Most BPO providers will concede that 2020 has not been the best year for their organizations’ interaction volumes related to travel clients. Indeed, it is hard to identify a vertical that has been as hard hit by the COVID19 pandemic as that one. Virtually all travel’s subsegments faced catastrophic results over the past 9 months. It has been so challenging that some outsourcers would be understandably tempted to simply abandon efforts to win clients in that space. This though would be short-sighted. There is every reason to believe that new opportunities will emerge for travel-related BPO deals, and possibly sooner rather than later. It is in this spirit that the third-party CX community needs to assess where potential new business will come from in this industry, and target prospects with a renewed value proposition.
Granted, the pandemic has hit enterprises providing virtually all tourism or hospitality functions. Nearly every week since it began, there have been media reports of airlines seeing systematic drops in business, hotels facing hardship, and restaurants of all sizes and sorts scraping by to survive. The story is even worse when considering those working in travel that have been financially displaced during 2020.
Against this backdrop, anecdotal evidence collected during discussions with BPO executives suggests that volumes related to supporting the travel sector have plummeted through the pandemic. Many outsourcers have sought to re-assign workstations to alternative industries that have shown resilience or growth during COVID19, to minimize disruption to their revenues. And, while this makes sense for now, smart providers will also keep an eye on the long run. In so doing, they should be scoping new opportunities among travel prospects.
Optimism for a bounce-back in travel stems in large part from reports that there will soon be a credible vaccine against COVID19. This is having a direct impact on the forecasts that many organizations are making in terms of improved anticipated performance for companies in the travel space. For example, on the assumption of a vaccine roll out and reductions in border closures, the IATA is expecting a rise in the number of air passengers through 2021. Should this scenario occur, the knock-on effect that will drive up hotel traffic and diners in restaurants will be notable. There is every reason to think this will be case, especially with pent-up demand for business and leisure travel palpable among consumers.
This is why forward-looking BPO executives should be planning how to service a renewed travel sector in 2021 and beyond. If a positive vaccine scenario plays out then transport providers, hotel chains and all other travel subsegments will face pressure managing surging consumer demand. Front-line functions will be stretched, as travel vendors seek to handle growing interaction levels with captive customer experience capacity that have been gutted during the pandemic. The impact of a rapid return to even a significant share of pre-COVID19 travel activity will place a major strain on contact centers in this vertical.
Outsourcers need to earnestly lay their commercial groundwork with companies across the travel ecosystem, in order to be the first port of call when demand rebounds. The reality is that airlines are already planning for a post-pandemic scenario. The idea of a health travel passport is gaining steam. Carriers including QANTAS are already stating that they will not accept passengers without proof of immunization. The chance for BPOs to seize the day in travel requires aggressive relationship–building with CX managers in that sector. Strategic planning to help manage post-pandemic vaccine demand in the travel industry should begin now.