Introducing Behind the Insights, a vodcast series from MetrixLab. In this series, we talk to experts from all over the world to go beyond the data and see what’s really driving today’s hottest topics in insights.
In our first episode, join managing director of MetrixLab Switzerland Hassan Mouheb and founder of IN Air Travel Experience Anne de Hauw as they talk about what’s next for the air travel industry after COVID-19.
Check it out and stay tuned for new episodes every month.
Or if you prefer, read the full transcript below.
Hassan: Thanks for joining us today for this session where we are going to discuss the future of travel using the data we get from a global consumer insights tracker.
So let me start by introducing myself. I am Hassan Mouheb, and I am the managing director of MetrixLab here in Switzerland. And we’ve been conducting over the last months an insights tracker asking consumers about what they think, how they feel about traveling during COVID-19. Today is an opportunity share those insights with you to get your expertise, your experience and your feedback on what we have heard from the consumers. But tell us a little bit more about you Anne.
Anne: My name is Anne de Hauw and I am the founder of IN Air Travel Experience, a boutique consultancy specialized in customer experience and innovation for air travel with a strong focus on environmental sustainability. In other words, we support airlines in designing and delivering sustainable transformational change, the end-to-end guest experience but also any specific physical or digital touchpoints within that journey. In parallel, I am a partner at the Hayward Partnership, a consortium of independent consultants with very specific expertise in the industry. And finally, I am a member of the advisory board of the International Aviation Waste Management Association.
Are consumers willing to travel again?
Hassan: The first thing we would like to discuss with you is that we ask our respondents how confident they are to travel again and very interestingly we’ve seen across the world respondents saying that they were gaining confidence in traveling by airplane. This is probably due to the vaccine becoming available. That’s our first understanding but what would be your understanding Anne?
Anne: I think even with this vaccine distribution and the enhanced cleaning protocols in place across all airlines now, I believe people are going to be much more mindful about not just where they travel to but also how they get there and will seek the lowest exposure and the most efficient options. However, I do believe it is the governments that need to do better efforts to come up with a unified approach to making the travel market boost again.
How to be an airline with a purpose
Hassan: So, we see travelers gaining confidence again in traveling and using airplane companies to travel. To do that they would be maintaining and keeping the health and safety measures, which I think is great. But we also heard from respondents that they want to change the way they are going to choose travel companies in the future, and what we see is that they want travel companies to demonstrate more purpose. Almost a third of the respondents expect that from travel companies. From your expertise and from your experience Anne, do you see it as something becoming more important in the future?
Anne: Absolutely! And I am happy you bring this up because I am personally a big ambassador of purposefulness in air travel and I truly believe it is going to be more important than ever for businesses to commit to a purpose and to ensure that they use it to guide their thinking, their planning and their decision making. And I think that the pandemic has actually accelerated consumers’ desire to seek out organizations that support not only social but also environmental progress. So, organizations that walk the walk and not just talk the talk. I think people want to engage with travel companies that are contributing to a positive impact on society and planet, companies that ensure the health of their employees and their customers first. And the key short-term requirement is to show genuine human concern for all stakeholders with whom they interact.
In the longer term, I think people will expect travel companies to act responsibly as guardians of society and nature. They expect them to foster a long-term prosperity for developing world and marginalized groups, live their purpose truthfully and enable sustainable consumption to ultimately deliver genuine and meaningful travel experiences.
Hassan: Wow, that is very well said. Thanks Anne
The future of air travel
Hassan: So let me now ask you probably the last question. If you think about the future, would you say that we will never ever travel the same way as in the past or do you foresee a return to normal where we are just walking around the airport, jumping into the airplane, everything we thought was kind of normal. Do you see that coming back to how it used to be or it will never be like in the past?
Anne: Well, I think from a people perspective and for travelers who love to be on the move traveling is like oxygen. It is eye opening, inspiring and liberating. And aviation is no doubt the greatest enabler for travel, but it is also the key driver for economic development. So yes, I believe travel is going to come back but who knows what 2021 will look like. Actually, today it is very hard to tell because the landscape continues to fluctuate and often in the wrong direction and it creates an unstable public health situation that impacts passengers’ confidence to travel. So today VFR, which is visiting family and friends, is the strongest reason for travel but I also believe that business and leisure passengers are eager to go back to travel again when lockdown, quarantine and travel restrictions will be lifted.
I think business travel is going to be under the most pressure going forward because after 1 year of meetings via video conferencing we have all learned that you can also do business through these means. But I don’t think that a face-to-face meeting and really truthfully connecting with people can ever be replaced by digital means either.
Hassan: Around the world, consumers are keen and willing to travel again so the fears are kind of being removed. But they still want to be very cautious about how they travel. So they want to keep the safety measures, the social distancing and even wear a mask going forward. But they also do expect the air travel industry to demonstrate more purpose and more responsibility when it comes to waste reduction, pollution, climate change and all those very important topics. That would be my takeaway from this conversation. What would be yours from your perspective?
Anne: So, I think the key takeaways to go back to the new normal of air travel will be an increase in cleanliness and sterilization by the airlines to restore the confidence of passengers to travel, but also guaranteeing their personal space. We can provide passengers more personal space on board and this can be achieved through digitization by minimizing the number of touchpoints between the airline crew and the passengers.
Thirdly, I think governments need to start working together to come up with a holistic approach to air travel and make sure that people feel confident enough again to travel abroad. And lastly, and to your point Hassan, I think this is the moment to embed purposefulness in their strategies going forward. Not just worry about profits but also worry about people, the safety of people and to keep our planet safe and healthy.
Hassan: Thanks a lot Anne. A very insightful, very inspiring and also very positive thinking for the future and the travel industry. We will keep looking at our consumer insights and trackers to understand travelers’ confidence in jumping into an airplane, sitting in airports and dealing with the complexity of COVID-19.
Thanks again for joining us.