Rebooting customer experience to bring back the magic of travel : Mckinsey

Rebooting customer experience to bring back the magic of travel : Mckinsey

The COVID-19 pandemic upended our way of life and decimated the worldwide tourism business. As travel volumes resume in many parts of the world, consumer experience has emerged as the recovery's primary problem.

McKinsey & Company worked with Skift Research to document the unprecedented impact COVID-19 had on the travel industry in the 2020 report, "The travel industry flipped upside down."

One year later, we see that the travel industry is reviving—though recovery has a long way to go.

While performance in 2021 has improved significantly, the Skift Recovery Index indicates that it is still 35% below pre-pandemic levels globally. Additionally, different locations have significantly varied recovery narratives as a result of varying travel limitations, COVID-19 case counts, and the strength of domestic travel markets. North America has made a tremendous rebound, however many Asian countries have made a slower recovery due to their continued caution in opening their borders.

McKinsey and Skift Research examine the existing tourist experience and discover conflicting signals. While surveys and customer satisfaction rating assessments indicate that many visitors are content with their experiences—in some cases, more so than they were before to COVID-19—a closer examination of the data indicates worrying undercurrents.

Despite high levels of satisfaction, negative sentiment is increasing.

Additionally, operational capacity is constrained, staffing issues are pervasive, airline complaints are increasing, rental vehicles are scarce, and hotel amenities and services continue to be significantly reduced.

Given the seeming contradiction between performance and satisfaction, the true state of affairs may simply be that leisure travellers are relieved to be back on the road after a year at home. As travel numbers increase and business travellers return, there is a risk of a wave of customer unhappiness — particularly at a time when loyalty is on the line.

Will travel industry players be able to relaunch the customer experience before tourists' "honeymoon phase" expires? Or will the system be shocked by dwindling customer patience?