SMART Tourism Will Help Destinations Reopen Faster And Safer During and after The COVID-19 Crisis
Dear Committee, dear Dr.Clarisse Molad,
Thank you for the trust and good words about our new project that we have planned very carefully and with great excitement.
This our answer regarding your notes and questions and we strongly believe in it’s success.
The travel sector was heavily impacted in the past 6 months and it will remain affected in the near to midterm future, pending the appearance of vaccines and treatments against Covid 19.
As the new daily worldwide cases fluctuate (up and down) from 1st of July 2020 – 199,211 cases – to 20th of September – 253,796 cases (data source: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ ) it is clear Covid 19 is here to stay. A lot of pharmaceutical companies are in different phases (clinical trials) and with incredibly fast results (data sources: https://www.policycuresresearch.org/vaccines-clinical-trial-results-summary ). Just in May 2020 were more than 1,000 clinical trials ongoing with over 150 treatments being tested. (data source https://www.abpi.org.uk/medicine-discovery/covid-19/what-are-pharmaceutical-companies-doing-to-tackle-the-disease/ ). We are still early in vaccine discovery phase to mass producing, but progress is happening.
In regards to the travel sector, here the major worldwide players like Expedia Group and Booking Holdings are consolidating their position and innovate different type of products or marketing ways to sell future bookings: new concepts like “StayCation”, private rooms, private villas or “book now, pay later” are arising and give a unique advantage and clarity for future business.
Despite the lack of predictability and travel restrictions, the desire to travel or travel will never die. According to a study that Phocuswire did recently, the challenges for travel agencies are quite a lot, from the lack of online presence of the hotels and the hotel supply/demand mismatch between the Hotel and OTAs. (data source: https://www.phocuswire.com/How-hotels-and-travel-agencies-can-prepare-for-a-post-Covid-future ) This way, all the travelers are affected missing out on superb accommodation and unique experiences that they truly miss after 6 months of being “locked” at home.
Because of this challenges, huge opportunities are at the horizon. Aries Travel is in special position, being able to offer Macedonia’s and Balkans’ finest accommodations and travel experiences, having the opportunity to gain market share on the short and medium term and capitalize this into profits in the long term. Throughout all of this process, the estimated increased business will generate increased taxes that authorities will receive. An indirect result of travel businesses have a multiplication effect on the economy: having more tourists the economy could be developed horizontally as well (restaurants, entertainment facilities in destination, new jobs created and many others).
The lack of exposure for Macedonian and Balkans travel products has one major cause: distribution power. The necessity of Aries Travel in its goal to capture market share and establish itself as a Regional Travel Player is to have the special travel products distributed into as many channels as possible, from the small travel agencies in Macedonia and other markets to very large players which have a distribution network/resellers network of tens of thousands of travel agencies worldwide. The way through which Aries Travel can do this is to go online and exploit those channels by having the technology to distribute directly (integrations via XML and API Outs between the both parties: Aries Travel’s online system and the Clients’ online system) to the big wholesalers or to give an Agency Login via a the new online B2B platform to large audiences of Travel Agencies in Macedonia and worldwide.
Technology is paramount in the overall strategy of Aries Travel and the current market presents unique opportunities to spear ahead in the forefront of the local and Regional Travel players with a powerful brand based on a powerful platform.
The role of wbe.travel team and platform or a similar platform we believe could be the foundation of our success. After extensive searches throughout the last period we see in wbe.travel a partner that could really assist us in our winning business journey. Based on their technology and platform speed, the easy-to-use interfaces, the reliability of the technology (their platforms being used worldwide by a large number of Travel Agencies) and their “can do” philosophy, we have been impressed by their involvement in helping us bring to life our dream and brand.
We have gone through their customer success stories https://www.wbe.travel/clients/portfolio/ and via impartial websites where their Clients (they provide their technology to over 60 clients worldwide who they have an overall total reseller network of 45.000 Travel agencies) shared their feedback in regards to their work: https://www.capterra.com/p/98432/WebBookingExpert/reviews/. Besides their state of the art technology, they have a lot of business and travel acumen, gave us free consultancy and shared with us different best practices https://www.wbe.travel/2017/10/italian-dmc-bookings-skyrocket-when-launching-own-contracts-in-gds/ , list of potential travel agencies Aries Travel could target to do business, and several ideas about innovative ways of distributing our travel products. They have a positive financial situation, a super smart team and are a possible reliable partner for Aries Travel Team.
