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The future of tourism: Travel trends to expect in 2022 and beyond

The future of tourism: Travel trends to expect in 2022 and beyond

A lot has changed since our last instalment in this blog series. 2021 was set to be the year of travel, however our industry and the millions of people that work within it have endured another year of COVID-19. And while things are looking more optimistic than they did in 2020, tourism businesses were still plagued by sporadic lockdowns, everchanging border restrictions, new variants and dwindling cash reserves. 

Thankfully, we all know a lot more about how to navigate a pandemic than we did 12 months ago. That means this year’s future of tourism outlook is looking a whole lot brighter for us all. From emerging niche markets, traveller expectations to vaccine requirements and an evolution in travel styles; we’re about to enter a new era for travel, and this next chapter is set to be our best yet. 

Travel will be more meaningful than ever

The freedom that travel represents will mean more than ever to the citizens of the world after almost two years without it. From wars to economic depression, we don’t have to look too far into the history books to show strong evidence that humans love to explore in the wake of a global crisis. With COVID-19 being the poster child of travel disruption and loss of freedom, it’s not surprising to imagine that it has paved the way for a newfound deep appreciation for our ability to travel.

Whatsmore, people will be more eager to travel thoughtfully, with a real desire to reconnect with the world that they have missed for all this time. This means tour operators, destination experts and niche specialists will be perfectly positioned to curate these meaningful experiences. Once travel restarts, your expertise and human centric touch will be craved by passionate travellers wanting to scratch their travel itch with a truly tailored and enriching experience.

Sustainable travel the new normal

The topic of sustainable travel has never been far away from those of us in the travel industry, even prior to the pandemic. Contrary to what some might think, the past two years have thrust the importance of sustainability into the spotlight even more than it ever was pre-covid. What was once considered a niche area of tourism is now becoming the status quo; don’t adopt it into your business and risk being left behind once travel restarts. 

The 2020 lockdowns quietened the world, and opened our eyes to how important it is to protect our planet. The economic upheaval felt around the world and the disruption to tourism and hospitality businesses has also made travellers more aware of their impacts on these other aspects of tourism sustainability. Research shows that as we move into this next era of tourism, travellers are going to expect to see sustainable practices incorporated into their experiences.

Travel duration: two schools of thought

A number of industry experts believe the length of travel will change in the wake of COVID-19. Interestingly, there also appear to be two very distinct schools of thought when it comes to this topic. 

Some believe that the pent up travel demand and overflowing travel budgets will result in a surge of long haul, no-expenses-spared trips. While on the other hand, others are looking to the history books and believe that travel in 2022 will look like shorter, more frequent travel that is a little closer to home. This was the case after the Iraq war, which saw the emergence of the ‘short stays’ trend due to the uncertainty felt amongst the population.

Whatever the case, as a tour operator it’s important to be prepared to be agile and evolve your offering as your traveller preferences become more apparent in 2022. Start brainstorming ways you can easily expand and reduce your offering with your team now, so that you’re all ready to hit the ground running when things get busy.

Vaccine passports are mandates

A 2022 travel trend blog would not be complete without mention of the all important vaccine passports. Arguably one of the biggest changes to travel documentation in recent history, it looks almost certain that travel in the years to come will hinge on travellers being able to prove their vaccination status.

A number of countries have taken it upon themselves to create their own standardised COVID-19 vaccination passport for their citizens. These passports are typically either digital (accessed via a mobile app) or paper. The passports are being used in a variety of settings, including entering those borders that have partially reopened, and accessing public gatherings and large scale events where organisers have deemed it necessary to have a vaccination. 

Day by day, countries are announcing their borders reopening for the first time in almost 24 months. Along with this news almost always includes their requirements for an international traveller to enter the country: proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test. It looks like this will be the approach taken for the foreseeable future, so as a tour operator wanting to reap the rewards of the travel restart, it would be advisable to ensure you prepare for these changes as part of your pre-departure traveller preparation. 

It’s also worth considering other things, like making sure your cancellation policy has been amended with these mandates and requirements in mind. What do you do if your traveller returns a positive covid test prior to departure? Will you allow them to reschedule? What happens if they are part of a group? There’s a lot to consider, so check out our blog on the topic to get your cancellation policy refreshed and ready for 2022.

Further reading

Some niche markets are also expected to boom in the wake of COVID-19; one of those is Ancestry or Heritage travel. Read all about it here

Dive deep into the world of vaccine passports in this blog

Thinking about tweaking your cancellation policy for 2022? Everything you need to know is here

COVID 19: How to adapt your cancellation policy for 2022 and beyond

COVID 19: How to adapt your cancellation policy for 2022 and beyond

With travel restrictions changing regularly due to COVID-19, planning a trip at the moment can be tricky. But after a year and a half of living through a pandemic, travellers’ expectations are changing. As travel resumes, travellers are more likely to choose airlines, tour operators, and other tourism-related companies that have adapted cancellation and rescheduling policies in response to COVID-19. The industry standard is shifting towards offering more reassurance and flexibility in order to account for last-minute flight cancellations, border closures, outbreaks and more.

Finding balance in your cancellation policy

According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment, it is estimated that in New Zealand alone, an estimated $690 million dollars is locked up from travel cancelled due to COVID-19, with approximately 85% related to international travel. While some countries have begun reopening following the implementation of vaccinations, the lifting of global lockdowns, and the start of rapid testing, there are still many unknowns which is resulting in a lot of trepidation for travellers and them re-booking in 2021 and beyond.

As a business owner emerging from what has most likely been an extremely difficult two years of business,we’d be remiss not to acknowledge the important need to strike a healthy balance between traveller expectations, and the need for you to have some reassurance in your cash forecasting.   

So what can you do as a tour operator to encourage your customers to book with confidence, whilst also balancing your need to protect your business in the months and years to come?

Here are five examples of COVID-19 cancellation policies that offer guests assurance and flexibility for you and your team to learn from.

Hassle-free rescheduling

Below are examples of tour companies that are balancing the traveller reassurance by allowing rescheduling, but maintaining their revenue by not outright allowing cancellations.

Indian Excursion Co: Indian Excursion Co, a tour company that specialises in private, luxurious tours of Rajasthan, has implemented a “Flexibility Promise” that guarantees their customers no charge for rescheduling their trip up to 30 days before departure. They have also temporarily extended their payment policy so that customers can pay their final installment (80%) 30 days before arrival, instead of the usual 60.

Carameltrail: Carameltrail, a tour company that arranges tailor-made trips to Spain, Portugal and Morocco, wants their travellers to feel 100% safe when making travel decisions and have therefore Reduced trip deposits to 25% and are waving all rescheduling fees as long as the traveller reschedules before December 31 of the following year.

Giving customers peace of mind with full refund options

Below are examples of tour businesses that have decided that offering the peace of mind that comes with a full refund is likely to result in more business overall. Although the commercial risk is higher when you include these sorts of options in your cancellation policy, the school of thought is that it reflects well on your brand, and will likely result in those customers coming back to you regardless. 

