Thinking of the future

Thinking of the future

There are some big questions to consider as we here in the UK (largely with gritted teeth) settle further in to what will be weeks, and likely months, of isolation and a generally quieter existence and altogether different way of life.

What will be the lasting effects of this global phenomenon of a world largely on hold, and of profound enforced behavioural change at a collective and individual level?

When the great un-locking finally arrives (in whatever form that takes – immediate or gradual), will big lessons have been learned, with lasting attitudinal shifts, or will it usher in a return to business as usual, but with a vengeance?

Will there be a new normal, or will pent up frustrated demand for what was prohibited and rationed just reinforce the existing value systems?

Can the world use this unprecedented situation to unlearn bad habits, re-set some rules and by a combination of top down state intervention and new social pressures, do a few things differently in future?

We aren’t futurologists here at Designate – sadly – but we can predict a few things with some certainty.

There will be many people (myself included) who do want to see massive and permanent change in the way the world runs its affairs, a serious reappraisal of the proper role of the state, and a realignment of societal and economic rules for a more human, equitable and global society. But that’s for another blog…

For equally valid and good reasons, there will be a lot of people who will want things to return to the pre-Covid normality of just a few weeks ago.

They will want to socialise, meet friends, see their loved ones, reconnect, hug, kiss and…lots more besides.

They will want to go the shops – and not just the supermarket, but other physical retails spaces and experiences.

They will want physical entertainment after months of streaming, downloading, zooming, whatsapping and so on. They will want to see concerts live, go to football matches, see comedians, visit the theatre, cinema and opera.

They will want to live again.

And that includes travelling.

The business of business travel has, I suspect, irrevocably changed. The man behind Zoom is now the 182nd richest person on Earth, and his company’s valuation is 8 times that of British Airways’ parent company. Which is an apposite comparison, because BA’s world, like other airlines’, will never be the same. Climate change was already an existential challenge to the airline industry. A lot of people are going to travel for business a whole lot less in future.

Leisure travel too will change, if for different reasons.

The virtual alternatives which we are helping some of our clients with, in terms of ideas for their travel-frustrated customers, are fine for now, when there is no alternative. But there will be a massive pent up demand for the real thing, when it becomes possible again.

For those travel businesses that can weather this storm, and it won’t be all of them, in spite of ABTA’s efforts, the lockdown provides some breathing space to consider how they will protect, build and enhance their brand in order to be fighting fit in the new reality of 2021.

Whether we will all be able to get on a plane, train or ship for a holiday this summer, autumn or winter, we can be reasonably confident that it will be possible next year. We can already see customers moving their existing holiday dates on, having booked with brands that they trust.

Now is the time to focus on maintaining that trust, building confidence and preparing to re-enter the market with assurance and with your brand values front and centre.

Strong brands built on real values will survive and thrive.

And now that we are all starting to think a bit more about what really matters in life, here’s hoping that travel will become more meaningful again, with travel companies who mean it.

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