Rick Blatstein is the CEO and founder of the innovative airport hospitality group OTG†
It’s no secret that Covid-19 had a significant effect on the airline industry. The future of air travel has changed as we know it. How can air travel become a more human experience while coping with rising demand? The answer is continuous innovation to ensure a traveler’s experience is stress-free and enjoyable from the moment they check in. Below are my predictions about the future of airport travel after Covid and beyond.
After the pandemic, travelers are recognizing the importance of contactless technology. This is not only for ease of access and efficiency, but also for their safety, as keeping a safe distance from others can help reduce the chance of spreading viruses.
In the future, I expect contactless check-in and mobile ordering after security will gain popularity and become the norm in airports around the world. For travelers experiencing a language barrier, contactless technology can help bridge that gap by translating into their native language. On the business side, it also helps operational efficiency: queues and waiting times for purchasing convenience items can be shortened, increasing customer service satisfaction. The pandemic has really enabled the world to rethink the way we use technology and the role it plays in our lives, particularly in regards to its benefits to the travel and hospitality industry.
Increase in Business Travel/Bleisure
After surviving a global pandemic, personal contact is more important than ever for travelers. I expect an increase in business travel, especially ‘bleisure’ travel (a combination of business and leisure). People need connection, and while virtual meetings are here to stay, nothing can replace that quality of personal time when it comes to closing a business deal or building closer relationships with your colleagues.
As we begin to see an increase in in-person conferences, more employees are deciding to save money on a vacation by extending their business trips to allow for some relaxation and fun after a long week. Employees can even bring the family after the work event to enjoy local sights, activities, or shopping experiences. If the children come along, that also saves childcare, which is a double bonus.
More traffic and more delays
At the height of the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of aviation workers around the world lost their jobs. With restrictions beginning to lift, many airports around the world are struggling to hire enough staff quickly to meet the demand of the influx of travelers. However, we have been lucky in this department thanks to our exceptional recruiting team and are fully staffed across the country.
In addition, we are starting to see more and more airports around the world undergoing major renovations to accommodate more traffic. However, aircraft are not being built fast enough due to supply chain issues, and we are experiencing a pilot shortage in North America leading to increased delays and extra time at airports when flights are cancelled. By making the airport experience humane, you can ensure that when these unexpected delays occur, the long waits are pleasant.
Why doesn’t your holiday have to start until you arrive at the hotel? Airport technology innovation is progressing at a rapid pace. This means that, despite the growing pains, we will continue to see improvements year after year in check-in technology, facial recognition software and mobile/app improvements, which will make travel not only easier but more enjoyable.