What's in store for the future of group travel post COVID-19

It's February of 2021, and the world is coming up on the one year anniversary of COVID-19. It goes without saying, but COVID-19 has and continues to wreak havoc on the entire hospitality industry. Few players have come out ahead, and while there are uplifting stories like Airbnb's IPO/ability to weather the storm, many smaller companies that powered the industry will not come out the other side.

The travel landscape will be different, from the number of companies serving travelers, to the technological evolution the travel industry will undoubtedly experience in the new decade-- change is on the horizon.

In our niche world of group travel, many small operators have packed up shop and moved on. Small tour operators were not well capitalized to begin with and few have enough resources to withstand 2 years of no revenue. At Bacarai, we feel like this will accelerate a "Do It Yourself" model for group customers. Schools and sports teams will opt to self serve, and their favorite tour operator is no longer in business.

Group airfare digitalization was accelerating pre COVID-19

We expect the trend of airlines investing to transition their group sales operation from an offline, call center model to a self service, travel agency portal to continue. Several large airlines are following in Lufthansa's footsteps and offering travel agents a way to request group offers via a private portal. While this limits distribution and visibility, the industry views digitalization in any form a positive step in the right direction.

These technologies will continue to transform group travel

There are a handful of technologies that we think will continue to change travel.

Here are some of the technologies and players who offer them.

  • eVisa requirements and travel restrictions will be top of mind for many years to come. No longer are customers simply buying a package that includes flights, hotels, and activities. Group customers need more hand holding and more services. Sherpa is well positioned to help travelers navigate the eVisa and travel restrictions space.
  • There will be continued innovation in the payments space. While we don't think the crypto craze is going to nab the airline industry, we do think payment innovation is on the horizon for group travel. Companies like Affirm allow customers to purchase an item, and pay it off in installments. Payment innovation needs to come to group airfare, and the airlines would be wise to not give away the margin and offer it themselves.
  • NDC¬†and One Order to transform the way airlines communication and construct offers to travelers. The flexible XML based standard gives airlines more control over their products, and paves the way for group customers to have a similar experience to when they buy a single ticket online.

While this likely scratches the surface of what the next decade will look like, we believe that these three arenas will continue to foster innovation. If we missed something, we'd love to know. Feel free to drop up a DM on Twitter or Facebook.