As the initial shock of the COVID-19 crisis and lockdown is starting to pass, tourism destinations and attractions are beginning to turn their focus to the future. Many destinations have already started to reopen and European and North American locations are starting to plan to resume their operations. The past few years have seen more and more destinations adopting travel-tech solutions to enhance their visitor experience. Now, these same SMART tourism technologies can be adapted to help face the challenges of COVID-19 also in North Macedonia.
The core challenges that destinations face relate to enforcing social distancing and implementing hygiene protocols so as to keep their visitors and staff safe. Typically, destinations are looking at limiting capacity, spacing out queues to allow 2 meters between patrons, encouraging online bookings, and requiring PPE/masks for visitors and staff. Destinations are also encouraged to close indoor attractions and cancel events that generally attract large crowds. While these are all good practices, travel tech currently on the market offers additional solutions that are more efficient, more dynamic, and often are more cost-effective.
Limiting Visitor Capacity
Many government authorities are imposing strict limits on the number of visitors an attraction can have. Destinations don’t have to rely on a person with a clicker at the gate counting entrances (which is impractical for destinations with multiple points of entry in any case) to ensure compliance. Instead, they can use technological solutions that monitor the number of people in a defined area. This type of surveillance technology also eliminates the need to count people as they leave letting destinations know instantly when they can admit additional visitors.
Enforcing Social Distancing
Many destinations are requiring online payment and advance reservations in order to avoid queues at the entrance but they can go much further than this. Once inside, they should be offering visitors varied digital trails and experiences which encourage them to spread out and not crowd together at the most well-known spots.
Live-maps can show destinations where their visitors are at any given point in time, and allow staff to intervene in the event that they spot over-crowded spaces. And they can also be used by visitors to let them see the location of other people. This allows them to plan their routes to avoid close contact, in much the same way that social GPS apps help drivers avoid traffic jams.
Encouraging Adherence to Regulations
Push notifications allow destinations to send reminders directly into visitors’ cell phones reaching them wherever they are. Alerts grab people’s attention far better than posted signage which we quickly become blind to. It is also possible to prominently mark handwashing and sanitizing stations directly in GPS maps and send location-triggered alerts when users are close so that travellers can easily find them.
Protecting the Staff
Many traditional recommendations for social distancing require staff to enforce it. But this means exposing your staff to increased risk in order to prevent risk to your visitors. A much better way is to use remote tech to communicate with travellers wherever possible, reducing face-to-face contact between staff and visitors.
This can be done with live 2-way chat that lets travelers contact staff with questions or concerns wherever and whenever they want. They could even become partners in enforcing hygiene standards by reporting if an area needs cleaning.
Instead of guided tours, destinations can consider turning to self-guided tours that use GPS navigable maps, photos, videos, and additional information. As an added bonus, instant translation can make these tours available to visitors in more languages than a human can typically offer.
In some recent cases, staff trying to enforce social distancing and mask-wearing in parks and similar locations have been met with hostility and even violence. There is no need to expose employees to this. Instead, push notification reminders and live chat let staff speak directly to visitors without getting too close.
Maximizing Revenue Despite Decreased Tourism
Reopening under all of the limitations demanded by this situation both reduces a destination’s income and increases their expenses. It is therefore important for destinations to find ways to maximise the income from each visitor. Push notifications, targeted advertising, and direct personal fundraising appeals sent to a visitors’ cell phone are all ways to make reopening more financially viable.
SMART Tourism’s Moment
In many ways, SMART tourism was designed for this moment. It centralizes operations which allows fewer employees to serve more guests – just what social distancing requires. It helps visitors get the information they need faster, which can be critical in uncertain times. And it provides more opportunities for sales and promotions which is never more important than when destinations are under the kind of financial pressure they are currently experiencing. An investment in SMART tourism will pay dividends and is a cost-effective and innovative solution for normal operations and in times of crisis.
