The holiday season is the biggest peak time for travel of the year and presents both challenges and opportunities for our industry. Last year’s increased travel disruptions, marked by numerous flight cancellations and delays, highlighted the necessity for robust planning and preparedness. Reflecting on past successes and failures is crucial allows travel businesses to enable smoother journeys for travelers and more effective operations for their companies.
The chart below shows the dramatic increase in flight delays and cancellations for the winter holiday season since COVID. Last year saw a record high of over 8% of all flights delayed across all major carriers, an increase of over 30%. These delays had an enormous impact on agents. If even just 1% out of those 120,000 delayed travelers called their agents to help with their changed schedules, that is 1,200 extra manual schedule changes.
So what can be done to prepare for this year? First of all, stay loose. Embrace Flexibility and Patience. Prepare for a challenging season. Keep it easy and stay patient through what could be a wild ride.
When preparing for a trip, there are a number of precheck things to do – packing, checking your itinerary, confirming reservations, and ensuring all travel documents are up to date. Here’s a list of things which travel agencies can precheck for the holiday and use later to diagnose a retool your operations afterward.
What Can You Do Now?
- System Updates and Preparedness: Ensure all your technological and logistical systems are up-to-date, efficient, and capable of handling the increased demand.
- Do Some Stress Testing: Are your systems prepared for the volume of inbound bookings and traveler calls.
- Test Workflows: Test to make sure everything is set up to handle the flows of both increased volume and increased diversity of issues.
- Business Rules Review: Review and update your business rules to ensure they are current and can handle the holiday rush effectively.
- Staff Training and Readiness: This is an ideal time for any refreshers that you’ve been planning, especially for newer staff or for spot training.
- After-Hours Support: They need to be just as ready as your day team. Strengthen your after-hours support team with updated training and resources to provide comprehensive assistance at all times.
Strategies for the Post-Holiday Season
After the holiday festivities settle, it’s a good time for evaluation and planning. Diagnose and retool your operations with the following considerations:
- Your Overall Approach: Post-holiday analysis is crucial. Reflect on how your strategies and operations fared during the high-pressure season.
- Automation Opportunities: Evaluate and refine your automation update plan. Use this time to explore the potential of AI-driven tools and traveler-facing automation to enhance efficiency and customer experience.
- System Performance: Thoroughly assess the performance of your systems under stress and identify areas that need upgrades or reinforcement.
- Management Practices: Critically evaluate your management techniques. Determine if they were efficient in managing demand and maintaining service quality. How well did you prepare your team? And how well did you lead them through this?
- Key Metrics: Did you have the data that you needed throughout the process to anticipate and respond to any issues?
The holiday season is a litmus test for your travel operations, highlighting areas of strength and opportunities for improvement. By implementing these strategies, you can ensure not only smoother travel experiences for your clients but also a more robust and resilient operation ready to face future challenges.
Remember, the key to a successful holiday season in the travel industry lies in preparation, adaptability, and a focus on continuous improvement. Happy holidays!