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5 Takeaways from Skift Global Forum 2021

5 Takeaways from Skift Global Forum 2021
Krista Wymenga
Krista Wymenga
28 September 2021

What better venue to ring in the relaunch of global travel than the stately TWA Hotel, standing at the foot of one of the world’s largest travel hubs — JFK Airport.

This year’s Skift Global Forum welcomed industry leaders and some of the world's most prominent names in travel, hospitality, and logistics like Airbnb, Marriott International, Uber, McKinsey & Company, Air France-KLM and Amazon Web Services.

While the speakers and various talks at Skift Global Forum unpacked the incredibly challenging period the travel industry has seen, it also looked forward to a brighter future and making a roadmap for the future of travel.

There’s tremendous opportunity in finding answers to the questions that define our industry: How do we make travel more sustainable? How do we deliver on our customers’ pent up demand for travel, but do so in a responsible way? How do we ensure that we have a technology and ticketing platform to do just that?

Surrounding those critical areas of interest, there’s the question of tactics, of ensuring you are approaching things like app development or travel booking in a scalable, streamlined manner.

There’s a whole lot to get into, so without further adieu, let’s dive into our five key takeaways from Skift Global Forum 2021.

5 Takeaways from the Skift Global Forum

1. Pent Up Demand is Real and a 2022 Summer Uptick is On The Horizon

As travel restrictions ease up, airlines, travel agencies, and hospitality groups need to be prepared for an uptick in bookings.

Travellers might be in the “dreaming” phase now, sketching out and saving travel plans. But, soon they’ll turn that idea into an itinerary.

Destinations like Greece are supporting this recovery and rebound in travel, welcoming tourists and travellers as safely as possible. With any luck, and the right safety protocols in place, more of the world will follow in the same direction.

To address this uptick in travel, those in the travel industry have to be equal parts practical and flexible. We need to reiterate to customers that the new normal is still new. The pandemic is dynamic and still changing. It’s imperative we be responsive and responsible, keeping customers in the loop when things evolve.

Overcommunicating our policies and providing information about what travel routes are available and what are on hold goes a long way.

2. Sustainability is a Top Priority

Climate change is an existential threat to us all. We have to do our part as travel industry professionals to take short term and long term steps to curb carbon emissions now, and design more sustainable ways of travelling going forward.

The scope of this problem, and our responsibility therein, is collective. It’s not up to one company to find a solution. It’s up to us all as a united industry.

We have to make concrete, measurable, and visible commitments to fight against climate change and curb the behaviour that worsens it. This means keeping each other accountable. We should share insights, produce open-source technology to speed up data collection, and work together.

Travel isn’t going anywhere. But, the way we travel has to change. By investing in hybrid and greener technology, offsetting emissions, and shifting demand to combat overtourism, we can do our part in fighting back against climate change.

3. Better Tech Leads to Better Customer Experience

The travel industry as a whole struggles to keep pace with the latest tech powering the e-commerce, entertainment, and gaming industries to name a few.

When a customer has a seamless checkout experience paying for a new pair of shoes, and buys them with two clicks, they expect that same type of ease from every company they patronise. But, the travel industry hasn’t always offered that degree of seamless experience.

To deliver on customer expectations, the travel industry needs to rapidly strengthen the technology foundation that underpins everything from search, to ticketing, to seat selection, to payment and beyond.

Using API-powered tools, travel companies can break down the data silos between different systems they rely on to serve customers. This free flow of data gives companies deeper, more clear insights into real-time search trends, opportunities to deliver on customer needs, and a more streamlined experience for customers.

Investing in automation acts as a force multiplier for that new level of customer experience, allowing travel agents and engineers to focus on more pressing tasks as opposed to monitoring manual processes.

To excel in the industry, travel companies need to double down on the technology that makes them more adaptable and faster.

4. Loyalty is the Most Valuable Metric

We’re in a subscription economy. Everything from the shows we watch, to the coffee we drink, to the clothes we wear is available in a subscription model. The kicker is deciding which business you’d like to give your loyalty to.

Now, travel companies launching new subscription programs are scrutinising every detail to make themselves more appealing to a would-be customer. With a high volume of customers or high frequency of purchases, travel companies are able to sustainably offer exclusive deals, or recurring discounts, to separate themselves from the pack.  

The search to find more ways to offer more value to customers leads travel companies to invest in not only travel itself, but the experience that surrounds it. So, while an airline might offer an MVP a free upgrade, they’ll also invest in the in-app experience in which that MVP discovers and accepts their upgrade. The entirety of that experience comes into play when that customer asks “is this subscription worth it?”


Coming soon: Duffel will be launching the ability to include traveller’s loyalty programme details into the user flow in the near future.

5. Embrace the Super-App  

The way we book travel on our laptops is far different than the way we book travel on mobile. While we might have 20 tabs open while sitting in front of our computer, on mobile we tend to look for one app to do it all.

The travel industry can move more in the “Super-App” direction, delivering on a myriad of customer needs all in one place, all packaged intuitively inside an app. Instead of taking a network-based approach in which one service provider recommends other service providers in its orbit, the super-app approach offers more opportunities for gamification, UX clarity, and marketing to wards a younger demographic.

Keep an eye out for those trends and embrace apps.

Looking Ahead

How you see the travel industry as a whole depends on your vantage point. Here’s what we saw at the Skift Global Forum when it came to key points for different personas in travel.

Consumers

  • Want more flexibility to live and work where they please
  • Expect perks like free flight changes and refunds from travel to continue
  • Peruse travel routes based on timing, not as much driven by a destination

Businesses

  • Must embrace tech solutions to solve today’s challenges and provide flexible experiences to customers
  • Must surface information to customers in a way that addresses their specific need and is tailored to their intention for travel
  • Need to look for opportunities not just in business commuting, but in the business community — like off-sites, company  retreats and more
  • Have to stay in constant contact with customers during an unpredictable time.

As the world opens back up and travel is back on, Duffel can help you make the most of the moment. Our Flights API platform offers direct connections to leading global airlines, helping you streamline the information flow that defines your customers’ experience. With just one integration to our platform, you’re connected to our entire network of airlines as well as all of our ancillary benefits like seat selection and add-ons for customers.

We’re looking towards the future of travel tech, building a more seamless experience for you and your customers. We’re a developer-friendly, customer-first platform that gives you the documentation and resources you need to integrate fast and get back to business.

Now, it’s easier than ever for travel sellers to enter the space and make the most of travel. Learn more >

Interested in getting involved more with Duffel as we tackle some of the challenges and takeaways shared at this year’s Skift Global Forum? We’re hiring >

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