Travel as we knew it prior to 2020 will not return for an unknown period of time, and rather than keep debating when it might happen, has the time now come to say ‘travel has already restarted’ and reposition according to the new rules rather than hoping you can survive until the old rules potentially return one day.
Travel technology entrepreneur Johnny Thorsen is a uniquely strategic thinker with close knowledge of the corporate travel industry. He believes that it is not even a case of accepting that the glass is half full and says that even at a quarter full there is still enough demand.
“Starting at the 30,000 feet level, travel is still is a massive industry – if we assume a 75% drop from 2019 there will still be more than 1 billion travellers to service in 2021,” he explains. This is an incredible amount of customers in most industries and verticals so he calls for businesses to “stop “moaning about the drop and start focusing on securing your fair share of the available market.”
In a special feature written for CAPA – Centre for Aviation, Mr Thorsen, VP for strategy and innovation for American Express Digital Lab, says businesses need to act like a start-up and “like any start-up has to do when they enter an existing market with a new service offering – focus on the most important things and ignore the items you cannot change or influence!!!”
With or without Covid-19 the travel industry had actually reached a point where the legacy technology infrastructure “was falling apart,” says Mr Thorsen, but in most cases he says the problems were “hidden or ignored” by the fact that the global volume was growing at 4-5% consistently which “made it possible to work inefficiently and still survive because of the endless flow of business”.
Mr Thorsen believes that the time has now come “to accept that we have entered a new phase in the never-ending odyssey known as the travel industry”. To reposition in the ‘new normal’ he urges businesses to make changes and adapt.
If you are a TMC or travel supplier, he says it is important to stop saying that it is impossible to change or upgrade your existing technology infrastructure because of Covid-19, when in fact it never will be easier or cheaper to do so. “If you don’t upgrade now you will almost certainly go out of business when your competitors have upgraded as your cost base will be too high and your ability to deliver services in the new world will be inferior compared to those who did upgrade,” he warns.
Many existing solutions have been running for 10-15 years or even longer in some cases with archaic infrastructure that inhibits change. But change is completely possible with the next generation of services and solutions arriving in the marketplace at what Mr Thorsen says is “a perfect time” when the travel industry “actually has the required time available to say goodbye to the legacy world and move into an open and inter-connected technology architecture”.
Mr Thorsen is a major advocate for technology and believes that “if you think you can survive another year with old outdated human-intensive workflow procedures, then you are in the wrong industry”. Technology will lead the industry “down a path with higher efficiency, lower cost of service and most importantly a better travel programme as a result,” according to Mr Thorsen.
Mr Thorsen believes “the best days are still ahead of us” and we “will continue to travel but hopefully in a smarter, greener and more efficient way”. But, he is confident “TravelTopia is getting closer every day” and firmly considers “we will look back at the year 2020 and Covid-19 and realise that this was the trigger event which created a better travel industry”.
You can read all of Mr Thorsen’s views, including optimism that travel buyers have the power to create change, how they could emerge from their “comfortable and hidden” life in the shadows of the global procurement and finance organisation and become true industry disruptors, in the exclusive CAPA insight: Corporate travel. A glass quarter-full is still plenty.
He will also be talking all things technology and innovation as part of the forthcoming inaugural CAPA Live event on 14-Oct-2020, a new monthly virtual “Summit”, offering information, data and live interviews with CAPA experts, global airline CEOs and other cutting-edge industry leaders delivered from a next-generation virtual event platform.