My Ireland Tour: My Ireland Tour offers a range of Ireland tour packages, as well as bespoke private customised tours. In order to ease the concerns of their customers, they have implemented a “Peace of Mind Travel Plan” that allows unlimited changes up to 60 days before the tour and the ability to transfer the full amount paid to a future tour or get a refund of all monies paid if there is any travel cancellation related to COVID-19. Alternatively, customers have the option to transfer to a future tour up to 60 days before the scheduled departure. Taking it a step further, The My Ireland Tour Team clearly states how they handled the unprecedented events of 2020 and 2021.

Campeasy: Campeasy offers high-class campervans fully equipped for a road trip through Iceland. If you are fully vaccinated and can produce a vaccine passport, or a PCR certificate, you are able to go directly from the airport to the Campeasy offices to pick up your camper. They have also altered their cancellation policy and now cover cancellations with full refunds, even after the 24-hour deadline if it’s COVID-19 related. Additionally, if you happen to test positive when taking the COVID-19 test on arrival in Iceland, they will refund your reservation in full, even if you have passed the 24-hour window

Improving user experience

It’s also important to remember that there are other ways you can provide your future customers with reassurance in your cancellation policies. Something as simple as ensuring your information is easy to digest and written with your travellers in mind can make all the difference. Below is an example of a tour company that has provided its customers a helpful FAQ page. It acts as a go-to source for COVID-related questions and results in a great user experience.

Back-Roads Touring: Back-Roads Touring Co. specialises in off-the-beaten-track, small group and tailor-made tours across the UK, Europe and Asia. While they have suspended most of their tours through the end of 2021, they have implemented a helpful FAQ page on their site that answers a lot of questions that current and prospective customers may have about their tours and travel plans. They are also offering travel credits to their customers based on their individual situations and circumstances.

Although the rules surrounding COVID-era travel are rapidly changing, there are certain measures that your tour operator business can take to assist your guests in making the best and safest travel decisions. So we encourage you to take some inspiration from the above examples and consider implementing more flexibility into your cancellation and rescheduling policies so that your customers can have peace of mind when assessing their travel plans.

The definitive guide to tour operator software

The definitive guide to tour operator software

What is the best tour operator software on the market?

For every tour operator business there comes a time when the need for software becomes so apparent it can no longer be ignored. That time differs for everyone – for some it’s a ‘must-have’ from day one; while others get by with Excel and other DIY solutions until their business reaches a critical size or point in its growth journey. 

If you’re reading this page, chances are you have recently come to a similar junction in your business journey. You may have also already noticed that the tour operator software market is a noisy one that has been operating and evolving for more than 20 years. 

From light-weight itinerary builders, to custom enterprise solutions; there really is something for everyone. Continue reading, or skip ahead to a section of your choosing to get an in depth overview of the wild world of tour operator software. Understand what it involves, how much it should cost and how to pick the best tour operator software solution for your business. 

What is tour operator software? 

Tour operator software is a general category used to describe the array of software solutions that enable tour operators to run and manage their business. More often than not, these solutions will be bundled up to cover multiple ‘areas’ or ‘processes’ within a travel specialist’s business. At a minimum, all tour operator software solutions should enable the following: 

  • Building itineraries
  • Generating itinerary outputs (digital and/or printable documents such as PDFs) 
  • Setting and calculating itinerary pricing
  • Managing services and rates

Depending on the size of your business, or the journey you anticipate your business going on in the coming years, there are a number of other key functions a good tour operator software platform can do for you. Not all of the options on the market will cover this breadth, and those that do will have different standards. Understanding what other business problems you hope your software will solve is an important part of the decision making process. 

  • CRM for storing and managing contact details of travellers, agents etc
  • Analytics and reporting
  • Payment management
  • Automatic booking management
  • Accounting tools
  • Website integration


Let’s dive a little deeper into these features. 

The basics of tour operator software

Itinerary building

The heart and soul of your tour operator software platform is itinerary building. It’s arguably what you’ll be using the software for the most. If you are currently managing this process manually, it is also likely where you will see the most significant improvement in efficiency. 

For some tour operator software providers, itinerary building is the only thing they enable, however it’s advisable to look for a platform that can grow with your business with the help of other features mentioned below. 

There are many ways tour operator software companies have implemented the itinerary building portion of their platform, from drag-and-drop solutions, through to more tabular styles that mimic a spreadsheet. When it comes to deciding which one is best for you, it really comes down to personal preference. 

Itinerary output

Tour operator software

Whether it’s a digital itinerary, or a printable PDF document, for your potential customers this is where the magic happens! Loving the look and feel of the itinerary output that your chosen software produces is so important. 

Similar to the itinerary builder, your decision here should really be guided by personal preference. That being said, there are a few factors or considerations to keep in mind that might help your review process. 

Consistency with your brand

Whether you’re selling high value excursions to the top 1%, or you’re creating detailed schedules for an academic group; understanding your brand and who you’re selling to will ultimately help you select the most appropriate itinerary output. 

For luxury clientele, you may prefer a chic, image rich itinerary that oozes a luxury feel. For your academic groups, you may find more success with an output that focuses more on providing vast amounts of in-depth detail. 

Digital vs printable

Regardless of whether your travellers are digital natives or not, it’s important to consider the flexibility that comes with having the option to select your itinerary output format. The best tour operator software providers should allow you to have either. 

Mobile friendly

For those travellers that will be interacting with your itinerary digitally, ensuring that it can be easily viewable on a mobile device is paramount. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to find a software provider that has a mobile application, instead, just make sure the digital version of the itinerary looks and interacts well when viewing on a mobile device. 

CRM

Although many businesses are familiar with selecting a CRM (customer relationship management software) provider for their business, in the tourism industry it is not uncommon to have a tour operator software solution which has CRM functionality built in. After all, for travel designers, the customer (be it the traveller and/or the agent) is at the center of everything you do. Having a CRM in the heart of your tour operator software solution can be advantageous to keeping your business operations seamless and streamlined. 

A built in CRM should be capable of categorising, segmenting and sorting groups of contacts such as travellers or agents. Ultimately, this allows you to provide unparalleled tailored levels of customer service. Whether it be in the way of dietary requirements, personal interests, demographics or travel preferences, travellers will appreciate the level of detail that you have on hand to create highly curated experiences and service, in a fraction of the time it would typically take. 

 

CRM ebook

Managing your services and rates

Some tour operator software solutions will offer integrations that import a standard set of services and pricing from online sources like Booking.com and Expedia. For traditional and online travel agents, this is often the ideal solution, however for those more bespoke travel specialists, it’s not so simple. 

In our eyes, a higher level of trust will be forged with travellers when a tour operator has the utmost control over their content. As human beings, we navigate each day, and every interaction, with differing levels of trust – whether we are doing so consciously or unconsciously. This means finding a software solution that gives you that ultimate control to tailor the services and resources that make up your itinerary.  
Managing supplier content

Support levels

The quest to find the best tour operator software shouldn’t just be limited to the system and its features. Selecting a software company who offers the full package when it comes to customer service and support is a big factor – in fact, for some it’s the most important!

