On 8 July Travelport went live with its new Smartpoint Covid-19 plug-in, thus enhancing availability of its Covid-19 Hub resource for travel agents. The plug-in is available for download on the Travelport Marketplace, requires Smartpoint 8.2 or higher, and brings up-to-date information on a destination’s border and Covid-19 requirements etc directly on to the agent’s work screen.
In an informative webinar on Recovery Trends in Travel, Matthew Webb, Travelport’s Head of Agency Customer Data & Analytics, used data from 30 March to 30 June 2020 to show that all global regions are in slow recovery, albeit with some ups and downs rather than a continuous upward trajectory. Within the EMEA region, Eastern Europe was showing the most recovery, followed by Southern Europe and Western Europe, then Northern Europe and, slowest of all, Western Asia.
Alistair Rodger, Head of Agency Sales – EMEA, Travelport, who chaired the webinar, also commented that hotel bookings were returning quicker than flight bookings.
Travelport has also introduced a new Confidence Index based on customers’ air booking, air search and hotel search data. The CIs will be shared with travel agent partners. The country in Western Europe with the highest Confidence Index is currently France in tenth place overall but second to Russia in volume. Not surprisingly, the geographic split within France has Local Domestic with the highest CI, followed by Local Intra-Region, then lowest and dipping recently, Local International.
As regards lead times in bookings, there were significant increases in 30 days and 60 days compared to 2019, and significant decreases in 90 days and 150 days.
There was general agreement among the webinar’s panelists, who included Matthew Webb, Philippe Garnier, Vice President – Third Party Distribution, Intercontinental Hotels Group, and Ujjwal Sehgal, Director of Leeds-based Skylord Travel, about the global recovery trends, which included that leisure travel was recovering quicker than business travel.
Philippe Garnier added that business travel by SMEs was recovering quicker than by larger corporations, to which Ujjwal Sehgal added that, while the actual business travellers want to go, it is often the company policies that are holding them back. Asked if the past four months experience of Zoom meetings will dramatically reduce the demand for business travel, Philippe Garnier responded: “Less face-to-face is not the same as zero”.
He also made the humorous comment: “I would never in my life have thought that I would be pleased to say that we are now at just over 50% occupancy!”. At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, 5,000 of IHG’s 6,000 hotels were still open.
Asked what feedback he was getting from clients who have travelled recently, Ujjwal Sehgal replied: “It is too early for feedback from clients, but we should know this over the next few weeks.”