Claude Blanc, Portfolio Director for the WTM Portfolio, shares what we should be doing now and what to expect as a result of COVID-19.
What is the importance of travel and tourism trade shows such as World Travel Market (WTM)?
WTM is about connecting people to ideas, inspiration, and opportunities. Through six annual B2B events across four continents, and all year-round content and digital tools, we create the best opportunities for travel industry professionals to connect, learn and do business.
Every year, our trade shows connect 110 000 industry professionals from 182 countries, offering unrivalled commercial opportunities and facilitate the generation of over $7bn of industry deals.
What are the key challenges as a result of COVID-19 for the travel and tourism industry?
We are experiencing a life event and that will change consumer psychology and business practices for a generation. Because this global pandemic has disproportionately impacted the travel industry, our industry will be the most heavily challenged moving forward. During this time, we must have reserved optimism and confidence in our products, services and people. There will be restrictions, some mandated others demanded, that will change the face of the travel ecosystem.
And the key opportunities?
Innovation around new technology a new process will be a no-brainer. I can see at least five areas showing huge opportunities for the travel and tourism industry:
- enhancing passenger experience with augmented reality & virtual reality
- making security seamless with artificial intelligence
- personalising passenger journeys with wearables and IoT
- automating actions with voice and robotics
- hassle-free experiences with biometric technology
What should travel and tourism professionals be doing to protect their business during the COVID-19 pandemic?
- Scenario planning is critical – be prepared and ready for the recovery, so you can quickly adapt to market changes and needs
- Communication is key – spend time with your team members and your clients
- Investing in learning is vital – for yourself and your teams.
What do you think travel and tourism will look like post COVID-19?
I don’t think there will be any revolution within the travel and tourism industry. There will certainly be a severe concentration, as many companies will sadly collapse, but new players will appear, and some mega trends will be re-enforced:
- A greater awareness of climate change and the need for sustainable development
- A wave of inclusion where travel brands are leveraging new technology to become accessible for all visitors regardless of age and ability.
- Consumers will increasingly be seeking travel inspiration from mainstream social media channels
- Super apps will be confirmed as a major phenomenon thanks to high smartphone penetration and consumers seeking ultimate convenience
- Online travel activity will continue growing exponentially and there are substantial opportunities for technical innovation
- Tech hub infrastructure and start-ups in the travel space will help move the tourism industry into the digital age and offer distinct travel experiences.
In addition, the ‘new normal’ will include:
- temperature, heart rate and breathing rate monitoring alongside the old security checks.at airports and trains stations, before entering events
- new seat configurations on airplanes and trains
- social distancing in restaurants and hotels,
- new cleaning protocols and technologies at every point in the travel experience
- acceleration of artificial intelligence and robotics.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE
How has travelling changed your life?
I am privileged enough having been working in the travel industry for over 30 years and sharing experiences and lasting memories over five continents. So, this has brought quality and depth of life, the ability to speak more than one language and invaluable personal and professional contacts with hundreds of people all over the world.
I am reminded by Gustave Flaubert words, “Travel makes you modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world”
Travel opens your mind, your heart and the door for new friends and business partners.
Claude Blanc has an impressive track record of more than 25 years in top management roles across the travel trade and hospitality industry. On taking the helm in October 2018 Claude said his mission is to increase the scale of the WTM Portfolio “through innovation and new launches”.
Owned by the world’s leading exhibition organiser, Reed Exhibitions, WTM Portfolio includes WTM London, Travel Forward, the International Travel & Tourism Awards, WTM Africa, Arabian Travel Market and WTM Latin America.
Mostly recently, Claude was Chief Executive Officer at Paris-based Travel & Co, a tour operating group he founded in 2007. Before that, he was Digital Travel Director at TUI Group, and has held senior posts with a leading online travel agency in France; travel management company Rosenbluth International; and timeshare exchange company RCI. He has also worked with successful French travel start-ups such as Karavel-Promovacances and Orchestra.