Now is the time for technology that works
As the travel industry has moved online to work remotely with the ongoing global crisis, technology plays an important role in assuring our continuous connection to the entire world. From reliable conference software to other tech products we use for e-mail or instant messaging, it is a fact that our daily life now relies on technology.
While an unfortunate way to learn a lesson on the power of digital, the dramatic downturn in travel could be an opportunity for companies to become more efficient.
The standstill of the travel market – An opportunity to prepare for recovery and your chance to shine
It is clear that the travel industry will weather the storm sooner rather than later. In several webinars that we have recently attended, there were travel leaders that mentioned how they are making the most of this time by investing in technology to prepare for a relaunch by the end of the year or at the beginning of the next one. Moreover, they are also using technology for another scope, to engage their employees and to keep them occupied. If everything were normal, they would not have had the time to implement the new software products and train their teams.
This would be one of the positive outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic but unfortunately, not all companies possess the resources to build a new system so the limited budget drives a big question mark to travel companies looking out for the next step aid.
Not enough resources for tests or trials
You should think before buying software that it partially fits your needs or that is unbelievably cheap and allows you to test it before purchasing. Software that works (from chatbots, booking engines, back-office solutions, mobile apps) has to be considered with an immediate scope in mind. Testing technologies that proved not to work will come with a huge hidden cost of your time, of your financial resources and you may end up losing the fresh market opportunity.
Unfortunately, we no longer have the time or the financial resources to make tests, to analyse half or even a full year several software providers. We had that flexibility before but now we have the opportunity to act directly and choose the software products that proved to work in several similar travel companies. Technology must be robust and more importantly reliable, so that you and your team have no doubts or hiccups while you safely plan you relaunch in an insecure working environment.
In-house development or already proven solutions?
The coronavirus crisis has hit hard the travel industry in terms of both human and financial resources. Large travel companies that previously planned to develop their software products now face the problem of not having the basic salaries covered, before even going into paying developers.
Designing and developing your software suite has and will always need a large budget for an army of costly human resources. Then, good infrastructure is mandatory. All these resources can skyrocket your initial budget and take you by surprise to realize that the initial timing to build the solution has extended dramatically.
Fortunately, there are several alternatives and affordable solutions developed by tech companies. These companies have been working relentlessly for years building and securing a software suite, especially, for travel businesses. We are referring here to trustworthy software companies that have a proven history of unwavering smooth work for developing solutions that travel agents can really depend on.
Choose scalable solutions to plan the future of your travel business
For the moment and in the next months, the volume of searches and bookings will still be lower than in the previous year or even if we go back 4-5 months. This means that you will not need from the start a high volume of server hosting and maintenance, this will happen over time, slowly but surely.
In a few months or even years, you’ll constantly need to scale up the volume, you’ll want to easily add other tech solutions for more travel inventory, extra APIs, more selling channels, you’ll demand to monitor the business, the employees and providers to see who is bringing you the largest profit and so on. All these additional services and modules should be easily adapted to your base structure technology. For this to easily happen you will need a cloud-based platform where modules can added as simple as a 4-piece puzzle. The scalable nature of a cloud-based platform means that the technical relationship can be transitioned to operate when the volumes are higher and the rewards greater.
In conclusion, we can state with confidence that creating your travel technology, controlling the source code and paying monthly developer salaries used to work just fine. In an unsafe environment, it is crucial to double down on your travel activity and outsource other non-essentials to tech companies who focus on developing software, the cloud-based type.
IT Company and our outsourcing professionals
Our partner software provider wbe.travel, is a modern and up-to-date company providing complete, reliable software solutions for travel businesses all over the world, based on the strong technological expertise of our fully dedicated and passionate IT specialists.
LATEST TECHNOLOGY & RELIABLE SERVICES
At wbe.travel they use the latest technologies for all the backend modules and database. The entire solution is hosted on Microsoft Azure and is designed with speed, scalability and high traffic in mind.
The infrastructure is designed to have maximum resilience, security, and reliability, to enable online access to real-time information 24/7 and serve clients all around the world.
wbe.travel was born in 2009, after 6 years being in the forefront of custom integrations with hotel service providers, as a desire of the company DirectVision to extend its software services and build a robust, tailor-made solution for the travel industry.
