One of the biggest blows to the pandemic has been the airline and travel industry. And although the vaccine is hopeful, international standards are required for everything to work properly. The wave of cancellations hit cash reserves across the industry. Additionally, travel restrictions prolonged the fear factor and hampered recovery. Several months away, what has happened in the sector?
Contrasts in the hotel and aviation sector worldwide
The recovery of hotels and airlines is still slow, but has been improving compared to 6 months ago. For example, Arne Sorenson (CEO of Marriott), indicated that their reservations in the US have improved from 10% of normal in March, up to 35%. Something similar happens with Delta Airlines, although they are 50% compared to last year, in the current context it is progress.
In China the situation is different, since it has almost returned to normal because its government has greater control. They manage a QR code system that allows people to show their health status and thus carry out their daily activities. And this is reflected in Marriott: in China it has returned to 90% in terms of reservations. Domestic air travel has now surpassed 2019 figures.
Unfortunately international travel remains stagnant. This situation will continue until there is a global set of standards, where there is consensus on issues of restrictions and quarantine. As each country does things in its own way, uncertainty will slow down the recovery.
Proposals to achieve the recovery of the travel sector
Rapid passenger tests (such as those done at the San Francisco Airport) are evidence of an increase in demand. This represents a huge vote of confidence to the international flights of greater distance. Still others have joined, such as Lufthansa, which will also start testing, while Emirates has been testing since April. Alitalia has two daily flights from Rome to Milan only for those who test negative for Covid-19 in the last 72 hours.
Many people are simply afraid of flying. But these measures will be a new standard that will help boost confidence and recovery. Technology is essential to achieve this. There is a Harvard university study that gives great peace of mind. Between HEPA filters (standard equipment on most commercial aircraft) and the use of a face mask, there is only a 1% chance of contracting the virus from an airplane.
Rapid tests, biometric and contactless technology, and even an immunity passport, will ensure health and safety. Flights only for those who test negative, fewer touchpoints, less human interaction, a smoother experience. Here, Irish innovation is playing a leading role at airports, airlines and hotels.
Ireland: Innovation and Technology for the Travel Industry
Ireland has a thriving portfolio of companies with solutions to rebuild travel. For example, Let’sGetChecked is an FDA approved rapid PCR testing solution selected by American Airlines to restart flights to Hawaii and the Caribbean. Daon just launched a partnership with Denver International Airport to reduce passenger anxiety about social distancing at the airport.
VeriFLY allows passengers to make a reservation to access a dedicated TSA inspection lane. And also to a limited capacity train car reserved for the lobby. We continue to build this partnership to leverage its position as a leader in contactless and biometrics.
Another great example of Irish technology is Mobility Mojo’s hygiene and accessibility solution, used by Virgin Hotels. There’s P3 Hotel Software, which offers a seamless and interconnected online guest journey, ensuring an experience with limited or no interaction. Some of Enterprise Ireland’s most promising startups, as well as more established brands such as CarTrawler and Datalex, participated in the (virtual) World Aviation Festival. This event offers a glimpse of what we can expect from future trips.
Allied companies in technology for the recovery of the travel sector
This is the case of VRAI, a company specialized in virtual and augmented reality that successfully tested with IAG Cargo. Their sweet spot is to verify training remotely, which is not only more secure, but can help airlines cut costs. Urban Fox, which is helping companies deal with fraud. Cation Consulting and EdgeTier work on customer service. They use artificial intelligence, machine learning, and human power to help brands engage with customers at the right times and channels.
Other Enterprise Ireland clients who were selected to participate include Noa, who translates written journalism into audio formats. As well as Coras and TripAdmit, both event-based ticketing firms.
And although IATA (International Air Transport Association) projects that the levels that were in 2019 will be until 2024, there is optimism. This thanks to a series of jumps in demand and even more innovations where science is the protagonist. And of course, with the protection of customers, peace of mind gradually returns.