Five Questions About Flexibility in the Travel Sector, Answered by Industry Experts

The Travel, Transportation, and Hospitality team at DataArt recently hosted a webinar, “Bringing Flexibility to Travel Companies,” the latest one in an ongoing series covering travel industry trends, technology, and thought leadership. In this post, we chose TOP-5 questions discussed in the webinar and summed up the opinions of our experts.
8 min read
01/21/21
By Alina Khodyakova
Marketing Specialist Travel, Transportation & Hospitality
Share
Five Questions About Flexibility in the Travel Sector, Answered by Industry Experts

This time, Greg Abbott, the head of DataArt’s Travel Practice, was joined by travel and hospitality sectors experts to discuss how companies in the sector manage to survive and preserve flexibility as the industry struggles to weather the current climate. Our honored guests were Flo Lugli, Founder and Principal at Navesink Advisory Group, Mitch Gross, Revenue Consultant and Managing Director at Twelve Squared Growth, and Guido Becher, Head of Travel at Rappi.

Watch the webinar, “Bringing Flexibility to Travel Companies,” on YouTube or find the highlights of the conversation below.

Question 1: Is this true that companies that had invested in resilient technology platforms are in a better position for recovery?

The experts agreed unanimously. Flo Lugli noted that the definition of resilient technology is changing. Historically, it has been about stability, scalability and redundancy. While these qualities are still very important, flexibility and nimbleness needs to be built into a company’s tech stack and architecture.

Flo Luigli
Over the last 6-7 months, we’ve seen the need to quickly react, fish where the fish are biting and, even change business models in order to take care of some short-term opportunities to drive revenue. You need to marry that with a resilient business, processes, and capabilities.
Flo Luigli Founder and Principal at Navesink Advisory Group

To illustrate the case, Lugli mentioned a Chinese car rental company, which suffered from huge revenue decrease in the first months of the pandemic. The company decided to invest in additional tools for segmentation and social listening to develop new use cases for public transportation. Then, they redeployed their technology to offer rideshares instead of car rental services.

Guido Becher approached the concept of resilience from technology and infrastructure perspectives. “The more a company is prepared for turmoil on the back- and front-end sides, the more flexible it remains in the new normal realities,” Becher said.

Mitch Gross explained that he looks at resilience in three ways: technically, financially, and emotionally. It refers to “how you, as a company leader, keep everyone's heads and hearts in the game, seeing through the end, without being overly optimistic to the point where no one believes you anymore.” Gross used Travel and Transport, a large travel management company headquartered in North America, as an example. This company changed their database structure and remained organizationally agile. This allowed Travel and Transport to rotate its staff and onboard new technologies quickly, even within an individual project.

Question 2: Because of the crisis, the travel industry saw tremendous brain drain. How do companies manage to create new, more nimble environments with fewer staff?

Mitch Gross suggested that companies move toward elastic IT and mobile resources. Relying on a remote outsourcing vendor gives companies the opportunity for mobility.

Flo Luigli
From a cost perspective, when you look at bigger organizations expenses on recruiting, onboarding, dealing with turnover, which have increased quite a bit, there is a lot more that goes into the expense side of the equation with having full-time staff that you can weigh off against more outsourced relationships. The key to success here, I think, is having the right company. They need to be a virtual member of your team, understand your culture, be willing to constructively challenge and really be like virtual employees. It's not just code for hire.
Mitch Gross Revenue Consultant and Managing Director at Twelve Squared Growth

Flo Lugli talked about how skill requirements have evolved since the pandemic, and how they will likely continue to evolve in the years to come. “The key to success in a world where everyone is a “virtual employee” is right-skilling, not right-sizing,” Lugli said. With an increased push toward remote work, the ability to avoid distractions is an increasingly valuable skill.

Lugli said:

Flo Luigli
Historically, we have had people with specific skills or expertise. Now, we have to think about collective skills. The idea is that you minimize risk to the business if one person leaves the operation by making sure that the skills are distributed. It certainly forces a more collaborative business environment.
Flo Luigli Founder and Principal at Navesink Advisory Group

Mitch Gross endorsed this view, saying that yet another new vital skill would be to onboard people and quickly create cohesive teams. Organization leaders will need firm social skills to put people together and set them in the right direction.

DataArt is proud to be a trusted technology partner for many companies in the travel, transportation, and hospitality domain. If you are looking for a strategic partner for your organization, we would be happy to offer our services to you.   

