Tuesday 11 January 2022, the annual Travel Congress kicks off a new year of travel at Jaarbeurs Utrecht.
Travel Congress recently spoke with keynote speaker Rafat Ali, Skift CEO, to hear more about his keynote, what he feels is impacting the travel, tourism, and hospitality sector, and what opportunities are ahead of us now the industry is approaching the rebuild phase.
Skift is a travel media company founded by Rafat Ali in 2012. The global business information brand provides global coverage of news, research, and conferences to surprise and delight the travel industry with fresh forward-thinking. Each year in January, Skift releases its annual Megatrends, identifying and interpreting key trends for the travel industry.
When we talk about going from 0 to 100 again, we must recognize the current state of the travel industry. What are the significant changes you have seen?
‘’One of the things that have changed with COVID are the booking windows and booking patterns. People are booking more last minute and want flexibility. A lot of the predictive historical travel data was not relevant over the past months. Now the world comes back to normal it becomes important to understand challenges when comparing new data. How do we prepare for the future in terms of planning and forecasting? That is where technology will continue to have a role to play. One of the other big challenges addressed pre-COVID is over-tourism. The question is how technology and platforms can enable people to move beyond the main tourism points. Spreading people around is one of the biggest roles tech can play to ensure there is less burden on certain parts.’’
Technology, the emerging needs for more safe travel, and of course changing consumer behavior have continued to change the way people travel. In a few words, what are your views on positive and promising change enablers?
‘’Seamless travel has been a dream of the travel industry for years now. I think we are close from a payment perspective, which is half the battle won. Mobile wallets and contactless payment accelerated during the pandemic. There is a lot of activity and innovation in the fin-tech space in travel, especially in online travel when people book through the online channels of tour operators and travel agencies. Fin-tech innovations that create a seamless journey help to innovate travel, whether used to enable mobile payment in local transport or improve a seamless transfer from one modality to another without extra charges.’’
You will be closing Travel Congress. What teaser can you give attendees, what are they about to discover through your keynote?
‘It is an exciting time with a lot of opportunities in travel. The position of travel in the world was segmented. To travel is a human need proven to be relevant so many times during the last months. Hopefully, COVID has made the travel industry an important and serious player on a policy level. Although it has been hard, it is very positive that currently, travel is higher on the political and global agenda of leaders across the world. I will talk about that first and then unveil the top megatrends 2022 that will shape the future of travel.’’