Good riddance 2021 and cause for optimism in 2022?
The year is fast ‘drawing to a close’ and already I can hear the engines finally beginning to ‘rev up’ in the airline sector. Hearing airlines coming out of administration, receiving requests for marketing campaigns, and bumping into an excited GSA at WTM telling me that many airlines are tendering for business, gives a lot of hope for 2022. We desperately need airlines to make the magic happen in both leisure and business travel. Without airlines, destinations are left helpless for tourism. I feel this newfound optimism amongst our airline partners has been the first big sign that travel confidence is beginning to resume. So it’s really annoying to find the virus back with yet another wave of concern for many in the industry.
We all started the year with great hope… but it was just hope. We just couldn’t imagine a year could be worse than 2020. Then lockdown in the UK seemed to come again without warning in January. We could literally feel the trade’s shoulders slump. The news of vaccines was a welcome relief, but it’s taken all year to roll out against a background of confusion about whether people could travel or not.
During the entire pandemic, I have had the privilege of talking to travel people all around the world. I regularly speak to people, who work in Tourist Boards, Airlines, Hotels, Representation companies, and Attractions. I also have weekly calls with our marketing reps in Australia, USA, Germany, Netherlands, Nordics, and France. As such, I end up with quite a balanced view of lockdowns, vaccine take-up rates, and rates of tourism recovery. It doesn’t take an Einstein to see that the world’s recovery will be uneven. Australia is only just coming out of lockdown and Germany has extended its furlough support to next spring! The PATA dinner I attended at WTM week announced that they have teamed up with UNESCO. They have all been concerned about the uneven distribution of vaccines, so have pledged to help with the distribution given their incredible aid networks.
World Travel Market was a wonderful marker of a potential return to normality. Whilst many people couldn’t attend and we ran around on Monday trying to film our partner’s trade messages, the vibe was very upbeat. I was greeted in every which way.. elbow bumps, fist pumps, air kisses, real cheek kisses, full-on cuddles, waves, and one fully masked socially distant hello. I didn’t quite know what to expect next. It’s always been a two-kiss hello for travel colleagues. That aside, everyone I met was positively gearing up for 2022 and deciding it’s time to ‘live’ with this Covid nuisance.
Back at OTT, this view of optimism during WTM was further supported as our Account Managers reported the busiest time all year. They were experiencing lots of activity in updating courses and booking marketing. The next peak for marketing bookings is set for Spring. In fact, Spring featured a lot with people’s ideas for campaigns, restarts, and relaunches. Our Production Manager, Sid, now has a queue for course launches and is doing his best to get through them.
OTT tech development has continued during 2021 and we have further improved our website refreshing it with a new look and feel and upgrading our servers to counter the slower speeds we were experiencing earlier in the year due to increased users. As product training has moved to become essential for the remote trade to keep up to date with important information, virtual events have also emerged as a key way of messaging. So we are excited to soon launch our ‘virtual classrooms’ and ‘Quiz event’ tech for suppliers to engage with the trade in 2022.
The #greattravelrecovery, which holds so much promise, can only be ‘great’ if we all work together as an industry and pray that our government leaders will work together as a globe to restart tourism economies. We are in a unique position at OTT where we can literally help facilitate cooperation with joint marketing campaigns, introductions, and publishing helpful course content from partners. In a world where you can’t often trust what you read, you can at OTT. I’m proud that all our travel partners write their own courses and keep them as up-to-date as they can so that the trade can rely on this information to be true. This places OTT as an authentic place of knowledge and you should be proud to be a part of it.. whether you are learning or teaching. This knowledge will encourage travelers, inspire trade and get bookings made so countries recover. Wishing you all a very happy festive period as we look forward to a new year where travel begins to resume regardless.