By Johan Lundgren, CEO, easyJet
Last year was the toughest year the aviation and travel industry has ever faced – never before could we have imagined an 11-week grounding, or the travel restrictions imposed across Europe, but I am proud of the way easyJet has responded robustly and decisively to the challenges of the pandemic. We will emerge from this crisis leaner and more efficient so we are positioned to bounce back quickly when demand returns.
And it will return. People value their holiday, seeing their friends, exploring new places, or revisiting their favourite cities. We know there is huge pent-up demand for travel because we see that every time restrictions are lifted.
More than that, in 2021 there is an opportunity to build aviation back better. This means building back even better and stronger for our customers and our people and also building back more sustainably. We know from previous downturns that leisure travel will return first and this will start with short-haul leisure travel.
We launched easyJet holidays just months before the pandemic arrived and we started taking our first holiday customers away in January 2020. We then quickly found ourselves having to launch a major repatriation operation. As a new business with a small and lean team, easyJet holidays was able to adapt well and respond quickly. We were able to refund customers, put future seasons on sale early and support customers to rebook their holidays. We were also able to introduce new tools, such as a chatbot, to help customers with their many questions during this uncertain time. And we overhauled our standard booking terms with the launch of the easyJet holidays Protection Promise to offer customers even more flexibility and reassurance.
We’ve recently marked easyJet holidays’ first birthday in the same month that we celebrated easyJet’s 25th birthday. We have big ambitions for our holidays business, and while we may have had to put a temporary hold on some of our plans, such as expanding to other markets beyond the UK, we look forward to taking even more people away on well-deserved holidays in 2021 and beyond.
In terms of business travel, although it is predicted to take longer to recover, we know that business customers will gravitate towards value and so, with our network connecting Europe’s main business hubs, we are well placed to get a larger slice of the pie when business customers return to the skies.
We also know that consumers are increasingly concerned about the environmental impact when they fly and so building back more sustainably is ever more important to our customers. We are the first and only major airline to operate fully carbon neutral flying on all flights through offsetting and a leading catalyst for technological change so we can start to move towards zero emissions technology.
It not only makes business sense with those customers aware of our offsetting showing increased levels of satisfaction, but it is the right thing to do. So, despite the pandemic, we remain absolutely committed to operating sustainably.
I am optimistic about 2021. The vaccine is the key and it will unlock our ability to travel. People had taken this for granted before the pandemic, but it will be valued and treasured once again.
Our core strengths remain unaffected by the crisis and in fact will be even more important in the months to come – passengers will travel with companies they trust where they get reliable service and great value to the places they want to go to.
The reasons that people travel have not changed – they want to see loved ones, take a holiday, explore somewhere new, enjoy some sunshine and we are ready and waiting to take them there in 2021.
By Marc Dardenne, COO, Accor Luxury Brands in Europe
The travel and hospitality industries have felt the impact of the coronavirus enormously. However, we have seen hoteliers across the spectrum, from budget to luxury, pivot effectively to adapt to this new way of being. So, what are some of the key themes that have been encouraging guests back to hotels during the pandemic and what is the outlook for the hospitality industry and luxury hotels? We believe more and more guests will return to luxury hotels in 2021.
One of the major themes that has arisen from this time of crisis is that nothing is more important than personal health and safety. We anticipate that health and safety across the board will continue to be a key driver in encouraging guests back to hotels.
In line with this theme, 75 per cent of consumers say they would feel comfortable staying in a hotel where they can rely on high standards of cleanliness and professional staff. Therefore, hoteliers must go above and beyond government guidelines for their health and safety offerings.
And many hotels have done just that, taking a further step in advancing their health and safety offering for guests. Accor responded quickly in the UK and across the globe, taking actions to support our partners, teams and communities. Accor developed some of the most stringent cleaning standards and operational protocols in the world of hospitality. The ALLSAFE global cleanliness and prevention standards were developed with and vetted by Bureau Veritas, a world leader in testing, inspections and certification.
Guests of Accor’s 5,000 hotels worldwide can also now access AXA’s telemedicine consultations and on the ground medical support when they travel. Other hotels have gone further to ensure travel confidence. For example, Sofitel London Heathrow offers a ‘Test & Rest’ package, meaning guests can take a self-administered COVID test during their stay included in the price.
Growth in Luxury and Lifestyle in 2021
During the latest coronavirus lockdown, the luxury segment suffered in line with the broader industry, however we think that the sector has a lot to look forward to in 2021. In the long term we expect to see it profit from travellers seeking excellent accommodation and experiences and for there to be a rise in guests overall.
A key feeder for the expected rise in travel numbers will be multiple short trips complimenting luxury long-haul. 2020 inspired travellers to embrace local and domestic travel and relish inter-regional experiences, crossing local borders. We have seen, and expect to see more, increased spend on high-end short breaks. While we expect long-haul to remain and regain its appeal, we expect 2021 will see a rise of multi-trip and multi-destination travel – shorter trips, but more of them.
Alongside this increased interest in high-end stays, we see the broader trend towards lifestyle-orientated hotels growing in 2021. While many cultural events such as concerts and nightlife events are not going to be able to take place, potentially even into 2022, hotels are increasingly becoming the lifestyle hub of travel, providing experiences, excellent culinary concepts and a buzz that reflects our guests’ personalities.
Workspitality has been a rising hotel and lifestyle trend in 2020 and one that will continue in 2021 and likely beyond. Millions of people are adapting to new ways of working. ‘Working from Home’ has long been considered a goal for businesses, but these last few months show that ‘Working From Anywhere’, including home and hotel working, is a more practical and mindful approach to flexible working. Workspitality or ‘Hotel Office’ offers a flexible way to help both employees and businesses start to create a ‘new normal’ and move forward positively.
The decisive factor in encouraging travel to return remains the provision of exceptional quality and service. Last year reminded us of the need for human interaction, for connections and experiences – true hospitality is all of these things. It is our people, our spaces and our experiences that define our industry and it is this that guests will return for.