Here’s looking at you, 2021, Part 1: Mixed start, “time to claw back lost ground”

WE kick off the year with a gathering of views and opinions from our community of industry leaders on their outlook for 2021, from their levels of optimism and their plans to get through the year. Here’s the first collection.

Rajesh Magow, CEO and co-founder, MakeMyTrip

Q: How would you describe the start of 2021? 

Promising, with the vaccine rollout finally

Q: What is your data telling you about the first quarter?

Revival of travel sentiment for leisure segment at least in the domestic travel market. Early signs of ‘revenge travel’ as well. 

Q: What is your gut, data and guesswork telling you about how 2021 will
pan out?
2021 is the year travel will begin to claw back lost ground. Uneven
recovery initially – domestic leading the way followed by international towards
second half. Business travel pie might shrink a bit, thanks to online meetings
and work from home trends; likely to come back fully in 2022 when Covid cloud
is finally blown away with majority of world population vaccinated.

Q: What are you telling your teams/partners?

@Team: Having navigated the 2020 well together, the worst may be behind
us. Stay positive to witness us emerge even stronger once we are out of it
totally.
@Partners: We are in it together. There is a need to collaborate even more
strongly.

Q: Who do you fear for the most in our industry?

Airlines and hotel partners with weak balance sheets, and heart goes out
to people losing lobs.

Q: What’s the one key thing you’re doing to prepare your business for
whatever lies ahead?

For this down cycle, manage costs well and don’t let cash reserves go
below the threshold.

Q: What is the biggest opportunity for your business?

Online buying behaviour gaining momentum.

Q: On a scale of 1-10 (10 being highest), how much are you pinning your
hopes on the vaccine saving travel
?

8 for the sheer sentiment change for international travel. For domestic
travel, just 3 or 4 to help open up business travel fully, other segments have
already recovered without the vaccine following other safety protocols. 

Q: On a scale of 1-10, rate how optimistic (10 being most) how you feel
about 2021?

6 –
cautiously optimistic first half, more optimistic second half or last quarter
of 2021

Ross Veitch, CEO & co-founder, Wego

Q: How would you describe the start of 2021?

Significant step-up from Q4

Q: What is your data telling you about the first quarter?

Booking levels are now at 40% YoY

Q: What is your gut, data and guesswork telling you about how 2021 will pan out?

By December bookings will be back to 2019 levels.

Q: What are you telling your teams/partners?

Things are looking good for a recovery over 2021 but we need to
remain flexible and ready for a wide range of scenarios 

Q: Who do you fear for the most in our industry?

Workers who have been cut lose without the benefit of a safety net 

Q: What’s the one key thing you’re doing to prepare your business
for whatever lies ahead?

Scenario planning

Q:  What is the biggest opportunity for your business?

Taking market share in the recovery

Q:  On a scale of 1-10 (10 being highest), how much are you pinning
your hopes on the vaccine saving travel?

8

Q: On a scale of 1-10, rate how optimistic (10 being most) how you
feel about 2021?

7

Q:  What’s the one word you’d like to embrace for 2021?

Nimbleness

Mieke De Schepper, EVP online travel and managing director, Asia Pacific, Amadeus

Q: How would you describe the start of 2021? 

Dynamic: snowstorms, rain, political unrest, new lockdowns, but quiet in terms of Travel

Q: What is your data telling you about the first quarter? 

Slow start

Q: What is your gut, data and guesswork telling you about how 2021 will pan out? 

First half will be like last few months, with vaccinations ramping up we hope to see a pick up second half

Q: What are you telling your teams/partners? 

Hang in there, the only way is up.

Q: Who do you fear for the most in our industry? 

The ones stuck in the middle; the big ones are too big to fail, the small ones are agile and have low cost, it’s the ones in the middle that are at risk

Q: What’s the one key thing you’re doing to prepare your business for whatever lies ahead? 

Getting fit and focused

Q: What is the biggest opportunity for your business? 

NDC

Q: On a scale of 1-10 (10 being highest), how much are you pinning your hopes on the vaccine saving travel? 

8

Q: On a scale of 1-10, rate how optimistic (10 being most) how you feel
about 2021?

5

Q: What’s the one word you’d like to embrace for 2021?

Happy

Christine Tan, managing director Asia Pacific, D-EDGE Hospitality Solutions

Q: How would you describe the start of 2021?  