When looking for software you and your team should take some time to determine what you value when it comes to support. Every software provider will offer something slightly different; whether it’s a hands-on training service, local support in your country, or maybe even specialist knowledge in your niche. Whatever it is, take the time to get to know the tour operator software provider you’re planning on working with to confirm that your expectations are aligned.

 

How much should you pay for tour operator software?

tour operator software pricing
Let’s be honest, budget is more than likely a big factor that you (and your company) will be considering when searching for tour operator software. There’s no rulebook when it comes to deciding how much you should be spending – it really depends on your budget, your needs, and your expectations. Lucky for you, we’ve taken some of the guesswork out of budgeting. Here are our top 4 things to consider when calculating how much your business should be investing to find the best tour operator software:

What software and tools are you currently using?

Understanding and taking stock of all of the different tools your business has adopted will help you start to calculate how much you’re currently spending. More often than not, businesses will adopt several different tools to fulfil different needs. Before you know it there are 10 tools in circulation that don’t integrate with one another, your data exists in a different format in several different platforms and you have multiple subscriptions charging your credit card every single month.

How much time do you currently spend?

Time isn’t as easy to measure as money; but taking a moment to think about just how much resource you’re investing in your existing processes will help you create a software budget and compare costs with your actual current spend, i.e. in subscriptions and in staff hours.

How much are errors costing you?

It’s the last thing tour operators ever want to imagine…but unfortunately, errors do happen, and can cost businesses like yours tens of thousands. What’s your average itinerary value? Now imagine that amount being jeopardised because of an avoidable error in Excel. It sounds like an extreme case scenario but costly mistakes can and do happen.

What are your future plans?

Finally, think about your plans going forward. Are you expecting to grow your team, scale your operations to a new location or launch new packages? Knowing what’s in the pipeline for your business will help you start to prepare for it now. Your future self will thank you for it!

 

Reducing stress amongst your team

COVID-19 did many things to our industry, including thrust the mental health of our teams into the spotlight. Finding a software solution that fits in well with your wider team can massively improve inefficiencies throughout your business, and ultimately give your staff greater satisfaction in their respective roles. 

Your staff are extremely valuable assets. They have a wealth of knowledge and are the key to relationships with your customers. Ultimately, the traveller’s desire to interact with real people is why they are choosing to come to you in the first place. Opting to invest in tour operator software will ultimately allow your staff to focus on adding value for your travellers, while the software does the grunt work in the background. It’s a win-win for you and your customers.

Taking some of the pressure off of your human employees really can improve their productivity and profitability. Research states that increased stress directly results in lost time from work, reduced levels of engagement and decreased productivity. Unsurprisingly, doing monotonous tasks like data entry and spending hours tediously creating quotes, proposals and itineraries are all the types of tasks that are more likely to invoke feelings of stress, unfulfillment and job dissatisfaction.

Fostering a working culture where staff can enjoy their work without a high level of stress means that your employees are more likely to go above and beyond for your organisation and for your customers. Using software to take away the burden of those tedious jobs will ultimately free up your team to spend their time working on more meaningful, value-adding jobs.

How to find the best option for your company

Understanding what functionality your business needs, your support and pricing expectations you will be in a better position to start cutting through the noise and shortlisting a few software providers that most closely align with your goals. 

Make sure to trial your preferred options, and ask questions whilst in that trial period. Some things you might want to better understand are: 

  • Subscription cancellation options
  • Support channels and hours
  • Access to self-help content such as videos and articles
  • Frequency of updates

And finally, take time to understand the culture and the values of the software company you are potentially going to be working with. If it goes well, it could be a partnership that sees your business through many years. Making sure you are aligned will be sure to serve you well going forward.

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Why tour operators should tap into ancestry travel

Why tour operators should tap into ancestry travel

following in our ancestors' footsteps

As children, we would hope and dream that one day we would wake up to the life-changing news that we were related to royalty or the rich and famous. There was always the possibility in our vivid imaginations that a family secret kept the connection hidden for years and stopped us from inheriting millions. Our brains would tease us with potential relatives considered to be far superior to our own; inventing a whole new family tree to fuel the fantasy. However, as time goes on and real-life realities and rationalism sets in, these far-fetched speculations and hopeful discoveries become nothing more than a childhood pastime. 

While we may at times laugh at the silliness of our youth, a number of factors have led to the growing popularity of ancestry travel, catapulting the idea of genealogical discovery into adulthood. As individuals crave a sense of belonging and a connection to something much greater than themselves, the curiosity of heritage has seen tourism experts peg ancestry travel as one of the fastest-growing sectors in tourism today.

What is ancestry travel?

Everything that we do as humans, the decisions that we make, the actions that we take, the people that we interact with, are continually defining history. None of us would be here without the specific choices and connections that previous generations made, and the same can be said for us and the children of the future. For some, this crazy notion of history-making will be overlooked and brushed past in their day-to-day life, but for others, a deep dive into the past is truly meaningful and something that they simply must do to feel complete. 

For those that search for meaningful and authentic holiday experiences, ancestry travel, (sometimes also known as heritage travel, genealogy travel or DNA travel) ticks all of the boxes. Whether it be a pilgrimage back to the homeland, a search for a missing family member or delving into the history of a particular place, ancestry travel is often about colouring the past, filling in gaps and education. Defined as “traveling to experience the places, artifacts and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present,” ancestry or heritage travel extends across cultural, historical and natural realms.

On a path of discovery

Although individuals have always traced their genealogical heritage, advancements in technology and increased leisure time during COVID-19 lockdowns, have meant that people have been more eager to do so in recent times than ever before. From tracing to testing, here’s why demand and accessibility for ancestry travel has surged in the past few years.

DNA testing

Once a laborious process that would require the assistance of medical professionals, vast amounts of cash and long waiting times, genetic testing has evolved in recent times to allow individuals to complete tests themselves at home. By simply requesting a testing kit online, completing a saliva sample at home and returning it via post for analysis, individuals can easily find out more than ever before about their genetic predisposition, health indicators, and ancestral background. 

In fact, the upsurgence in home testing is evident with over 26 million people delving into their DNA through home test kits by the start of 2019. With accessible price points from just $US59, along with regular promotional offers, the reduced cost of testing kits are leading to their popularity in North America, Europe, China and Japan. Not only are people interested in discovering this information for themselves, but they are also finding that DNA testing kits are proving to be great gifts.

Online records

Unsurprisingly, online archives and records have aided in the collection and reference of family trees across the world. As more and more people become interested in their past, websites specialising in ancestral discovery have boomed, such as AncestryProGenius, have over 10 million clients in their books and over 100 million family trees in their archives. At the time of writing, award winning Israeli company, MyHeritage boasts 93 million global users and a whopping 13 billion ancestry records, proving just how rapidly this industry is growing. Anyone can now virtually build their family tree, receive notifications of any connections and directly contact long lost relatives. 

While research once consisted of trawling through old library records, newspapers and good ol’ door knocking, the digitalisation of this historic material has also helped in genealogical searches. Acting as a facilitator for people on the hunt for long lost relatives, Google is a powerful tool that is helping individuals tap into these records. Social media is also playing a huge role in stimulating interest in ancestry travel and making it easier for distant relatives to connect. 

