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The travel industry has learned a pandemic lesson about customer needs

I won’t go so far as to say tour operators have learned their lesson through the pandemic. It makes it sound like COVID-19 was punitive and an entire industry needed to be taken down a notch. This is the furthest thing from the truth.

What I will say is that the whole industry has learned a lesson – several lessons, in fact – about how they conduct their respective business models and, for some, reinvent themselves after triggering a natural disaster .

The best word to describe the situation is that the travel industry has been battered by the pandemic. They were forced to re-examine how they went to market, how they treated their customers, and to appreciate the importance of travel in all of our lives. It’s something that many are only just beginning to see lately as we all again rush to an airport, cruise ship terminals, train tracks, and more.

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You take something away from someone and it makes it even more appreciated when it’s returned, and that’s true not just for travel customers like us, but also for travel leaders like airline CEOs, hotel patrons, restaurant owners, car rental agencies and more.

I see it bit by bit.

I see it when Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian decides to send an empty charter plane to England just to pick up customers’ lost luggage due to mounting problems at Heathrow Airport. This little anecdote was practically a throwaway line from Bastian on Delta’s conference call last week, but I bet it meant a lot to the owners of the over a thousand bags that were recovered.

I see it in Walt Disney World’s announcement of the new MagicBand+ starting July 27. Yes, yes, I know the WDW reviews, especially this year, but this next-gen product will only simplify – but improve – the park-going experience.

I haven’t been to Disney World in nine years. It is a vast place. Anything that makes my next visit easier and more enjoyable is fine with me.

And I see it in the pilot program run by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). At select airports, you no longer need a paper boarding pass or unlock your phone screen and QR code displayed when entering security.

The TSA is implementing its Credential Authentication (CAT) technology to design a more digital process.

I get it – the three examples I mentioned don’t sound like much. Even collectively. But this is where the travel change begins. This is how things go.

This is how progress comes to industry.

I don’t know if traveling will ever be child’s play. Probably not. But if anything has come out of the pandemic, at least the industry’s willingness to try new things is a positive.