It’s becoming increasingly apparent as many countries around the globe progress into the second wave of COVID-19 and the increased restrictions that follow, that we will see a continuing flattening in business travel demand for at least the next 6-9 months.
Despite some encouraging signs that domestic and some regional rail and car travel is slowly returning, traveller confidence is low and airlines are not seeing any significant return on regional routes with long haul flights more or less empty on already reduced schedules and seat capacity.
Furlough provisions for airline staffing expire in the next months in US and Europe with mass redundancies and layoffs likely as the reality of the situation sinks in. The speed of a potential recovery remains difficult to predict, but with the certainty of at least a continuing 3 quarters of more than 50% down trading to pre COVID levels, the outlook is challenging for the airlines and for the TMCs that are tied closely to the transactional model of the airline ticket.
For an analysts view of the prospects for the airlines you can watch this interview with Hubert Horan by the Financial Times where Horan, a former airline bankruptcy expert presents a bleak but forthright analysis predicting 5 years before a return to pre COVID levels if at all https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hzig-gnKWTI&feature=youtu.be
Just this week during the ITM Thrive 2 Conference, UBS analyst Jarrod Castle forecast a minimum 25% permanent decrease in travel – perhaps as much as 40%. The key markets of regular business travel and especially long haul and transatlantic routes show no signs of returning soon.
The airlines’ approach has been to drive bailout agreements with national governments and to furlough and lay off significant numbers of staff while trying to protect physical infrastructure and commercial preference agreements. Many of these bailouts have come with conditions that further add to the challenge to airlines to resume trading in the key areas of business travel and long haul leisure travel that are both essential to profitability and business continuity. You can find some quick and helpful analysis on the impact of government bailouts here https://simpleflying.com/government-bailout-conditions/
The transactional model has been a disaster for TMCs during the COVID-19 crisis. With no transactions to charge for and continuing demand for offline services across a wide variety of criteria including repatriations, refunds, safety protocols and policy approvals, many are facing significant issues in cash liquidity and long term business funding. At this stage it’s safe to predict that sadly, a number may not survive and those that do will and already are reshaping their businesses for a new world post COVID. Deskilling, talent drain, technology stacks and centralisation are all high on their lists as well as a concerted attempt to redefine their financial models to a post transactional reality.
Continuing shifts in behaviour and booking patterns will change the balance in your supply chain. Across many domestic networks modal shifts of more than 50% are being tracked on comparative data from air to rail and air to car. Shifts to virtual meetings and the impact on internal travel spend are also reflected in an increased use of serviced apartments and private taxi hire. As airline networks are lost or reduced, difficulties in airline scheduling, changes in quarantine restrictions and inconsistent testing regimes may well entrench these modal shifts.
COVID-19 is a sustainability issue. If we did not live the way we do – if we did travel the way we do – if we did not consume the way we do a global pandemic would not have happened and even if it did would not have impacted in the way COVID-19 has.
As one customer recently put it: ‘We have been driving domestic and regional travel to more sustainable alternatives for a while, but now concerns over personal safety and a change in the way we view travel has made this policy a reality.’
This is an opportunity for you to make lasting and impactful change to your policy and travel program that supports your company’s wider goals around sustainable travel.
What does this mean for you?
Business Continuity & Policy Planning across the travel supply chain is now essential for your program. These processes should include:
- Policy Review
- Process simplification and centralisation
- Alternative supplier mapping
- Internal communication protocols
- Agile approval planning to ensure business continuity in the event of critical failure in your supply chain
These are sensitive areas especially where suppliers may be long term partners and discreet expertise is required to handle these discussions correctly. Nina & Pinta is experienced in these areas and we would be delighted to work with you to engage stakeholders and assist in the BCP process.
If you are interested in finding out more, please click here to schedule a call with one of our consultants today.
This is the time to be prepared. By being prepared you will put yourself, your company and most importantly your travellers in the best position to take advantage of improving business conditions in the future while also ensuring business continuity for your travel program in the present.
The Nina & Pinta Consulting Team
Jo Lloyd, Chris Crowley, Garth Jopling & Mark Williams