Whether big or small, reaching out to potential family members or discovering homelands can literally be a few clicks away for some.

Media exposure

While the ease of DNA testing and online records have been drawing more people into the world of ancestral discovery, the exposure that this travel niche has had in the media has also fuelled its popularity. Documentaries, television series and movies such as Go Back to Where You Came From, have been inspiring people to not only travel to beautiful places around the world but to do so while on a journey of historical, genealogical and genetic discovery. 

Cottoning on to the sheer size, power and sentimental value of this travel group, major tourism businesses have been working their magic to stimulate more interest in heritage travel. One way that Airbnb has gone about this has been to partner with 23andMe, a DNA testing company, to further promote the notion that you can shape travel around your genetic population. Through the recommendation of particular accommodation rentals, experiences and activities, Airbnb hopes to create authentic experiences for individuals who are wanting to get back to their roots and heritage.

Reflective of the current world situation, media outlets and companies have also been promoting heritage discovery as worldwide lockdowns have left people with ample time to look into their family ancestry. For instance, public libraries in New Zealand have been directing people to family history guides and helping them to build up their family tree online. The result of increased exposure and discussion in the media is clear when looking at the 37% increase in subscriptions, year over year, that the Ancestry site has experienced during the pandemic. COVID-19 has given people the world over the opportunity to trace their roots and has planted the seed of associated travel with it.

Travel experiences

Jumping on the bandwagon of niche travel, there are many tour operators around the world that specialise in this niche market. Helping people to connect with their origins and learn about their heritage through immersive travel experiences, the likes of My China Roots, Ancestral Footsteps and My Ireland Family Heritage run packaged group tours centering around places of ancestral significance. Oftentimes with a genealogist and historian in tow, these companies give tourists the opportunity to walk in their ancestors’ footsteps. 

For those that strive to truly personalise travel experiences for their travellers, companies will use the individual DNA tests of a person to take them on their own journey of ancestral heritage. This may mean visiting sites of historical significance such as churches and museums, or simply walking through nature and across the land that was home to previous generations. With even cruise programmes offering tours to their market, ancestry travel can look different for each person.

A youthful perspective

Often, images of older travellers spring to mind when the term ancestry travel is mentioned. However, we would like to stop you in your tracks as this is not entirely true.  

Taking into account that technological advances have shifted much genealogy work online, it is no surprise that the appeal to a younger audience has increased. Despite experiencing great deals of hyper-connectivity through social media, all too often the youth of today feel disconnected and lacking anything of deep substance; with ancestry travel offering to fulfill this desire. 

A study released by the Oxford University Press in 2020 indicates that younger travellers are great participants in ancestry travel, but for very different reasons to older generations. While identity building is a strong driver of travel for the younger generations, older individuals see their genealogical discovery as an excuse for a memorable, grand, bucket-list trip. Undoubtedly, history and connections resonate far more with younger individuals than what they learn in the classroom. 

Encouraging those aged 18-32 years who are of the Jewish faith to uncover their religious identity in Israel, the Birthright Israel programme is a great example of younger people engaging in ancestry travel. Acting as a pilgrimage and educational trip to the homeland for overseas-based Jews, the all-inclusive free trip inspires individuals to understand the history of their roots, feel connected to ancestors, and become part of a global community. In fact, a study on this particular trip has shown that American-based Jews who take part are more likely to feel a stronger connection to Israel and their faith than those who did not. 

Tour operators need to be cognisant of this multi-generational interest when catering to, attracting and pleasing ancestral tourists.

The tour operator’s guide to covid vaccination passports

The tour operator’s guide to covid vaccination passports

covid-19 vaccine passport

The information outlined below was last updated on 4 August 2021

When COVID-19 shut down borders in early 2020, the travel industry was forced to navigate what was quickly coined an “unprecedented event”. Now, more than a year on, as we begin to imagine a post-covid tourism industry, we are yet again navigating a never-before-seen experience: the restart of travel in a post-covid world.

As the global vaccination campaign ramps up, the reality is continuing to become clear: traveller vaccinations will be pivotal to the restart of tourism. Countries and continents are turning to covid passports and vaccination records as a way to surface this information. 

In this blog we outline the key differences in vaccination passports throughout the world so that you and your team can begin booking your travellers and managing their information with confidence. 


The universal COVID-19 vaccination passport

In theory, a universal passport would be the ideal solution as we prepare for a restart, however for a number of reasons this has not yet been a realistic option. A panel of experts brought together by the Asia Pacific Travel and Technology Industry Association (ATTIA) explained that data privacy, security, trust and finding common ground between nations would make it extremely unlikely for a single universal passport to be successful. Whether managed by a private technology company, or a governing body like the World Health Organisation, in reality it is highly unlikely that a monopoly approach would be trusted or accepted by the entire world. 

Additionally, one universal passport and the sensitive information held within it’s databases would need to be tamper-proof, privacy-respecting, verifiable, authenticity-ensuring and extremely secure. Such robust software, unable to be exploited by malicious groups, may simply not exist yet. 

Despite the ethical considerations, the world mostly agrees that for tourism to restart, some way of reliably surfacing a traveller’s vaccination status is going to be required. Spreading the sensitive information and putting the onus on individual governments (at least for now), appears to be the fastest way forward. 

 

How COVID-19 vaccine passports work

Due to the reasons outlined above, a number of countries have taken it upon themselves to create their own standardised COVID-19 vaccination passport for their citizens. These passports are typically either digital (accessed via a mobile app) or paper. The passports are being used in a variety of settings, including entering those borders that have partially reopened, and accessing public gatherings and large scale events where organisers have deemed it necessary to have a vaccination. 

With some countries lagging behind in their vaccination campaign, the roll out of vaccination passports is still highly sporadic between countries

Continue reading to see a break down of the approaches currently in use by a number of key countries. 

 

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) launched it’s COVID-19 vaccine verification system called NHS COVID Pass in mid-2021. The pass is available to those aged 16 and over for international travel and requires the full dose of a UK approved COVID-19 vaccine. Those that have had a positive PCR test for COVID-19 and are now recovered (within the past 6 months) can also get the NHS COVID Pass. 

The NHS COVID Pass comes in both digital and paper versions, however the paper version only verifies vaccination and does not show a persons COVID-19 test results. For that reason, there is a significant advantage in opting for the digital version when travelling internationally.  

Most countries that have announced they will accept fully vaccinated British travellers quarantine-free have said that they will accept the NHS COVID Pass on entry into their country, this includes most of Europe. At the time of writing this, however, there were still a number of countries which have not yet approved the NHS COVID Pass as official verification, including Germany. For those that have not approved the COVID pass, they have also not outlined alternative verification options, indicating that they are not yet accepting British travellers.