Get in touch with Travel & Hospitality experts at DataArt

Question 3: Do you think companies that are positioned with better processes and procedures are going to leapfrog over other ones?

According to Flo Lugli, having the right processes and communication repeatable is important, but companies should be able to balance good processes and documentation with the ability to challenge the status quo.

Rigidity is a major biggest risk here. As processes become increasingly standardized, they also become more difficult to adjust. As Guido Becher put it, having the processes in place is important, but if you cannot change them fast – be it the technology or HR strategy – and it becomes an additional problem.

Question 4: Which best practices do companies need for dealing with this new paradigm of flexibility – either on the technology or the operational front?

Guido Becher gave an example of what he and his team did when they launched a new travel business in Latin America in March 2020.

Guido Becher
We pivoted very fast and took advantage of the technology we already had: the integration to loyalty programs. We realized that people were not going to travel, but we wanted to remain relevant to them and keep our team motivated not to lose talent. So we invented a way to have transactions inside the system.
Guido Becher Head of Travel at Rappi

His company, Rappi, allowed users to exchange the miles and points accumulated in the app after traveling for credits to buy groceries, medications, or other goods and services. Taking existing technological capabilities and redirecting them is an excellent example of incremental innovations that modern companies in the travel domain can easily implement.

Flo Lugli mentioned that this crisis forced many companies to increase collaboration between their business and the IT organizations, as well as understand the other’s challenges and structure. If funds are limited, prioritizing areas for investment is a best practice that can be implemented easily and affordably.

Mitch Gross
I always say, if everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority. We have to create some discipline in the way we approach investments: What is it that we're going to be able to do? What is going to have a highest return in the shortest period of time?
Flo Luigli Founder and Principal at Navesink Advisory Group

Data and analytics are also growing in popularity among companies that are looking to catch up on the innovations front. Data is the greatest asset for almost every company, but most of them do not treat it that way. Now is the time for these companies to leverage the data to make the right decisions and produce the right offers. Flo Lugli insisted that companies should move on from historical reports to “what-if” scenarios by quickly acquiring and analyzing data. She used one of her clients as an example of the company that was able to achieve this:

“One of my clients implemented a tool that allowed them, when they were doing their revenue management, to say, if a Big Ten game is cancelled, or if a hurricane hits, what the potential impact on the hotels in the area is going to be,” Lugli said.

Many companies are already using their data to run hypothetical scenarios and the trend is only going to become more popular. As a technology vendor, DataArt helps companies evolve into insight-driven organizations by leveraging modern technologies for data management and advanced analytics.

Question 5: Do you know companies in the industry that remained single-threaded in their focus—that is, making one item their objective over the course of a few months?

Guido Becher quoted Philip Wolf, Founder of PhocusWright and DataArt’s Advisor, who once said that crisis is a great opportunity to do something that you usually do not have a bandwidth for. During this crisis, many companies realized that the flexible technologies they have been discussing for years were still not implemented. This presented an opportunity to slow down and prioritize the technologies in the pipeline. For instance, the company Guido used to work for was downsized and had very few customers during the first months of the pandemic, so the team focused on upgrading their technology, which had been lagging for several months. As things got back to normal, the company found itself in a much better situation.

Flo Lugli mentioned that large companies usually have competing priorities, but are able to withstand long-term effects because of their access to capital. Once that funding runs out, only larger companies that maintain a startup mindset will be able to survive. Mitch Gross agreed that only those companies whose cultures favor moving fast and prioritize the right things would remain flexible. 

Wrap-up

The experts agreed that the current crisis in the travel industry was an opportunity for companies to develop their technological capabilities and adopt a more flexible approach. The DataArt team has helped numerous companies in the travel and hospitality domains stay nimble and agile thanks to modern technological solutions that we design and build in-house. If you are looking for an in-depth technological expertise and travel domain knowledge, contact us.

Sign Up for Updates!

Subscribe now to receive industry-related articles and updates

Choose industries of interest
Thank You for Joining!

You will receive regular updates based on your interests. No spam guaranteed

Add another email address
READ MORE
Sign Up for Updates!
Choose industries of interest
Thank You for Joining!

You will receive regular updates based on your interests. No spam guaranteed

Add another email address
Welcome
We are glad you found us
Please explore our services and find out how we can support your business goals.
Get in Touch Envelope
DataArt-Com-Retail-Report.png
Download the white paper Glancing Forward into 2021: An Industry by Industry Outlook

Explore digital trends and unanticipated benefits engendered by the pandemic, which are likely to last in 2021.