Travel & Leisure

Here’s looking at you, 2021, Part 2: Forwards, backwards; hang on in there for the “gigantic travel boom”

WE kick off the year with a gathering of views and opinions from our community of industry leaders on their outlook for 2021, from their level of optimism and their plans to get through the year.  Here’s the second collection.

John Brown, CEO, Agoda

Q: How would you describe the start of 2021?    
From the US perspective, it looks like the world has gone insane, and unfortunately there’s no vaccine for that. In Asia, it’s still two steps forward, one step back with regards to Covid, but that’s still progress. By year end by the latest, it’s going to be five steps forward and, hopefully, zero steps back. 

Q: What is your data telling you about the first quarter?   
Still a mixed bag; some markets are looking much better but we are seeing second waves in many markets in Asia – look at Thailand, Japan, and Malaysia. We’re going to keep seeing this, I think, through until the summer. 

Q: What is your gut, data and guesswork telling you about how 2021 will pan out?  
Once people get vaccinated and we have a digital way to communicate that as we pass through borders, we were going to have a gigantic travel boom. 

Q: What are you telling your teams/partners?  
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I know it’s been crazy, it hasn’t been the best of times, but we’ve gotten through the worst of it together. 

Q: Who do you fear for the most in our industry?  
What I fear most, is that we don’t learn from our past mistakes, that we very quickly go from Covid era back to a time of overtravel, and towards environmental destruction. 

Q: What’s the one key thing you are doing to prepare your business for whatever lies ahead?  
We’ve done it already, we’ve become very lean, even more efficient, we’ve developed many new muscles and have no fat. We can survive many bad quarters if we need to, but at the same time, we are running very fast. 

Q: What is the biggest opportunity for your business?  
A travel boom is heading our way soon. Over the past year, we have worked extremely hard, retooled, become stronger. The biggest opportunity for us is to work with our partners and customers, to be there for them with an array of choices and great value deals, when they’re checking into hotels and boarding airplanes. We’re ready to go. 

Q: On a scale of 1-10 (10 being highest), how much are you pinning your hopes on the vaccine saving travel? 
10. It looks like the world doesn’t want to travel, and in general governments don’t want us to travel either, until the vaccine is widely distributed. 

Q: Finally, on a scale of 1-10, rate how optimistic (10 being most) how you feel about 2021?
8 because not everywhere is moving at the same speed. Things will definitely continue to move in the right direction though. It will likely take at least until the end of the