How have your services evolved since you joined Travel Point, and how do they reflect the needs of travelers?
When I joined Travel Point in 2018, we had a presence in the market but needed to move our services to the next level. The company was looking at deploying a B2B portal, so within three months of joining I picked the supplier that could deliver the goods, and we deployed the service. We put our content on the B2B portal and gave it to about 600 small and medium travel companies that currently buy from us. We also digitalized most of our core processes and streamlined the service delivery mechanisms. For us, quality and customer care are extremely important, so I helped bring in that element of international standards to the system. We were the first company to get the ISO9001:2015 and the first to get the PCI certification from the US. The idea was to deliver impeccable services to our customers and, at the same time, upgrade our technology and the skillsets of our employees. COVID-19 caused a great deal of disruption, and we had to realign and restructure to present the services and products in different ways as the trends and customer travel patterns changed. As a result, we had to go back to the drawing board and redesign the products and services. Today, we are talking about a new normal and whatever services models we deployed earlier became defunct, as they were not making sense commercially and operationally. I am optimistic, as things are changing, and vaccines are already being rolled out. Some airlines have already vaccinated all their employees, and IATA is suggesting vaccine passports that store the data for PCR tests and vaccinations.
What role does technological innovation play in your mid-term strategy?
COVID-19 pushed us to come up with an innovation strategy, and we looked at two things. The first is the technology innovation modifications and process enhancements. The second is about the things we can do for the people in the country and are limited to just moving inside the country. Doing something here is why we came up with staycations, where locals can stay in places around Oman, and we have been launching such new packages every week. Another opportunity is what we call quarantine packages for those who are restricted from traveling directly to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. We have booked close to 2,000 people so far for such 15-17-day staycations, and this is climbing so it will help fuel our growth in 2021.
How do you expect the demand for travel to evolve in the midterm, and how will that impact your services?
The demand for travel was better in January compared to February, when it went down by almost 35%. If this uncertainty continues further, there might be a further decline in the revenues of airlines and travel companies. We are not talking quarter to quarter at the moment, but week to week, and this is directly linked to the announcements of governments. We are understanding how tourism organizations could work closely with governments across the world, starting with Oman, deploy their vision in terms of making travel safer for people and also for people to follow the instructions related to COVID-19 protocol. Currently, the quality and timing of data is extremely important and has to be brought to the attention of people. Anyone traveling to another country wants to know the rate of infections, so in our systems we have the travel health index percentage that tells our customers the infection rates and the number of deaths at their destination. We can gauge that in real time and advise them on the destinations to avoid and the ones that are safer. This is one of the unique approaches of Travel Point. You cannot expect governments to babysit their citizens in terms of following COVID-19 health protocols. It is everyone's responsibly.