 

Name NHS COVID Pass
Formats available Digital app and paper version
Accepted vaccinations Any vaccination currently approved the the UK government and being administered in the UK
Learn more
Available to those that have recovered from COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status (i.e. assumed immunity) Yes, if positive PCR test within the past 6 months and self-isolation period complete. 
Accepted for International travel? Yes, by selected countries
Minimum age 16 for international travel

18 for attending domestic mass events

Cost Free

 


European Union

One of the closest to a ‘universal’ approach, the European Union has rolled out an EU vaccine passport to all 27 member nations and Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. Similar to the United Kingdom’s approach, any citizen or resident of these nations can download the passport or obtain a paper version. 

Anyone holding an EU Digital Covid Certificate should, in principal, be exempt from testing and quarantining when crossing into the border of a participating country. Countries outside of the European Union, such as the United Kingdom do not appear to be accepting the ​​EU Digital Covid Certificate (yet), instead adhering to their traffic light system for outlining quarantine requirements for incoming travellers. 

Name EU Digital COVID Certificate (formerly called Digital Green Certificate)
Formats available Digital app
Accepted vaccinations Any COVID-19 vaccine is accepted
Learn more
Available to those that have recovered from COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status (i.e. assumed immunity) Yes, if recovered from COVID-19 or received a negative test result. Negative test results are only considered valid for 72 hours for PCR tests, and 48 hours for rapid antigen tests. 
Accepted for International travel? Yes, within the EU and Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein
Minimum age Available to any children over the age of 6  (under 6 are exempt from travel related testing). 
Cost Free

 

United States

The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), provides everyone that receives a vaccination in the US with a physical vaccination card. The card outlines the vaccine received and the place and date it was administered. Due to the cards being only available in a physical paper form, they are easily faked and are known to be sold illegally online. For now, this paper card is the best proof of vaccination a US citizen has for providing proof of vaccination and it is accepted for incoming travellers in some counties, such as Iceland. 

Due to its obvious downfalls, it is expected that some countries will not accept the CDC’s COVID-19 vaccination card as valid proof of inoculation once more borders reopen and travel beings to flow more steadily. Experts explain, “Airlines and airports around the world are increasingly turning to digital identity and biometrics to verify identities more quickly and accurately.”

As of writing, the United States of America does not currently have a digital national covid vaccine passport app for use when travelling, with President Joe Biden announcing there are no plans for a national app and that it is the choice of individual states to introduce an app. Four states have taken that challenge on, with California, Louisiana, New York and Hawaii all introducing COVID passport apps. Three more states (Oregon, Colorado and Illinois) are currently constructing apps, and the rest have either not commented on the matter or banned the practice of a COVID passport in their states. 

Name COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card
Formats available Paper
Accepted vaccinations Any vaccine currently approved for use in the USA
Learn more
Available to those that have recovered from COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status (i.e. assumed immunity) No
Accepted for International travel? Sometimes
Minimum age 12 years (Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine)
18+ years (Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s/Janssen) 
Cost Free

 

Future technologies

The ethical implications, including need for data sovereignty means it’s highly unlikely that nations are going to be coming to gether to innovate on this space together anytime soon. This has opened the door to private corporations rising up to the challenge. 

Most notably in the private sector, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has launched IATA Travel Pass, a secure mobile app that integrates with their existing Timatic network. Travel Pass helps travellers to store and manage their verified certifications for COVID-19 tests or vaccines. It is currently being trialed by a number of airlines including Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand, and British Airways.  

The World Health Organisation has established a working group for outlining some key international standards that will likely be used to inform future vaccine passport developments in both the public and private sectors.

Further reading

Want more certainty about when your business is going to feel the impacts of the rebound? Dive into our blog on using a data driven approach to take control

Vaccines are now being administered worldwide, this blog explains how this will impact your travel business, and what to look for in terms of reaching ‘herd immunity’ levels

Recording your traveller’s vaccination details are going to be more important than ever. Download our free CRM checklist to discover other key considerations when preparing for the travel rebound

Why golf tour operators are set to thrive

Why golf tour operators are set to thrive

golf tour operator software
We think that everybody would take a long, hard swing at COVID-19 if they were given the opportunity. While this might not be possible to do so with a virus, many people around the world have been heading to golf courses to smash out their frustrations with a club and ball. Similar to other sectors in the way that they were hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the golf tourism industry has been showing positive signs of rebound and popularity as we head into the later half of 2021. 

Estimated to grow by $5.36 billion between 2020 – 2024, the global golf tourism market is far from over. While many sports were forced to close their doors due to the coronavirus, golf matches are still taking place and so too is golf travel. Very telling is the fact that most golf travellers were reluctant to cancel their trips when COVID-19 took hold, with many simply postponing their interest to upcoming years. Positively, with a new online golf marketplace exclusively for this special niche popping up, and 98% of golf courses in the USA now open it looks like this type of travel is set to rebound sooner rather than late. 

It’s fair to say this niche segment of the global travel industry is most certainly punching above its weight, and a global pandemic doesn’t seem to have knocked it off it’s trajectory either. In this blog we’re taking a deep dive into golf travel. Continue reading to understand how this billion dollar industry operates, why it’s proving to be so resilient amidst a worldwide pandemic, and how your tour operator business can get involved.

Golf tour operator

Popularity is catching 

There have been murmurs within the golf community and the travel industry that the popularity of golf has been on the rise, with some coining it the “COVID-19 generation of golfers.” As we know, statistics don’t lie and this makes us confident that coronavirus isn’t the only bug that people are catching in the new decade. 

With Google search results showing that the term ‘golf courses’ was up 40% year on year in May 2020, the allure of golf is proving more powerful by the year. With 55% of non-golfers having neutral or positive things to say about the sport in 2020, as opposed to 43% in 2013, it is no wonder that social media has also experienced a surge on the topic. Finding that golf-related ad campaigns have become more relevant to individuals since the outbreak of coronavirus, 1-2-1-Marketing believes that a large chunk of this increased popularity comes from previously casual golfers investing more time and interest into golf. 

Not surprisingly, professional athletes have also been switching over to golf to get their sporting fix as many of their specialised sports were put on hold temporarily (or in some cases, long term) because of the pandemic. 

A younger generation of golfers has also emerged as they channel their energy into a new sport. In fact, with a 20% increase in the number of junior golfers since 2020, it’s ability to break into new demographics and markets puts golf in a great position for the future. While some may think that the younger generations’ interest in golf is fleeting, they have led the charge when it comes to financially investing in the sport and purchasing new golf equipment

Dedicated sportsmen and women

While new golf enthusiasts have breathed life into the sport, long time golfers are more dedicated than ever. Plus, they are growing increasingly interested in golf tourism. The National Golf Foundation in the United States of America surveyed golfers and found out that almost a third are willing to road trip more than eight hours (one way) to indulge in a golf getaway, while 76% would travel more than four hours. 

Broadcasting of professional golf 

Fuelling enthusiasm for golf and golf tourism, alike, was the fast return of professional play. Broadcasted for much of the world to see, events such as the PGA TOUR playoffs and U.S Open, have been encouraging recreational golfers to get out and play. Despite lacking a real-life audience, the tournaments were a great hit with new and old golfers, and were used as a test run to see if other sports could return to professional play.  