Since its inception wbe.travel has dedicated its efforts in delivering to its clients quality software products and services, constant innovation according to the ongoing trends, having in mind the ever-changing travel market.
At wbe.travel we use the latest technologies for all the backend modules and database. The entire solution is hosted on Microsoft Azure and is designed with speed, scalability and high traffic in mind. The infrastructure is designed to have maximum resilience, security, and reliability, to enable online access to real-time information 24/7 and serve clients all around the world.
How do we redesign tourism for a sustainable future?
What do you miss most? Weeks spent on video calls has made everyone just as accessible, so long as they have an internet connection. But lockdown means everyone is out of reach, however far away they are. As parts of the world start to open up again, and we are allowed to go short distances from our homes, will this create more appreciation for what is on our doorstep, or a greater yearning to explore further?
Domestic tourism will open up first. But as places further afield become technically available, will we rush to them, or be less enthralled? For decades tourism’s story has been about selling the dream of distance – the lure of the exotic, far away place. Are we about to enter a new phase where we cherish what is nearest, and held most dear?
How do we redesign tourism to support our changing relationship with cities?
The ‘bustling market’ was for long the most overused of tourist clichés. Will it now be something to avoid, rather than seek out? Cities are reclaiming their own streets, widening pavements, creating bike lanes and walkways while removing on street parking. People resented over-tourism a couple of years ago. How will they perceive large groups of foreigners now?
How do we redesign tourism to support our changing relationship with work?
Is the era of the office over? For people who can work anywhere, will they always work at home? Is this the dawn of the digital nomad? Will people leave the city in their millions, seeking the peace and space of the countryside?
If workers leave the cities for the countryside, how do rural areas change? How do cities change as a result? And what impact does all this have on how and where we go on holiday?
Will the five day week remain the norm, or will shifts to shorter, more flexible working accelerate? How might that change the dynamics of our holiday choices?
How do we redesign tourism to support our changing relationship with money?
How will a reduction in disposable income change tourism? What happens if flights become considerably more expensive, and perhaps hotels too, if their capacity has reduced?
After several months with reduced opportunities to spend and more time at home, will people choose to work doubly hard and spend the rewards on expensive holidays, or seek out the simpler pleasures of a slower, simpler life?
How do we redesign tourism to support our reconnection with nature?
In the boiled frog experiment you slowly turn up the heat and the poor animal doesn’t notice the change. Over the decades the ever-increasing noise of modern life and its pollutants erased birdsong and mountain views from our lives. Over the last few weeks they have reappeared. But as the noise and pollution returns, will we accept the loss of nature for a second time? Or can tourism help preserve these connections?
How do we redesign tourism to support communities who became over reliant on it?
Tourism has long touted its contribution to GDP as a mark of its importance. For countries such as the Maldives where tourism accounts for more than a third of its income, its removal is all the more devastating. Where communities have no alternative income sources to fall back upon, they suffer unimaginably. Compare this to places where tourism has been developed as a supplementary source of income. Will they be more resilient? Will those communities less reliant on tourism be more ready to welcome it back?
How do we redesign tourism to support communities reliant on long haul?
Most tourism will restart domestically, and then expand further afield. There may of course be exceptions to this – where citizens from countries such as New Zealand are welcome across the world by other countries that have also managed to contain low outbreaks. But as a rule, it will be harder, in particular for countries who relied on high spending inbound guests from wealthier economies, especially where such tourism is essential to finance conservation. Should support be prioritised for these countries?
How do we redesign tourism to support everyone?
What impact will the measures being put in place to respond to concerns over infection have on guests with accessibility needs? As we redesign our infrastructure and procedures to separate and protect everyone, how can we ensure they don’t further marginalise and exclude specific groups?
How do we redesign tourism to support our ability to face disasters still to come?
Since the beginning of March, Vanuatu has been hit by tropical storm Harold. Devastating locust storms are ravaging Kenya and east Africa. There are fears that this will be one of “the most active hurricane seasons on record.”
The response to the COVID-19 crisis has seen countless examples of solidarity and repurposing across our industry to support the communities where we operate. Will these acts be forgotten once the focus is on opening back up, or will we find space to learn from them to improve our preparedness for whatever comes next?