2020 was a pivotal year that transformed our attitudes and lives. 2021 is a year of Hope and Action.  I hope to see a restoration of sanity, kindness, renewed inclusiveness and a return to some form of next normalcy.

Q: What is your data telling you about the first quarter? 

As long as borders remain closed, it will continue to be challenging but it’s expected and we are prepared for this in our forecast.

Q: What is your gut, data and guesswork telling you about how 2021 will pan out? 

We will get through this crisis but we are going to have to WORK VERY, VERY HARD. 

Q: What are you telling your teams/partners? 

We are in this together. Here’s what we do know, here’s what we don’t know, and this is what we are doing to close that gap. Transparency and communication are key.

Q: Who do you fear for the most in our industry? 

More people losing their jobs and income, more business closures and economic sustainability.

Q: What’s the one key thing you’re doing to prepare your business for
whatever lies ahead? 

Three minimum things that we need to be prepared for – proving value, nurture the network and sales conversion/scaling. 

Q: What is the biggest opportunity for your business? 

We are a hospitality technology and digital marketing company and now, more and more business realise the key to survival is going digital.

Q: On a scale of 1-10 (10 being highest), how much are you pinning your hopes on the vaccine saving travel?

7

Q: On a scale of 1-10, rate how optimistic (10 being most) how you feel
about 2021?
 

Q: What’s the one word you’d like to embrace for 2021?

 Tenacity

Min Yoon, CEO, Tidesquare, South Korea

Q:  How would you describe the
start of 2021?
 

It starts with the darkest hour, but I believe dawn will come soon.

Q: What is your data telling you about the first quarter? 

It’s similar to the 2nd quarter of 2020 in Korea. Hit hard by new spike, and then getting better slowly.

Q: What is your gut, data and guesswork telling you about how 2021 will
pan out?

First half would be as bad as 2020, recovering slowly from the 3rd quarter.

Q: What are you telling your teams/partners?

It’s the last chance that we can prepare for the future.

Q: Who do you fear the most in our industry?

Big e-commerce players who would be super apps

Q: What’s the one key thing you’re doing to prepare your business for
whatever lies ahead
?

Keep contacting customers

Q: What is the biggest opportunity for your business?

Accelerate online and FIT business

Q: On a scale of 1-10 (10 being highest), how much are you pinning your
hopes on the vaccine saving travel? 

9

Q: On a scale of 1-10, rate how optimistic (10 being most) how you feel about 2021?

6

Q: What’s the one word you’d like to embrace for 2021?

Preparation

Chan Chee Chong, CEO, GlobalTix, Singapore

Q: How would you describe the start of 2021? 

Confusing and uncertain as before. The great news is that Covid vaccination has started in many countries. On the other hand, countries continue to implement intermittent lockdown.

Q: What is your data telling you about the first quarter? 

During holiday
season, as long as there is no lockdown, people continue to travel
domestically. The yearning for travel is still there and virus did not
deter travelling completely. Water theme parks, zoos continue to be
popular. 

Q: What is your gut, data and guesswork telling you about how 2021 will pan out?

International travel will still be very subdued. Many governments will take a cautious approach in opening up their countries. Leisure travel will probably be back only later part of 2021.

Q: What are you telling your teams/partners?

The key is survival. Adjust and plan accordingly. Focus on domestic revenue or ancillary revenue while making adjustment to your cost structure.

Q: Who do you fear for the most in our industry?

Many
companies might not make it through this year if travel does not resume. 

Q: What’s
the one key thing you’re doing to prepare your business for whatever lies
ahead?

Prudent in
our spending while we work hard to secure funds to last us through. For
example, Singapore government provided cheap working capital through a few
national banks and we took it up.

Q: What is
the biggest opportunity for your business?

2 things.
Firstly it gave us time to focus and build our technology as we are not
burdened with operational business. Secondly, it gave us the opportunity to
explore and test our products beyond tourism, eg food and beverage.

Q: On a
scale of 1-10 (10 being highest), how much are you pinning your hopes on the
vaccine saving travel? 

7

Q: On a
scale of 1-10, rate how optimistic (10 being most) how you feel about 2021?

 3 for first half. 5 for 2021

Q: What’s
the one word you’d like to embrace for 2021? 

Grit

Featured image credit: slowmotiongli/Getty Images