Tying into the idea of live sport, is betting. The fact that the PGA Tour’s debut event, the Charles Schwab Challenge, after lockdown was the most bet on tour event in DraftKings history, speaks volumes to the investment that golfers have in their sport. 

An industry that supports each other 

We may have just run through the many reasons why golf as a sport is forecast to grow and remain popular, but the resilient and supportive nature of the golf tourism community is a major reason why golf tour operators will thrive over the coming years. 

Wanting to make sure that golf tour operators weather the storm today, Ireland’s annual Golf Convention was held virtually this year. Hoping to encourage suppliers and tours operators to buy into the idea of promoting golf vacations, the convention saw over 104 tour operators from around the world virtually meet with 110 Irish golf tourism businesses to stimulate future golf travel. In the same breath, governments are getting on board with promoting golf tourism as a thriving niche market and have been allocating more investment into the development of golf related infrastructure. Additional support has also come to golf tour operators in the way of free membership to IAGTO, the International Association of Golf Tour Operators. Packaging together helpful resources and advice for these businesses, big organisations such as IAGTO are fuelling their success.

golf tourism during COVID-19

Golf tourism has a lot going for it when it comes to containing and slowing the spread of COVID-19, and this solidifies its ability to thrive through adversity. Asked to rank a range of activities based on the level of transmission risk, experts in Michigan rated the sport of golf as 31 out of 36 (36 being the least likely to fuel the spread of COVID-19) because of a few defining factors listed below. 

Social distancing

Covering a vast area of space, golf courses are the ultimate playground for social distancing. Not only can golfers zoom around in their own private golf carts, but tee times can be managed in a way that only one bubble occupies an area at any given time. Positively, this mentality and practise isn’t much different to golfing pre COVID-19 day when most players stuck to their bubbles or small groups anyway.  

To eliminate any potential spread of disease, golf courses have implemented measures to reduce the amount of touchpoints during a golfer’s play. For instance, in Ohio the golf courses have inserted foam pool noodles into the hole (in place of flagsticks) so that individuals don’t have to reach down into it to retrieve the ball. Sand trap rakes have also been removed in most instances.

Non-contact sport

For individuals that have been cooped up indoors due to continuous lockdown periods, golf offers a unique opportunity to get outside and participate in a non-contact sport, removing the need for physical interactions. Medical professionals have time and time again communicated the importance of exercise during the course of the pandemic, mentioning that exercise “does improve mood, wellness … [and] sleep. It has also been shown to improve or decrease anxiety.” Helping to reduce stress levels among individuals, golf travel is a mood lightener during these unprecedented times. 

Not only is golf a non-contact sport but it is also considered to be one where the risk of injury is moderate – a great plus when the time of emergency service workers is greatly needed elsewhere. To add to this, it is also said that an 18 hole golf course is equivalent to walking 5 miles or 8 kilometres. Great for exercise purposes, this is especially relevant now to golfers who do not own their golf carts (usually renting one) and are having to walk a lot further to finish their games. 

Outdoor activity

In countries where resurgences of coronavirus have been rampant, the outdoors is a true escape from their own homes. The power of fresh air and open spaces have without a doubt been appreciated over the past 12 months. And this couldn’t be more true for golfers who have, in many countries, been allowed to continue play despite strict lockdown restrictions. 

A good example of this is in England where they have been yo-yoing in and out of Tier 4 (the second top level) lockdown restrictions, yet golfers have still been able to take to the course in confined bubbles. While many recreational activities are off the cards, golf is seen as a good chance to get outside during these uncertain times.

How to grow your golf travel business

While lockdown periods and waves of infection have plagued many parts of the tourism industry, the sector has been getting inventive to seize any pocket of opportunity for revenue potential that might come out of COVID-19. Hoping to capitalise on the often wealthy coffers of golfers, the Thai government has put forward golf resorts as the perfect way to spend mandatory quarantine upon entry to Thailand. Rather than spending two weeks isolated in a standard hotel room, Thailand is looking to entice visitors to be long staying visitors in their country by giving them free reign of golf resorts and their golf courses during quarantine. Yet to be approved, the Thai Tourism Minister sees golf as their key to rejuvenating the country’s greatly affected tourism industry. 

Tour operators both already in the golf niche, or those looking to enter it have a lot to be excited about. As one of the fastest growing travel niche’s, some of the world’s best tour operator software providers like Tourwriter are working hard to make it easier for this growing niche to continue to thrive. The launch of our online marketplace golftravel.shop is designed to help avid golf travellers easily find, connect and book with top golf tour operators.

5 tourism reports to guide decision making in 2021

5 tourism reports to guide decision making in 2021

tourism research 2021

The internet is an overwhelming and scary place at times. There can be screeds of information, in fact too much, on a particular topic that can leave even the most informed person feeling confused and pulled in multiple directions. But why is it that when you desperately need insights, direction and data to inform crucial decisions on something, there tends to be nothing that meets your needs? 

As we scoured the web for data-driven insights on the current state of the tourism industry to inform how to best approach the year ahead, more often than not we found ourselves hitting brick walls. Understandably the COVID-19 pandemic hindered many research efforts and is constantly changing the state of play. Despite this, there is a real lack of reliable information that can help to guide the decision making of tour operators in 2021. So, we’ve done some extensive digging and found a collection of trustworthy, valuable resources that will help to make your life easier going forward. Because, let’s not forget that informed decision making is the ultimate superpower. 

We can say with confidence that these reports will ignite conversation, nourish your thinking, act as a rudder for your business direction going forward and set you on the path for success. So whether you delve into them over your morning coffee or peruse them with a glass of wine in hand, take your time with them, digest the information, share them with your wider team and take a long look at how their insights will impact on and shape your business in the current climate.

 

travel insights 2021Complete with detailed infographics and graphs, Skyscanner’s New World of Travel report provides invaluable insight into the search patterns of potential travellers as we’ve ridden the wave of coronavirus. As an online travel search engine, Skyscanner has deep insights into the search history of people around the world for flights, hotels and rental cars. 

As an added bonus, the report pulls together statistics from the World Travel and Tourism Council’s 2019 economic report to demonstrate areas of great impact with particular focus given to the predicted outlook for the business travel segment and low cost carriers. 

Recognising the importance of changing consumer behaviours and decision making across the course of the pandemic, the report delves into the psychology of tourists and the factors that will impact their travel choices going forward. 

View the report here: New World of Travel Report by Skyscanner

 

travel stats 2020Short but mighty perfectly sums up the United World Tourism Organisation’s (UNWTO) World Tourism Barometer. Published in December 2020, the factsheet is very realistic about the past, current and future status of international travel. Using a mixture of percentages, figures and dollar values to demonstrate the vast impact that COVID-19 has had on international tourism, the report is optimistic about returned freedom that a vaccine will give to the global community and their travel movements. 

Wanting to ensure that the tourism industry is responsible, sustainable and universally accessible, the UNWTO is committed to supporting the travel sector, and advancing their knowledge through the likes of these Barometer reports. 

