The experts answer: how have mobility operators risen to the COVID challenge?

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Recently, we discussed the current challenges facing mobility operators amid COVID and how they’re meeting these challenges with two field experts, (and our very own Head of Enterprise at Gett UK, Paul Grant!).

The aim of our webinar (and this blog post) is to help customers understand the effect COVID has had on the mobility industry, where it sits currently three months down the line, and, of course, what the future looks like. Hint: It’s not all bad!

Consumer habits and expectations haven’t just changed as a result of COVID; they’ve been shaping how corporate travel operates for a long time. Expectations change all the time, and it’s our job to keep up with them.

Uber has been the most noticeable market disruptor over recent years, and it’s easy to see why. They took the traditional taxi model and changed it to slot perfectly into our modern lives. How you book, use and consume ground travel changed, and it continues to evolve. It’s this kind of behaviour that forces industry innovation and creative thinking.

COVID has dramatically impacted the way we use transport. With enforced lockdown across many countries, it’s interesting to see the steps companies have taken to protect employees. The graph below clearly shows the majority of businesses took employee safety seriously with 86% implementing work from home policies.

It’s great to see employers doing their part, but, going forward, how can mobility operators meet the many challenges COVID has presented the world with?

Scroll down to watch the webinar in full!

How is mobility affected by COVID?

Although initially, ground travel bookings were in decline, as you’d expect, there is optimism on the horizon. Research conducted by the GBTA shows 60% of polled companies plan to resume domestic travel within the next three months; one in five companies plan to resume all travel in the same period. It’s encouraging for mobility operators to hear these statistics.

In the same survey, over 90% of participants believe guidelines and standards will be key to adopting this return strategy.

“We, as an industry will play an instrumental role in this – we need to adhere to guidelines and ensure the highest standards are maintained to reinforce trust amongst the customer base.”

– Paul Grant, Head of Enterprise, Gett UK

So what are the trends, facts and numbers? Dr Michael Galvin, who is a Mobile and Regulatory Consultant, discusses:

I’ve been involved in the taxi and private hire industry for the last four decades, and more recently, I’ve been talking with operators in Europe and the US. The majority of companies have witnessed around a 90% reduction in their level of business. This reduction seems to be concentrated within the first six weeks of the various lockdowns.

Over the last six weeks, however, the same businesses have seen a distinct trend of the pace quickening slightly. This could be in part due to the change in weather – particularly here in the UK – but hopefully, it’s more to do with lockdown restrictions being relaxed or lifted.

There’s no doubt that the industry’s recovery will be stuttering. Indeed, there have been predictions for between 18 months to 3 years for airline travel to return to ‘normality’. A trend that has been echoed by the restaurant sector. With cost versus income distinctly favouring cost – this could see a lot of businesses struggle to make ends meet.

What we are seeing is that most operators are innovative. They’ve brought in several safeguarding measures, including hand sanitiser, which is going some way to give confidence to those considering travelling. The choice seems to be between public transport where it’s more compact or single vehicles with a partition and the windows open – so there is a safer option.

This provides an opportunity for private taxi hire companies, particularly as autumn and winter months come closer, the weather will reduce active transport such as walking and cycling.

Your questions answered by experts

What does the Prime Minister’s latest major announcement mean for the industry and travel? And how will this be impacted by local lockdowns, e.g. Leicester?

Greg Mendoza | Regional Vice President – International Operations at Carey Global:

I think as a company that specialises in international travel rather than domestic. We’re keeping an eye on the quarantine situation and the opening up of air routes. I am slightly concerned that the focus seems to be more about getting people on holiday, rather than business travel. We need people out there travelling on business, firing up the economy.

Any opening up of borders is a good thing, and if its safe for people to travel, then it should be allowed. With air travel particularly, passengers are screened multiple times before getting on the flight, so you’re much less likely to catch anything on a plane.

What are the challenges facing travel buyers procurement teams as the world transitions from crisis back to the new ‘normal’? Do they need help and support from the industry?

Greg Mendoza | Regional Vice President – International Operations at Carey Global:

Having to deal with a specific issue is nothing new to them. The focus has historically been on the environmental, green policy and sustainability, and those issues have been built very neatly into RFPs. Businesses have become adept in providing solutions to these problems.

We’re in an industry that is used to applying ingenuity to what we do and coming up with new ideas. In an RFP process, buyers will come across multiple solutions to their challenge. The challenge is ‘how can I get my travellers from A to B safely?’, ‘how can I convince my board that we can bring our business back to full steam ahead, having people travelling etc. without issue?’

That’s our role as suppliers to provide them with the information they need.

Buyers don’t want to see companies come to them with a big marketing piece about keeping their cars clean – it’s about providing them with data and information they can communicate out to their business. To inform staff of the suppliers they’ve chosen, this is how they’ll keep us safe, and we should feel confident to go out there.

You can watch the webinar in full here:

Read next: Returning to the road – healthy and productive habits we’ve learned during COVID