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More flexible and efficient operations ‘here to stay’, say travel bosses

Operating more flexibly and efficiently is the ‘new normal’ and is here to stay, say travel businesses.

Speaking at Abta’s Travel Convention, Celebrity Cruises vice president and managing director (EMEA) Jo Rzymowska said new on-board safety protocols, including the requirement for customers over-12 to be double vaccinated, were working well and would continue.

She said: “Our protocols work incredibly well on board. It’s what guests want.

“The new normal is living with Covid. To do that we have learnt some benefits. We have been able to change our business models more quickly than in the old model. Our teams are more adaptable, customers more understanding. Communication has been critical.

“We have spent time not just being transactional. People want brands and businesses that stand for something and care for them and look after them. It’s something we have really focused on.”

She described flexibility as “the new normal”, adding: “It’s really important we continue that. Customers will continue to expect that.”

G Adventures managing director (EMEA) Brian Young said companies had been forced to adapt “through necessity” and would have to continue looking at ways to operate more efficiently in ways they had not pre-pandemic.

He said: “We need to think longer term, what would make our call centres more efficient. Is it technology rather than more resources [staff]? I think we will all build back in a different way because we have had to look at every part of our business and look at efficiencies.”

He added: “Customers will demand more flexibility so we have to look at customer behaviour and adapt and be more flexible.”

New tours introduced by the adventure tour operator during the pandemic in Europe to cater for where clients could travel to under Covid travel restrictions would stay in place, he added.

“We didn’t want to build something just to get us through. It had to have longevity so it had to be for the longer term,” he said.

Mark Colley, managing director of travel agency Sunways, which is predominantly corporate travel focused, said travel choices and durations had changed “indefinitely” for the future in the business world as a result of the pandemic.

“Those half-hour meetings in Zurich will now be done over Zoom, but for long-haul the durations are getting wider. That gives us a greater opportunity to sell more hotel rooms,” he said, adding: “I think travel will be more considered.”

Colley said the agency had also made a decision not to work with a “small minority” of suppliers in future which had been “unhelpful and difficult to get hold of” during the pandemic.

He said: “We won’t work with the ones that let us down; that really impacted our reputation.”

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