View the December 2020 report here: UNWTO World Tourism Barometer

 

travel recovery research reportSet on helping the travel and tourism industry prosper and grow in the long term, the World Travel & Tourism Council’s recent release of the To Recovery & Beyond: The Future of Travel & Tourism in the Wake of COVID-19 report is helpful in considering the impact that key trends will have on relevant tourism stakeholders. 

Offering insight into the health of the tourism sector, the impact that coronavirus has had on the industry as a whole and what travel will look like going forward, we were impressed with the thorough statistical evidence and reasoning behind discussions. Of note are the four trends: demand evolution, health & hygiene, innovation & digitisation, and sustainability, that were covered along with the impact that these would have on noteworthy stakeholders (travellers, businesses, workforce and communities). 

To top off the strength of this report, the WTTC offers a series of well thought out, viable recommendations to the industry for 2021 and beyond. To use their words, “We ourselves are encouraged by the ingenuity shown by the sector over the past few months, and trust that the actions taken today are important building blocks for the long-term resilience of Travel & Tourism.” 

View the report here: To Recovery & Beyond; The Future of Travel & Tourism in the Wake of COVID-19 

 

travel report 2020Setting the scene by reflecting on past worldwide crises and pandemics, Skift and McKinsey in their The Travel Industry Turned Upside Down report spare no detail when demonstrating the severity of COVID-19 on the tourism industry. Very methodically the report works through the health, risk and strengths of the airline, hotel, vacation rental, tour and activity, online travel agent, car rental and rideshare, and cruise sectors. 

Written by intelligence specialists, the report highlights the differing paths that leisure and business travel will take as we enter recovery. Useful in the decision making for tour operators, a series of scenarios on the future of tourism are posed at the end of the document. From a muted recovery to a strong rebound, the report explores potential economic statuses, travel demand, people’s willingness to travel and country recoveries of each scenario. Taking it one step further, the valuable resource also details recommended actions for travel companies. 

View the report here: The Travel Industry Turned Upside Down 

 

Want less of the numbers and more of the practical stuff? Explore our library of free eBooks and blogs

To get you started we wanted to point you in the direction of a few of our favourites: 

A data driven approach to monitoring the tourism rebound

A data driven approach to monitoring the tourism rebound

How to predict the tourism rebound

The great tourism rebound…what once felt like a distant dream is finally becoming a plausible reality thanks to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. With countries such as Israel reporting promising results, the light at the end of the tunnel is growing brighter by the day. 

And while it’s all well and good saying “2021 is the year”, for those in tourism who have been weathering the storm, narrowing a rebound down to a 12 month period simply isn’t all that helpful. After the year that’s been, a bit of certainty is what you’re undoubtedly craving. 

That’s why for this blog our team has whipped out the spreadsheets, read countless reports and crunched some hard data so that we can provide you and your team with a data driven method for monitoring the widely anticipated tourism rebound.

 

tourism recovery statistics
Whether business feels like it’s picking up again or you’ve just heard people talking about the recovery starting, it’s difficult to pinpoint when this will eventuate into actual sales for your business.

Thankfully, there are a few key drivers that those of us in the tourism industry can look towards for a reliable indication of the recovery.

 

travel rebound checklist 2021
While it’s important for us all to understand and monitor the global tourism industry’s rebound, the quest for some certainty in your business means you need to drill down a bit deeper. 

Having key data points that you can analyse at global and local levels means you and your team can enjoy the sense of control that comes with being able to view changes in the markets that mean the most to your business. So before you read on, take a moment to list the countries or regions that will play a pivotal role in your return to normality. These will be: 

  • Any country or region that you sell
  • Any country or region that your travellers come from

For example, you may be a tour operator based in California, USA, that sells tailor-made tours to Italy for America travellers. With that in mind, you will want to monitor the data points listed in the remainder of this blog for both Italy (the country you sell) and the United States of America (The country your travellers come from). 

Head over to our interactive tourism rebound dashboard to view the key data points in real-time and monitor them as they relate to your core markets throughout the coming 12 months.

 


One of the few upsides to having a global pandemic in the 21st century is the fact that we are able to use technology to access real-time health data across the globe. Monitoring the vaccination roll out campaign on a global scale is a perfect example of this. 

Ultimately, the goal with any vaccination roll out is to create ‘herd immunity’, that is when enough of a population is inoculated such that it reduces the likelihood of infection of those that lack immunity (i.e. non-immunised children, immuno-compromised etc). Interestingly, the desired inoculation percentage in order to reach herd immunity differs between diseases; for example, herd immunity against measles requires approximately 95% of a population to be vaccinated, for polio the necessary vaccination percentage is 80%. 

Because COVID-19 is a new virus, the global health community is yet to learn what percentage we need to aim for in order to reach that all-important point of ‘herd immunity’. With that being said, at the time of writing this piece, there are some indicators that we can look to for a ‘ball-park’ estimate. 

New Zealand’s Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, has stated that New Zealand, a country widely praised for it’s COVID-19 response, is aiming for at least a 70% of the population to be vaccinated, and that they hope this will achieve herd immunity. 

As of February 2021, Israel is leading the world with its vaccination campaign. Their Minister of Health, Yuli Edelstein, has stated his goal to achieving herd immunity is to have 70-80% of their population vaccinated by May 2021.  

And finally, a journal article published in The Lancet in November 2020 estimates that COVID-19 inoculation rates of 60-72% is required to reach herd immunity if the vaccine has a 100% efficacy. For vaccinations with a 80% efficacy, the vaccination percentage required for herd immunity is 75-90%. The primary vaccines currently being distributed at the time of writing this article range in efficacy from 66% (Johnson & Johnson) and 89% (Novavax), to 94.5% (Moderna) and 95% (Pfizer). 

Given the above data, we believe that a vaccination percentage somewhere between 70-80% is going to be a likely tipping point for the world in our collective effort to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19. You can use this figure as a guideline for monitoring vaccination rates in countries that are significant to the rebound of your business. 

Our World in Data allows you to view COVID-19 vaccinations on a per country basis and is updated on a regular basis. The great thing about this data source is that it allows you to view total vaccination numbers as well vaccination percentages per population, making it easier for you to understand how close to that 70-80% rate any given country is.

 

Tourism border restrictions worldwide
The second most important driver behind the tourism rebound is international border closures and quarantine requirements. Understanding these as they relate to your business, and more importantly, being able to monitor them as restrictions loosen is expected to be an extremely strong signal of the rebound. 

The United Nation World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has created an interactive tool which allows you to view countries (both on a table and on a world map) and click on them to view the current status of their international borders. There are 4 key border statuses the UNWTO are using to classify different countries: 

  1. Complete border closure: Borders are completely closed to tourism
  2. Partially closed: Borders are partially closed and/or have suspended all/some flights
  3. Other measures: Visa issuances, quarantine or mandatory testing required
  4. Lifted for international tourism: All COVID-19 related restrictions on international tourism lifted

The same UNWTO interactive tool also maps other interesting indicators such as hotel bookings, travel sentiment and flight capacity. We recommend looking to the official COVID-19 government websites for more information regarding quarantine requirements for countries you are interested in monitoring. Below is a list of travel restrictions for some key countries and regions worldwide: 

Australia United Kingdom
Canada United States of America
European Union Japan
New Zealand

 

International flight volume metrics 2021

International flight volume data is going to be a reliable way to truly gauge the flow of travellers between countries. Once again, this data point comes with the added benefit of enabling you to look at this both globally, and for countries of significance to you. 

