I won’t go as far as to say that travel leaders learned their lesson from going through the pandemic. That makes it sound like COVID-19 was punitive and that an entire industry needed to be taken down a notch. That’s the furthest thing from the truth.
What I will say is that the entire industry learned a lesson – several lessons, in fact – about how they conduct their respective business models and, for some, reinvent themselves after starting down a natural disaster.
The better word to describe the situation is that the travel sector was chastened by the pandemic. They were forced to reexamine how they went to market, how they treated their customers, and to appreciate how important travel is to all of our lives. It’s something that many are only beginning to see lately as we all rush back to an airport again, to cruise ship terminals, to train tracks, etc.
You take something away from somebody and it makes them appreciate it even more when it’s returned, and that’s true not only of travel customers like ourselves but of travel leaders like airline CEOs, hotel bosses, restaurant owners, car rental agencies and more.
I see it in small touches.
I see it when Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian decides to send an empty charter plane to England just to retrieve customers’ lost luggage due to the mounting issues at Heathrow Airport. This little anecdote was practically a throwaway line by Bastian during Delta’s conference call last week, but I bet it mattered a great deal to the owners of the thousand-plus bags that were retrieved.
I see it in Walt Disney World’s announcement of the new MagicBand+ starting on July 27. Yes, yes, I know the criticism of WDW, especially this year, but this next-generation product is only going to simplify – yet enhance – the park-going experience.
I haven’t been to Disney World in nine years. It’s an expansive place. Anything that makes my next visit that much easier and that much more enjoyable is doing right by me.
And I see it in the pilot program being conducted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). At some select airports, you no longer need a paper boarding pass or to get your phone display unlocked and the QR code pulled up as you enter security.
The TSA is implementing its Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) to style a more digital process.
I get it – all three examples that I mentioned don’t sound like a lot. Even collectively. But this is where the change in travel begins. This is how things move forward.
This is how progress comes to the industry.
I don’t know if travel will ever be a breeze. Probably not. But if anything came out of the pandemic, at least the willingness of the industry to try new things is a positive.