by Ioannis Settas (Athens, Greece)
The long awaited restart of aviation and tourism is getting closer. Vaccination rollouts, herd immunity and self-protection and distancing measures, are collectively creating promising conditions that will allow people to travel again.
But, of course, there are big challenges in relation to how we can envisage a return to so-called ‘normality’.
Let’s not pretend that things will automatically go back to where we left them more than a year ago. Neither should pessimistic views and scenarios be seen as self-fulfilling prophecies waiting to happen, simply because we can’t envision better alternatives.
The scars left from this pandemic on organizations are specific in relation to leadership, finance and business models. Business-as-usual is pretty much what everyone has in mind as the sign of a return to normality. But this will not happen for a long time.
What’s Coming Next?
We all need to adapt our businesses to the many new opportunities that lay in front of us. They will be driven by technological breakthroughs, shifting market demands and competition remapping. For example, now is the time for airports to embark on a higher tech journey inclusive of investment in private 5G networks that will lead to resource optimization as well as profit generation.
We need airports to become more operationally efficient and to reduce costs. Investing in digital innovation is how to do it – health passes and touchless passenger experiences are just two examples. Moreover, air travel will soon incorporate eVTOL aircraft technology into daily operations not only in vehicles but in related infrastructure as well. This will lead to new connections and services and affect demand and the way people travel.
Are business models ready to take advantage of this new reality by blending the current reality and future developments into sustainable, environmentally-friendly and financially-attractive scenarios that will attract investors?
It took the air transport industry more than six months to realize the financial consequences of the pandemic, and then team up to voice its concerns against the lack of coordinated, fair and substantial support from governments. Even today we are witnessing favoritism in terms of financial support from governmental bodies to companies.
Politics is always in play, but life has shown that industry-driven guidance to governments is key to creating rational policies and alternative solutions – both operationally and financially.
The Passenger Dilemma
Passengers are in a state of indecision. They can travel, but they do not know if they will be allowed to come back – and under what conditions. People need to feel comfortable in order to book their flight tickets. Pax confidence is key for traveling and industry bodies can help governments to achieve this by providing proven operational options.
Furthermore, in the current global environment the balance of international versus domestic markets is changing. This is producing a relatively difficult-to-comprehend market mix where balancing efficiency versus business-as-usual attitudes will be a key factor for success.
As a result of COVID19, the industry will require new and different skills to manage the hard times that have been created by pandemic. Both industry bodies and financial institutions need to take the lead in configuring the refinancing of air transport in a fair and business-relevant manner.
Corporate leadership has to show its ability to create an environment in which others can work to the best of their abilities – and this applies to the shareholders as well as the workforce. The development of robust answers to problems set by reality will require strong leadership qualities. Investors will focus upon those qualities in order to decide where to place their investments and secure the best returns.
[Lead image courtesy of Heathrow Airport]