Statista has a fantastic, real time graph which plots the % change of international flights compared to the same period 12 months prior on a per country basis. Hover over any given week to also see the global % change as well. The expectation is that as vaccinations increase and border restrictions loosen, the difference in flight volume year-on-year will steadily reduce. The closer to 0% change a country is, the closer they are to having tourism returning. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has similar interactive data on their website as well. 

One important note to remember here is that this graph is tracking international flights. By nature this means it requires free flowing flights between two or more countries in order to be of significance to your business. When it comes to this metric, make sure to track the country you’re selling, and the origin country of your travellers for the most accurate insights. 

Head over to our interactive tourism rebound dashboard to view the key data points in real-time and monitor them as they relate to your core markets throughout the coming 12 months. 

How to find the best tour operator software solution in 2021

How to find the best tour operator software solution in 2021

Finding the best tour operator software in 2021

You may feel like everything that you have built and worked so hard for over the last few years has flown out the window. And while business as we know it, particularly in the tourism space, has changed forever, tour operators need to focus on making smart business decisions to get back on track.

Launching into the new year, we are firm in our belief that a comprehensive itinerary builder software is the most powerful tool a tour operator can have. With the right tour operator software solution, your business will be equipped and primed for the upcoming rejuvenation of tourism globally. The best tour operator software will offer simplicity and affordability when it comes to itinerary creation and booking trips for customers.

As we learnt from 2020, the certainty of retaining staff is not guaranteed, nor is the promise that valuable skills will be transferred from one staff member to the next. That is why software is something that will make the world of difference to your business in the wake of COVID-19. Not only will it stay with you over the course of staff changes and turbulent times, but it will help make onboarding new team members smoother when business ramps up again. 

To steer you in the right direction when it comes to choosing the best tour operator software solution in 2021 we have put together our top considerations that we feel you should not compromise on or overlook in the coming years. If you are going to invest, then you should do it wisely and with confidence in your investment.

 

CRM itinerary builder software

There is no doubt that the entire global community is pinning their hopes on the development and rapid distribution of successful coronavirus vaccines to ensure that we are free from the pandemic that is currently gripping the world. While it may appear that the administration of a vaccine will give great life back into the tourism industry, this is simply just the beginning of the solution. 

The first step, yes, is to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible for travel to take place safely. But this must be followed up with accurate record keeping. Knowing the vaccination status of your travellers is going to be one of the most, if not the most, important piece of information you as a tour operator can have going forward. As we have learnt, COVID-19 is relentless and there is no room for complacency or human error. If the tourism industry is to be successful once again, then the vaccination statuses of travellers must be methodically recorded, securely stored and easily accessible at all times. 

We recognise that keeping track of such intricate health details will put a lot of extra responsibility and pressure on tour operators as they navigate the different rules, regulations and documentation of various countries. For this reason, the best tour operator software in 2021 will have the in-built functionality to accurately record this information. Not only will this take a load off your plate but choosing an itinerary builder software that tracks individual health statuses will help your business stand out from the competition, and to put it quite bluntly, save lives. 

The advantages of customer record keeping goes far beyond vaccinations too. The best tour operator software to take your business into 2021 will be capable of categorising, segmenting and sorting groups of travellers to provide unparalleled tailored levels of customer service. Whether it be in the way of dietary requirements, personal interests, demographics or travel preferences, travellers will appreciate the level of detail that you have on hand to create highly curated experiences, in a fraction of the time it would typically take. 

 

Itineraries on website

As we have learnt more about the pandemic, its infection rates and the lasting effects it will have on every sector of society, we have come to realise that the return of tourism is going to be staggered. Already there is great variation between countries and provinces as to what government and border restrictions are in place, along with the status of vaccination administration. But the reality is that most of the world will spend the first half of 2021 promoting their business to prospective tourists, rather than actually selling itineraries (we promise that this will come later). 

How you portray your product and business online, how you are perceived by potential customers, and what you are selling therefore becomes of the utmost importance. In a tour operators line of work, compelling example itineraries are the hook to draw customers in. Tour operator software that allows you to embed or connect your example itineraries onto your website, will garner the greatest amount of attention from future customers. Your website communicates the essence of your brand, and your software should give you the ability to showcase stunning itineraries with beautiful images on your website. 

Tourists crave simplicity during the research phase of their travel journey, with it being proven that the fewer number of clicks by a consumer leads to higher conversion levels. Instead of redirecting customers to multiple pages and websites, the ability to promote itineraries on your website will streamline the user experience and clearly (plus let’s not forget, beautifully!) display your offering. 

A topnotch itinerary builder software should also have the functionality to easily share your breathtaking itineraries on your social media profiles. Your itineraries are your most powerful marketing tool with a social share function taking brand awareness and marketing activities to the next level. For one, your product should be proudly shown on various social channels, and for another it shows the ample knowledge you have for a specialised tourism niche.

 

Best tour operator software pricing

When it comes to finding the best tour operator software in 2021 it is crucial to ensure that the solution you choose is priced to suit your business. Gone are the days where you have to be locked into a lengthy contract with an exorbitant cost just to get the bare minimum; today, there are various tour operator software solutions on the market that are sympathetic to fluctuating cash flows. Whether it’s a low base and transaction fee model, or pay per user monthly pricing, tour operator software doesn’t have to break the bank. 

With 2020 being the year of penny pinching, spending within your means should be a big focus for you going forward. That is why partnering with a tour operator software solution that offers flexible pricing is paramount. Working in the tourism industry themselves, your chosen software company should be aware of the ebbs and flows that are hanging over the industry like a dark cloud right now. For instance, by offering a transaction fee model, itinerary builder software can be scaled up and down depending on your current sales levels. Monthly pricing plans also assign greater control to tour operators as access and functionality can be adjusted depending on workforce sizes and changes. Don’t forget to also look into the additional costs of itinerary builder software. Find a company which includes support services in their offering to ensure you don’t get caught out with unexpected bills.

 

Established travel technology company

Just like tourism businesses, software companies have taken a significant financial hit in the wake of COVID-19. While the pandemic could not have been predicted, the businesses that had the nouse, strength and smarts to withstand the tough times, are the ones that you want to do business with. You can assign a greater level of confidence to their product and business practise; if they can do it once, then they can do it again. 

We truly believe that the best itinerary builder software you can select is one that has proven longevity or tenure. If you are protecting your cash flow going into 2021 then we recommend investing your money and time into a software solution that will support your team and scale up with you as needed. 

Software companies that have stood the test of time have the experience and strategies to ensure their success, and yours.They are also more likely to be equipped with a support team that understands what it takes to survive and will be better situated to help you get back up and running.

We see the relationship between a software company and a tour operator to be like a partnership; with you both capitalising on the tourism rebound together. 

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