2021 – Can we see the summit?

In October last year, we dusted off our crystal ball for a look at how tourism businesses might fare in 2021 – a changing landscape, the Covid-19 era. Now that the new year has kicked off, how are things shaping up for tour operators and DMCs?

I haven’t climbed many mountains in my life, but for those I have there is a common moment, regardless of the mountain. Around the time you first see the top. A fresh burst of adrenaline, and you get close.  The moment is when you realise it’s not the top of the mountain you’re seeing, just the brow of the next ridge. The final climb is still up there somewhere.

Coming into 2021 was a moment like that as we climb this Covid-19 mountain. The general opinion was that 2020 was the year the pandemic took hold, and 2021 was to be the year of recovery. It still might be, but we haven’t seen the real peak yet.

The realities of vaccine manufacturing and distribution logistics, new vaccine strains, and hard lockdowns dampened enthusiasm built on the initial news around vaccine success.

But take a moment, look around at the views, and see how far we’ve come…

In 2020, at least three vaccines were developed, tested and approved in timeframes that were multiples earlier than initially predicted. These vaccines showed efficacy rates of over 90 per cent – significantly higher than the 50-60 per cent originally suggested as a success rate adequate for regulatory approval.

In the first two months of 2021 we observe:

  • UK – 26% of the population vaccinated, new cases dropping from 1.33 million in January, down to 354 thousand in February. A 74% reduction!
  • US – 18% of the population vaccinated, new cases dropping from 6 million in January, down to 2.4 million in February. A 60% reduction!
  • Still horrific case numbers, but the vaccine rollouts in these two countries appear to be delivering dramatic positive impacts.

In the Tourplan universe, we know at least 80% of pre-Covid Tourplan clients’ businesses are still active, albeit in a much-reduced capacity. And, against expectations, we have welcomed 16 new clients during this Covid-19 era.

And reassuringly, the future is optimistic based on some key premises:

  • We know the industry will rebound strongly as it always does – history has shown us this with 9/11, SARS and the GFC. Pent-up demand keeps growing – even if we have to wear masks, have tests at airports and stand 2m apart we will adapt, and we will keep travelling and exploring new places!
  • During February we completed a series of in-depth discussions with each of our global Tourplan offices across 5 continents. The common, clear messages are that while 2021 will still be very tough, early signs of recovery are appearing through growing numbers of quotations and bookings being received for travel late 2021, 2022 and beyond.
  • Digital transformation is a must for travel companies – we’re continuing to use this time to further enhance our systems and services so our clients will have amazing digital tools that they will need for recovery and new ways of doing business.
  • Everyone has been forced into very tough cost cutting and lost some great people. Less staff means that adopting automated and efficient sales and back-office processes is more important than ever. Investing in technology is fundamental to any travel company’s (re)growth. In particular, working with SaaS software and associated services from leading travel technology providers with a proven track record to minimise risk.
  • Our longevity in the market and global network of Tourplan offices means we will we be there for every one of our clients in every country and region as and when we start recovering – we will be able to react and tune our systems and services to local requirements as the recovery unfolds.

Of course, there’s still the hard bit of the climb ahead of us, but the clouds around the peak are dispersing, and the air of opportunity smells great!

At Tourplan we’ve been providing fee relief and supporting our clients’ activities on a significantly reduced income. We thank each and every one of them for their support in this. We’ve structured our business around preserving our key services, whilst enhancing Tourplan software with some important new features targeted at recovery from Covid. We’ve provided low cost transitions to the very latest Tourplan software for as many clients as we can. We will see this through – no question. We hope to see as many of you with us for the big party when the post-recovery boom comes.

We’re here to help. Find out how technology can give your tour business new life, and meet the challenges of theCovid-19 era and beyond.