The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on virtually every sector, but for those in the travel industry, the past two years have been particularly difficult. However, 2022 is proving much more positive, thanks to the success of the large-scale vaccination programme. As a result, people are once more venturing back into the world, booking holidays both home and abroad. And with many seeing a boost in savings during lockdown, there is a significant appetite to splash out on luxury holidays and accommodation.
In fact, we are already seeing an upturn in the travel industry, with airlines, hospitality and travel companies reporting strong demand as restrictions lift. And with travel operators looking to return to profitability as quickly as possible, this means plenty of opportunity for Irish companies working in the TravelTech space.
“While travel trends in 2021 were mainly restricted to domestic and short-haul, in 2022, we are seeing the return of more long-haul travel, and a renewed focus on multi-generational travel as families reunite,” says Karole Egan, Senior Development Adviser for TravelTech at Enterprise Ireland
“We are also seeing a transition towards experiential travel and epic destinations, with people who accumulated savings over the lockdowns using these resources to create unforgettable memories. In addition, we are seeing a growing link between business and leisure travel, with people increasingly adding vacation days to business trips.”
As the world races towards Net Zero, a key challenge for travel operators is sustainability, especially for airlines. “Consumers are more likely to consider the green credentials of their service providers,” Karole explains. “In response, airlines including Ryanair and Aer Lingus have launched programmes to allow passengers partially or fully offset their carbon footprint. Another Irish company leading the way is fintech and business solutions provider Fexco, whose PACE platform analyses actual and predicted CO2 emissions in aircraft.”
Facing the challenges of Covid-19
To help answer some of these challenges, Enterprise Ireland has supported many Irish TravelTech companies during the pandemic as they worked to future proof their platforms with an enhanced focus on customer experience.
“Many even came up with solutions to help travel companies navigate through restrictions during the pandemic itself,” says Karole. “For example, Irish company Daon pioneered the world’s first widely adopted digital wallet for Covid-19 credentials with its VeriFLY product. And, American Airlines turned to Dublin company LetsGetChecked to develop its new pre-flight Covid-19 testing programme in an attempt to restart international travel.
“However, as we now move into the recovery phase, hotel operators are facing a number of challenges as they attempt to return to profitability. For example, many are facing a significant talent challenge, as many employees chose the lengthy lockdowns as an opportunity to retrain. Automation is a key trend in improving efficiency without affecting the quality of service. Direct booking using automation gives guests a personalised service and reduces costs for the business. Irish innovators working in this space include Arvoia, Revenista and P3 Hotels.”
In addition, several Irish companies are offering solutions to help airlines around the world return to profitability. “Analytics, optimisation and ancillary revenue are key,” says Karole. “Irish companies leading the way with these solutions include Datalex, CarTrawler, Inflight Audio and Planitas.”
Despite the fact that the travel industry is only in the early stages of recovery, already many Irish TravelTech companies have brokered deals with some of the biggest names in the sector – proving once again Ireland’s great reputation for providing innovative and exciting solutions.
“There have been several big announcements recently,” says Karole. “For example, in August 2021, Ryanair signed a license agreement with Optifly, a supplier of next generation schedule optimisation software. The airline recognised how Optifly’s scheduling software could support the company’s ambitious plans to grow traffic to 200 million passengers per annum over the next five years.
“Having successfully driven ancillary revenue across the global airline industry for over a decade, Irish TravelTech leader CarTrawler recently announced a key partnership with Uber. This will allow Uber users across the US to browse and select rentals using the Uber app.
“Finally, in December 2021, Datalex, a market leader in airline digital retail technology, announced a deal to support Virgin Australia deliver on its transformation strategy. Virgin will use Datalex’s software to help grow their revenue and enhance customer experience.”
These are just a few of the leading Irish TravelTech companies currently making waves in the global sector. Ireland’s excellent reputation as a hub of technology innovation will mean that there will be plenty more exciting announcements as the industry continues to recover.