Comment: Personal service will win in a post-pandemic world
Justin Bowman joined ACS in 1992 and became group chief executive in 2013. He is a key member of the group's boards and was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Aeronautical Society in 2016
The pandemic has transformed the travel landscape beyond all recognition over the past 18 months. As a result, these transformations will drive more luxury travellers to recognise and value the intellectual, personal service that high-end travel agents and private aviation companies provide. This is because they confront three key issues that are now affecting many travellers: a lack of confidence, a lack of options and a lack of time.
The lack of confidence stems mainly from ever-changing travel restrictions resulting in unprecedented and often unpredictable commercial flight cancellations. This is compounded by hygiene fears surrounding commercial airline travel by those who are still nervous about socialising. We believe this will drive them to travel agents for quality advice on how and where to travel with confidence, as well as private aviation to ensure social distancing.
Airline routes and schedules have changed dramatically and will take a number of years to return to normal, leaving customers with a lack of options compared to the pre-pandemic world. Customers’ preferred airlines may no longer be available when they want to fly and they will be looking to travel agents to advise on alternatives.
“There were two clear themes emerging during conversations with attendees about what their clients desired: personal service and private aviation.”
The decline in business travel due to the pandemic will inevitably reduce the number of business and first-class seats further over the next few years and airlines will offer fewer flights as a result. This will fuel a drive in private aviation from the 90% of high-net-worth individuals who can afford it but have never used it.
Finally, lockdowns have given everyone the chance to contemplate how scarce a resource our time is. High-end travellers want to make up for the time they feel they’ve lost and will be looking for the most rewarding itineraries that make the best use of the limited time they have available. This will mean complex schedules and, consequently, expert knowledge.
We’ve already seen a surge in interest with a 25% growth in new customers last year and we have been working with more luxury travel companies than ever before. We’ve also seen an incredible uptake of our webinars, designed to educate travel professionals on the process of selling private aviation solutions to their clients, over the past few months. There were two clear themes emerging during conversations with attendees about what their clients desired: personal service and private aviation.