An interview with Cyril Ranque, President of Travel Partners Group
Getting back to business travel in a post-COVID-19 world raises many questions about mitigating risk and ensuring the health and wellbeing of travelers. We decided to find out the answers by talking to various leaders in the travel industry. This is part of Expedia Group’s ongoing effort to gain further insight on how the industry is adapting as our pandemic-affected world continues to evolve.
In our first travel industry leader interview, we spoke to Cyril Ranque, President of Travel Partners Group at Expedia Group. He is responsible for empowering all travel partner segments through the Expedia Group platform’s leading-edge marketing, distribution, data and technology solutions. This includes connecting conventional lodging, vacation rentals, transportation, activities, destination marketing organizations and other travel and non-travel advertisers with our traveler audiences on our global network, which includes Egencia.
As a leader from the travel world, we asked him how COVID-19 is impacting the travel industry. He noted that flexibility, health and hygiene protocols and contactless check-in are top-of-mind for many travelers. He also believes the pandemic is driving the travel industry to reexamine many of its processes and value assumptions, which will ultimately benefit consumers. Read the entire interview here to learn more about how the travel industry is adapting to the changed environment.
Q.1. How do you see the travel industry evolving post COVID-19?
As a result of COVID-19, the travel industry is considering new ways of doing business. Legacy processes are being challenged and hopefully, some things will be accelerated. For example, the hotel check-in – finally, we may see the industry embracing contactless check-in, more flexible rates, and enhanced health and safety measures.
Also, the value of an online marketplace is not being challenged by COVID-19. Indeed, when there is a crisis, OTAs tend to recover faster. Suppliers want to get the deals out there and consumers want to go where the deals are, so generally speaking, marketplaces tend to recover faster.
Q.2. You talked about increasing flexibility for travelers? How do you ensure flexibility for travelers when things are changing constantly?
To meet the needs of cautious travelers and ensure booking flexibility, nearly 70% of lodging rate plans on Expedia Group sites are now refundable. Additionally, Expedia Group is introducing a new filter to search flights by flexible fares on Expedia Group sites globally, allowing for exchanges or itinerary changes as needed.
Q.3. How are you ensuring customers’ trust in the current crisis, especially regarding health and hygiene measures at various properties?
To ensure customers can book with confidence, Expedia Group created a new feature for lodging partners to highlight the health and hygiene measures at their properties. These include contactless check-in and check-out, hand sanitizer available to guests, enhanced cleaning measures, and social distancing plans. Also, to promote the health and hygiene of property owners and guests, Expedia Group’s vacation rental brand, Vrbo, introduced a cleanliness checklist to be added to the property descriptions on Expedia Group sites. These efforts are paying off – vacation rentals with updated health and hygiene content on Vrbo are seeing 10 percent more net room nights. (Source: EG internal data, Aug 2020)
Q.4. Which types of travel do you see recovering the fastest? What measures would accelerate that recovery?
Domestic travel is seeing reassuring demand trends, along with car and vacation rentals. But I think people want to go out and beyond. I’d like to see governments develop health and safety protocols to allow people to travel across countries rather than keep borders closed. And to address how to speed up recovery, I would say that all suppliers and partners need to understand how traveler preferences are evolving so we are ready to meet their needs when they can travel more freely.
Q.5. What are some examples of the measures suppliers are taking to influence traveler confidence and react to the crisis?
We surveyed more than 10,000 partners worldwide to understand their COVID-19 recovery strategy, from pricing and revenue management to top priorities for health and safety. Cleanliness and safety emerged as the resounding priority. These measures include:
- Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting procedures in rooms and shared spaces
- Complimentary cleaning products, such as hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes
- Signs to remind staff and guests to wash hands and take precautions, such as social distancing
- Training staff on how to protect themselves and guests, including providing personal protective equipment.
Q.6. What is Expedia Group doing to support its partners as they work to recover from the crisis?
In May 2020, Expedia Group announced a $275 million commitment to help partners rebound from the impact of COVID-19 and fuel industry-wide recovery efforts. Expedia Group’s recovery program is comprised of global initiatives to support industry recovery and property-level relief designed to help independent partners and small chains rebuild their business, attract high-value guests, and optimize cash flow. Also, to help furloughed and displaced workers advance during this time, Expedia Group created a complimentary training and education program called the Expedia Group Academy. It will feature concentrations in diversity and inclusion, sales and business skills, and leadership training. We’re also helping restore travelers’ confidence by working with our travel partners to provide flexible rates and enhanced health and safety measures, as well as supporting destinations through our Media Solution programs. For our corporate partners, we are providing the tools they need to be able to revise and update their travel policies so employees can return to business travel with confidence.