The world continues to be mired in confusion and panic as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on unabated. It has proven itself to be a great leveler, sparing no one. One of the worst hit industries in this pandemic has been the travel industry. With governments globally deeming movement unsafe, visa arrangements put on hold, and people themselves wary about travelling tourism as we have known it has come to a virtual standstill. Keeping in line with the reduced tourist movements, travel organizations, both big and small, have cut down on costs, removed employees, or shut down.
It truly is an unprecedented disruption for the travel industry. However, the travel industry is resilient. Airlines, and hotels are already seeing revenue, albeit at a lower level, from alternate markets, and restaurants have adapted by moving to delivery led models. The only segment of the travel industry that has truly been left high and dry in this period is the travel agents. With hotels optimizing for local tourists and travelers opting for short-drive staycations the role of the travel agent in these times is minimal if any.
The pandemic has thrown up a lot of firsts for the travel industry. Part of it can be pinned on the fact that never before had travel been so democratic. People had almost unlimited choices and there were multiple sources to fulfil each of those choices. There was no experience too inaccessible, and no destination too far. However, when COVID-19 struck, people were left stranded across the globe. At this time travelers realized the importance of the human touch. It was the age-old travel agents who stepped-up when Online Travel Agents were overburdened by the disruption. Travel Agents, the ones who are reeling under the effects of the pandemic currently, were the ones who bailed people out in many cases and became the calm voice that soothed over traveler anxieties. Small Tour Operators took great personal initiative and utilized their destination knowledge to help travelers stuck in tricky spots. They have regained the imagination and trust of the traveler. Unfortunately thought, these very organizations are currently in shambles.
But lower capital expenditure for travel agents means that most of them can start over faster and leaner once travel re-opens and the pandemic is brought under control. The key to building back faster and leaner for small tour operators lies in truly embracing technology. Technology that can cut through the multitudes of middlemen that existed pre-COVID and bring in transparency and efficiency. We at E-Trav Support are trying to do this through our assisted marketplace platform. By matching small tour operators directly to appropriate service providers we are ensuring that no middlemen eat up the time and margins of small tour operators. This essentially means small tour operators recover faster and better. With existing travel value chains irrevocably disrupted, small tour operators now have the perfect reason to embrace technology. This along with the renewed trust of travelers in small tour operators and travel agents, the author believes, will prove to be the silver-lining in this corona-coloured cloud!