I must say that throughout this pandemic I have detested the term “New Normal”. Normal may evolve, but it cannot simply be replaced with something new. Lifestyles change, people change, and technology changes, but the term simply does not accurately identify this evolution.
Now this is not a pandemic blog. But we have to be realistic about the impact the pandemic has had on the transportation industry across the globe, and across all areas of transportation. Color coding countries, Government regulations and restrictions, 3rd, 4th, umpteenth wave have all had an impact on travel, and particularly on peoples’ ability and willingness to travel, or at least attempt to do so. And as we slowly emerge from 2 years of enforced disruptions, this behavior certainly seems to be reflected in booking patterns in the travel industry.
Whilst we see some common factors across verticals with people booking significantly later than they would pre-pandemic, in the cruise ferry side of things, the issue is exacerbated by a number of factors, depending on their market area. Traditionally we refer to Cruise Ferry Freight Services as such because they offer a combination of services to:
- Transport passengers from A to B, with or without a vehicle
- Offer a mini cruise type experience on a round trip basis, sometimes with a vehicle
- Groups on tours, or perhaps conferences
- Transport some portion of freight vehicles on the vessels
Demand for each of these traffic types seems to have been independently affected, and the specific impact has changed depending on the various restrictions in place at the time. Group tours, for example, are traditionally booked far in advance by operators who then go out to fill that space. But with the tour operators struggling, this has a knock-on effect on their booking on the ships.
Cruise Ferry Automation has had the advantage of additional available capacity in many instances, but this may have been marred by reduced or canceled schedules at other times.
Conferencing is slowly starting to return but suffers from the same hesitation to commit too far in advance. Similarly, your normal transport passenger is leaving booking later and later, as they see what new changes may be arising before committing to a booking. Additionally, there are traditional windows where a lot of bookings occur just after a specific holiday period, and these seem to be falling away as people delay more in their booking decisions.
As we work with clients on identifying this changing demand, we are also assisting with options to manage the change. We have introduced enhancements in the application to assist with demand change management, as well as consulting and training services around this. With the changes people are seeing, in some more severe instances, it can go as far as not looking at any traditional demand, but rather adding completely new numbers based on revised budgets.
So, bringing this full circle, we would also like to hear what your experiences are with the changes in booking patterns. Are you also seeing the same delays and later booking patterns? And do you believe that this behavior will persist, and become the “New Normal”?