At a time when face to face communication has not be possible as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the face of travel technology has evolved with consumers turning to messaging to interact with all forms of travel brands from airlines to hotels and resorts, industry experts revealed during the debut Travel Forward at ATM Virtual event.
During the month of March 2020 alone, messaging increased by more than 50% in many of the countries hardest hit by the global health crisis, according to the latest data from Facebook, with over 20 billion messages currently exchanged with businesses every month on Messenger.
During Travel Forward session Conversational Commerce for Travel Brands, Facebook’s Head of Destinations & Events, Sara Gentile, and Head of Aviation & Hospitality MENA, Ameen Malhas, provided insights into what travel technology will have to offer beyond 2020, including the potential c-commerce will have in helping travel and hospitality brands to connect and transact with consumers.
“Travellers value personalisation from brands and this trend is only likely to heighten in a post-COVID-19 world, with around 54% of travellers who opt to book with online travel agents (OTAs) seeking on-location recognition from brands. Adding to this, the top three engagement travellers seek from aviation and hospitality brands are live updates, discounts and helpful tips,” said Sara Gentile.
“By combining chat with automated and AI-driven systems, brands can target information and offers precisely to individual travellers. This increases relevance, which is exactly what people want, with an overwhelming majority more likely to buy from brands that remember who they are and that provide relevant recommendations.”
Personalisation isn’t the only factor driving the popularity of messaging in today’s society, convenience, immediacy and scalability also make it well suited for engaging with travellers. However, the execution must be right to succeed.
“Ultimately, messaging must be responsive and sophisticated to meet consumers’ needs – especially during these challenging times when travellers want interactions to be fast and efficient,” said Ameen Malhas.
“A messaging system which is executed correctly - with a clear strategic role, anticipates what consumers want to talk about with the help of innovative technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and is built around a strong ecosystem - can be a powerful and convenient tool for engaging consumers and driving purchase intent.”
As governments begin to lift lockdown restrictions across the Middle East, businesses are cautiously re-opening workplaces with strict social distancing measures in place and asking employees to travel again.
During the final Travel Forward session of day two, Technology and the New Normal, Heidi Myers, Head of Marketing, EMEA, Uber for Business, discussed how technology can be a force for good and support businesses in the challenge of the ‘new normal’ that we are beginning to embrace.
According to a recent survey conducted by Uber, around 44% of businesses said employee safety is their primary concern, with 60% of employers saying they will only allow essential workers to commute and 33% of organisations surveyed considering implementing daily commute programmes.
With getting to work in the post COVID-19 landscape a primary concern for a large number of employees and a stressful commute sited as one of the leading causes of employee dissatisfaction and turnover, Uber are implementing a number of stringent hygiene and safety procedures in an attempt to support businesses during this challenging period.
Heidi Myers, said: “At Uber, the safety of both our employees and our customers is of prime importance and as a result, in line with government and public health authority guidance in the regions in which we operate, we have implemented a number of strict health & safety procedures.
“Before drivers can begin using the Uber app, they are fully screened and provided with access to resources and education which focus on how to wear a mask properly, how to wash their hands in line with guidance and how to disinfect their vehicle.
“In addition, both drivers and riders are required to wear masks or face coverings in most countries, with drivers required to verify through our Selfie-Verification technology that they are wearing a mask which fully covers their nose and mouth.”
With Global Exhibitions Day 2020, taking place on 3rd June, WTM London was using the event to tell the world it will be open for business as usual at the ExCel in London this November.
Due to the devastation caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic, GED2020’s message is a simple one: Exhibition are key to rebuilding economies.
Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market, said: “As we look ahead to restarting and rebuilding the global travel and tourism industry, exhibitions such as ATM and WTM London will be a crucial platform for kick-starting global economies.
“The debut ATM Virtual has been a huge success and has further underscored ATM’s mission to support and guide the region’s vast travel and tourism industry during and beyond COVID-19.”
Also part of the debut Travel Forward on day two was the ‘How Cross-Sector Collaboration is Key to Igniting Economic Growth in the Tourism Industry in the MENA Region and Beyond’ session moderated by Intelak Manager, Mia Jafari. The panel discussed how cross-sector collaboration between the government, corporates and start-ups will create the fertile ground for economic growth in the travel sector post COVID-19.
The Ministry of Tourism Saudi Arabia and the Italian Tourist Board are both Gold sponsors of ATM Virtual.