisational silos that limit data sharing.

But travel needs cloud to grow cost-efficiently and with limited resources. It’s key for efficiency and agility. It also enables data-driven and customer-centered innovation.

In fact, an Accenture survey of nearly 4,000 C-suite executives at both private- and public-sector organisations globally, found that looking at cloud as a one-time migration to a static destination – essentially as a cheaper, more-efficient data center – is limiting.

A narrow focus on cost savings could actually put organisations at a competitive disadvantage compared to those using cloud more strategically across its many dynamic forms, including public, private and edge.

Earlier this year we unveiled our Business Futures 2021 report, which aims to help leaders make sense of our new reality by identifying the Signals of business change that are reshaping organisations globally.

One of these signals is the New Scientific Method. We argue that every company needs to become a scientific company.

Working at the convergence of the new frontiers of science will bring radical possibilities, but only if organisations can enhance their approaches to innovation. The report found that 83% of organisations agree that adopting a scientific approach to innovation will position them for future success.

Indeed, the pandemic has placed scientific innovation firmly back at the top of the agenda for government and business. In the second quarter of 2020, American companies spent more on software and R&D than on fixed assets for the first time in over a decade.

For many, in the travel industry, the thought of spending right now, is daunting.  First, companies need to generate cost-savings, given how the pandemic has decimated revenues. But reinvesting cost-savings on software and innovation will help set-up companies for the future.

The long game

As travel companies assess readiness across technology, operations, strategy and talent, they need a clear-eyed view of how to get to longer-term, sustained success.

Investing in technologies that drive efficiencies will be key to balance sheet success; investing in new solutions that drive sustainability will be crucial to winning and retaining customers who are increasingly scrutinising companies’ sustainability efforts.

And working with ecosystem partners that also invest in future-readiness positions businesses amongst best in class and showcases to customers that your interests are making their customer experience a better one.

And that is good for everyone.

About the authors…
Koen Deryckere leads Accenture’s industry networks and programs with responsibility for industry consulting, cross-services industry programs and industry convergence globally. Emily Weiss heads up Accenture’s Global Travel Industry practice.