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MIDOCO Group Interview Series - State of the Industry - Pat McDonagh, CEO at Clarity Travel Management

David Chappell
Aug 12, 2021 1:39:24 PM

In seeking a barometer of the state of the travel industry, we posed a series of questions to industry leaders to get a measure of how they view - and are reacting to - the ever-changing status-quo in the post-Covid world.

There is a lot of discussion about the value proposition of travel industry companies, the role of technology and the concept of travel as we know it.  It is evident that almost everything has been disrupted by the pandemic. But is the travel industry going to reinvent itself? Or has the existing trading model actually shown to be resilient? Even though the impact of the pandemic exceeds anything we have seen so far, such as 9/11 or the 2010 eruptions of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull, what is the true impact being felt by its leaders?

The impossible actually occurred. Travel came to a complete halt not just for ten days in one region, but in every corner for the world nigh on a year. This is a global, once-in-a-century event.  What is the impact on the industry from such extraordinary times? 

Pat-Mcdonagh

Our second interviewee is Pat McDonagh CEO of Clarity Travel Management. Thank you Pat for taking the time to answer our questions.

What will be the most relevant difference in “post-crisis travelling” in comparison to what we were used to?

The complexity. Getting anywhere in the world is now so difficult given the testing, vaccination and quarantine requirements. No two destinations are the same, so understanding that pre-travel and being informed should things change is the immediate challenge.

Is Covid just another crisis for the industry to weather, like 9-11?

It’s the single biggest challenge this industry has ever faced. The impact has been many times that of 9-11 of the global financial crisis. It’s incredible how resilient our industry is though and that demonstrates the passion and talent we have.

Have the last 18 months forced your company to re-evaluate your value proposition?

It’s re-affirmed it for us. We pride ourselves on great service and technology and in many ways, our ability to handle this crisis has been well proven through our financial resilience and the exceptional customer service scores we’ve been achieving.
 

How will you measure and articulate your value back to market after travel resumes?

We’re going to play a major part in helping businesses return to something more normal but in many cases they’ll be very keen to find a better balance. Undoubtedly this will involve working with our clients to dissuade travel at times and promote video conferencing or re-evaluating travel patterns to make them cheaper and more efficient.
 

Aside from volumetric, what commercial challenges do you see in the short/medium term for your business?

We all need to be more efficient as businesses and this means investing in automation and better process wherever we can. We’ve really accelerated this during the pandemic to automate simple tasks and simplify our operating model to ensure a lower cost of operating and enhanced user experience.
 

What is your view on the industry’s reaction to crisis and what can we learn for the future?

Honestly, it’s been phenomenal given the impact it’s had financially. As TMCs we need to consider how we price moving forward to ensure that when the volume is hit so dramatically, that we can maintain a level of income that better covers our cost, charging for what customers value and not being so ‘transactionally’ driven.
 

Do you feel that current travel tech providers are able to react to new market demands?

Technology needs to do everything possible to ensure the traveller is informed both through the booking journey, leading up to travel and during travel. Not even our very best people can remember every rule and regulation so tech has a huge role to play in putting people in the picture.
 

Who do you think are the companies to watch in the coming years and why?

We’re certainly one of them! I love technology that solves perennial problems so I have to include Umbrella Faces. I love the fact that you can standardise data across multiple internal systems and OBTs, the industry has been crying out for it. I also love things like Routehappy. Travellers and bookers are demanding more and more information when they book travel so augmenting search returns with great additional information is a great step forward.
 

What do you think the market will look like ten years from now?

Hopefully it has learnt the commercial lessons from the pandemic but we have also built some amazing technology that further enhances the user experience. We also hope that our approach globally to travel is more sustainable and those providers who are offering the right choices have thrived, reducing our negative impact on the environment and society.
 
Previous interviews:
 

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