Approach should remain after Covid, says Altour UK managing director Maria Baty

In times of crisis, particularly when the crisis is on a global scale like the current pandemic, it is not uncommon for sectors within a wider industry to group together for support.

In travel, we have witnessed it before: business, leisure and meetings and events (MICE) uniting when a global issue threatens the very existence of our industry.

Information-sharing, alternative perspectives, access to different stats and trends are all factors that have benefited businesses within the UK Internova Travel Group family, from being able to access broad industry insights.

Coalitions and taskforces have sprung into action to encourage cross-sector alliances. Weekly Zoom calls and regular newsletters have kept industry leaders abreast of sector-specific challenges and critical updates.

Despite variations in clients, policies and product, our collective over-arching objectives remain united: to safely open the world for travel and preserve the future of our industry.

Overcoming challenges such as quarantine, changing government advice and testing at the airports are conducive to our industry starting to move again and it has made sense to work together to ensure our voices are heard.

The recent trial conducted via CommonPass to get travel moving again across the globe is a great example of an initiative that leisure and business sectors are working together to guarantee its success – but we still need more initiatives like this.

Quarantine, in particular, is key for all types of travel. It’s not just damaging confidence for leisure travellers but for businesses and their travel managers or procurement teams. The current quarantine situation completely wipes out most forms of business travel if a two-day meeting develops into 28 days if quarantine is mandatory on either side.

Our joined-up approach, in my opinion, is working. We have a louder and more prominent voice in parliament and have gained some traction by ensuring our asks and challenges are being heard and acknowledged.

And, I believe this collaborative exercise should be a lesson to our industry. Operating in sector-specific silos will not work for the new world of travel. It is more apparent than ever before that leisure, MICE and business travel need one another; even before Covid-19, they often unconsciously work in tandem and unknowingly prop one another up throughout the course of the year.

Destination experiences, for example, directly impact the sentiment of a traveller irrespective of whether they are visiting for business or pleasure. A business traveller might be visiting a country or city for the first time but their experience there could very easily influence their decision as to whether to pursue another visit for leisure and vice versa.

Similarly, a negative experience during a leisure trip could impact the confidence of returning for business, particularly if the main traveller is a key decision maker. This makes for an interesting case to have the ability to refer business to trusted experts in that field.

Within the Internova Travel Group family, it’s a case of turning to colleagues in other businesses but other independent businesses may consider expanding their industry network in future to help grow reciprocal business leads.

Our travel partners and suppliers are also equally dependent on support from all areas of the sector. Regardless of purpose, our clients travel on the same planes and trains, transit through the same airports and occupy many of the same hotels.

It forms a circular eco-system whereby our suppliers’ incomes are often supported by leisure travellers during the summer months and by business and corporate travellers during winter – our typical peak season.

Now, more than ever, I would argue travel is travel no matter why you are travelling. We are all trying to achieve the same goal: to help our clients travel safely and ensure we are able to provide them with exceptional experiences. One part of the industry cannot operate without the other – whether that’s in the form of picking up business during opposite peak seasons, experiencing destinations during different types of trips or speaking up for industry issues.

I hope this industry camaraderie does not vanish with a vaccine and that 2020 paves the way for increased collaborations and more efficient ways of working with and understanding our colleagues in all sectors of travel.