‘That might bring back the need for human interaction and contact with a travel agent,’ Banfield notes.
Marshall responded by agreeing there would be an increased need for information, quick answers and trust that someone could help them in the event of any issues.
He says human interaction and technology will both play their part.
‘I do believe there will be a certain amount of work for off-line travel agents, where travellers go to the person they know who booked their trip and can help them.
‘But they may not have all the information so there will be other self-help services that can provide the solution. We (Expedia) have a call centre, chat and a virtual agent that a lot of people like.’
He points out that Expedia has a number of partners – OTAs and others – who use its systems to help them get answers for customers.
‘We need as an industry to ensure that we have policies and standards that allow customers to feel comfortable with the changes that may happen and that the needs they have can be addressed.
‘There will be people who prefer to talk to a travel agent and those who would rather go on online and use the phone or the computer to get some of the information can take away a lot of stress.’
Five years to get back to 2019 levels, says SPTO
The Pacific will take about five years to get tourism back to pre-Covid levels, says Chris Cocker, CEO of the South Pacific Tourism Organisation. He described tourism in the region as being at a ‘complete standstill.’
‘Some destinations have opened up, like the Cook Islands and French Polynesia, and they experienced very good results. But because of changes (in the pandemic) they have now closed or greatly reduced the numbers arriving. Fiji is reopening the border on 1 November and Samoa and Vanuatu are actively planning to reopen.
‘But for the majority of our members, the smaller countries, the opening is a long way away.’ He says this applies to the countries with vulnerable populations and often remote locations. ‘The border reopening will be strongly related to how well vaccination programmes are rolled out.’