We all know it as the evidence is mounting up. The world has changed in many ways since the advent of the pandemic and is still being shaken up by the knock-on effects of the Russia/Ukraine war, so much so that travel may never be quite the same again, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. The UK, which I travelled to recently, has also had the after-effects of Brexit to deal with and I saw evidence of this when I was there. So for those who may be travelling there soon, I thought I might share a couple of observations. For the first time in many years, the UK and Britain are experiencing inflation and this is reflected in some fairly empty shelves even at large outlets like the famed Marks and Spencer, where many of the renowned European brands are simply not available and choices are certainly more limited than in the past. The UK’s energy costs have also been driven so high that they make our ESKOM increases look moderate and this is hitting business and the average household hard.
Certain aspects of travel are positive
On the positive side, since I travelled to the UK in January certain things have improved and I certainly did not experience any drop in service levels in the hospitality industry, as many of the people involved are not Brits and able to work for a minimal wage despite the inflation. From a documentation point of view there is already a relaxing of COVID compliance and I experienced a lot less friction with PCRs and other COVID related protocol, so for travellers the experience is already much more traveller-friendly than it was. Overall, I would have to say that things are looking far more positive for international travel in general.
Flight pricing is a challenge
One great challenge we are currently facing, however, is increased airfares. Obviously with the fuel price being driven sky high and the knock that the airlines have all had to bear over the past 2 years taking its toll in other areas too, flights both locally and internationally are far fewer than usual and fares are currently very high. We have to remember that there are still less travellers too at this point, so airlines have to be selective with their flights. Just one example is that South African flights to and from London have currently been reduced from eight a day to three!
Book and Plan ahead
One of the consequences of the pandemic is that many trained staff, both in the airlines and other sectors of the hospitality industry had to be made redundant. Naturally, these people turned their eyes to other means of survival and now the travel industry needs to re-train people to ensure they can operate effectively and at their usual standards. There is a trade-off between increased numbers generating more income and the feasibility of onboarding new personnel. It stands to reason, therefore, that what will really help to get tourism back to its usual standards and levels of operation is advanced bookings.
Businesses and leisure travellers alike can greatly assist if they can plan trips well in advance and travel professionals will be only too happy to work with them to do this. There is no need either to be wary of booking and then suddenly facing another wave of COVID as airlines and all hospitality venues have, since the advent of the pandemic, given grace to those who had to change travel plans and offer refunds or at least postponement of the booking.
Tolerance and working with TMCs will pave the way
There are many positive signs now for the return of normal travel activity and service levels, but we still need to be cognisant of the numerous challenges facing an industry that really took a beating in recent times. I appeal for tolerance and working closely with TMCs who can plan and book well in advance for you or your business, all of which will help us to remain committed to making travel as safe, seamless and pleasurable as possible.
As always – be safe and positive – and keep the wanderlust alive!LIDIA FOLLI
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER