From immunity-boosting minibars to low season tourism, here are 21 innovations that demonstrate how the Covid crisis has forced travel companies to be more creative and think more deeply about what consumers need and want. Jenny Southan reports

There is a famous saying that goes “innovate or die”. This is particularly true for companies in a crisis when previously relied upon business models, products, revenue streams and consumer behaviour cease to deliver as predicted.

Suddenly you are suffering an existential threat. Usually, those that survive are lucky, but those that thrive are innovators.

At Globetrender, we use our online editorial platform to document innovation that is happening across the travel industry. New ideas and new companies are almost always newsworthy, and are often an early indicator of a trend that could take off.

Here are 21 inspiring examples of innovation from travel companies during the viral age…

1. Vakkaru Maldives – its Work Well packages for people staying 21 days or more include a free upgrade to a villa with a study kitted out with a printer and office supplies, plus a Vacay PA, a boardroom on the beach, and an hour of personal training or yoga every day.

2. Anantara Veli Maldives – this resort is inviting the super-rich to stay for as long as they like with a US$30k “unlimited stay” package.

3. Rocco Forte – in October, this hotel company began offering people booking stays at its properties in Italy a pre-departure testing service in partnership with Blue Horizon. Called “Fit to Travel”, the online service arranged for self-test kits to be couriered to and from people’s homes with a guaranteed certificate produced within 72 hours of travel. Results were then emailed directly from the laboratory.

4. Equinox Hotels – instead of fridges filled with Coke and vodka, this wellness hotel brand is curating “immunity boosting minibars” with products such as face masks, vitamins and probiotic juices, as well as reusable masks and gloves.

5. Preferred Hotel Group – Beyond Green is a new sustainable hotel collection that aims to turn travel into a force for good. It has 24 founding members from more than 15 countries. Properties must show progress in meeting more than 50 sustainability indicators that align with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

6. Emirates – this airline unveiled a biometric path in Dubai airport for contactless journeys, which relies on facial recognition instead of manual document checks, making the process quicker and more hygienic.

7. Delta Air Lines – scrapped change fees for domestic and international flights in a bid to make customers more confident of booking.

8. Qantas – this airline has been operating “flights to nowhere”. Its first scenic sightseeing flight over Australia sold out in ten minutes. 134 tickets were available costing between A$575 and A$2,765 a seat.

9. IATA – The International Air Transport Association has been leading the way with the development of its digital Travel Pass, which will store traveller’s Covid vaccine status and test results.

10. Hawaiian Airlines – members of Hawaiian Airlines loyalty programme can now swap air miles for pre-travel Covid-19 tests thanks to a partnership with Vault Health, one of Hawaii’s official Covid-19 testing partners. The mail-in test kits, which are available to buy for all travellers, usually cost US$119 but are now being offered to HawaiianMiles customers in exchange for 14,000 miles or points.

11. Generator – this posh hostel and boutique hotel brand is offering long-stay rates for remote workers, whereby bookings of seven days of more receive a minimum of 30 per cent off per night.

12. Accor – partnered with AXA insurance firm to provide free medical support for hotel guests during their stay, either by phone or video call.

13. Cookson Adventures – early on in the pandemic, luxury bespoke adventure company Cookson created “door-to-door escapes”, whereby clients could be hosted in remote locations such as Iceland and Patagonia in complete isolation, with personal transport via helicopter, yacht and private jet.

14. Qatar Airways – this airline has created a loyalty scheme for Gen Z students aged between 18 and 30. Student Club includes benefits such as special fares on flights, extra baggage allowance, the flexibility to change the dates of their flight, and free high-speed wifi on board.

15. Nemo Travel – now arranging and covering the cost of Covid testing overseas for inbound clients.

16. Black Tomato – Face to Place, a video-call service whereby potential customers can get tailored advice and trip planning. The idea is to bring back human connection and also elevate the travel agent phone call by embracing technology to share maps and images in real-time.

17. G Adventures – this company is taking action against a return to over tourism by selling tours of less travelled places instead of mass-market destinations. These include trips to Corfu, The Azores, Crete and Greenland.

18. Aman – next year, Aman will be debuting its new “social wellness” hotel brand, Janu, in Montenegro, Saudi Arabia and Tokyo.

19. Byway– a new flight-free travel company based out of the UK that focuses on the journey rather than the destination. Byway’s tailored “slow tourism” packages traverse England and France via train, boat, and bike, promising customers that they will never have to set foot in an airport.

20. Low Season Traveller– claims to be the “world’s first travel company exclusively dedicated to inspiring travellers to visit worldwide destinations during their low seasons”. It launched in the UK in June 2020.

21. Flyr – this summer, Norway is planning to launch a new low-cost airline called Flyr. The company’s chief executive says: “We can build a lean organisation from the ground up. We will have the advantage of starting without the heavy burden of an oversize, complex, inefficient organisation or tech structure.”

According to Flight Global, Flyr intends to ramp up its operations from two B737 aircraft in June to five in July and six to eight in the autumn, enabling it to operate from Oslo to seven destinations within Norway plus Copenhagen, Nice, Barcelona, Malaga and Alicante. Further routes across Scandinavia and Europe will follow.

Jenny Southan originally shared these findings at Captivate Media’s “Propel Forward” virtual conference. 

What’s coming next? Trend reports available to download HERE