The coronavirus pandemic has forced countries and businesses around the world to re-evaluate existing protocols and, in many cases, create new ones touching on virtually every area and aspect of daily life in order to get ahead of the virus.
Medical studies are being conducted on at least 165 different vaccines in various stages of development; governments and central banks are doling out fiscal and monetary largesse in record-shattering amounts in attempts to prevent economic collapse and social unrest; organizations, both public and private, are developing new strategies to keep employees safe and free of infection in their workplaces.
However, there are still some industries that are struggling hard to find a way to counter the virus and, more to the point, to counter the view that what they offer is inherently dangerous to public health. The travel and hospitality industry was crushed when the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic in mid-March of this year; the traveling public shelved plans to travel at all; airline revenues plunged off a cliff, planes were parked and airports became empty, cavernous buildings overnight.
Cruise Lines Struggle To Stay Afloat
While more and more flights are resuming, the cruise industry remains paralyzed to a large extent, seven months into the global health crisis. Cruising earned perhaps the worst reputation in the travel and hospitality industry after a number of cruise ships reported Covid-19 outbreaks onboard in the late winter and early spring. Infections spread quickly, even when passengers were ordered to remain in their cabins. Some of these ships were denied entry into ports and forced to remain at sea, while passengers sat isolated in their cabins wondering when or if they’d ever get off.
The human price was steep enough. The fiscal price was incredible in its depth and scope. The cruise industry supports more than a million jobs around the world with over $50 billion USD in salaries and wages paid out in 2018 alone. The loss of this revenue amounts to a $150 billion hit in global economic output.
What’s more, many small island nations, like those in the Caribbean, depend heavily on cruise ships entering their waters and ports. Lost revenue for Caribbean countries amounts to $2 billion USD; in the case of St. Kitts and Nevis, the financial loss is 6% of the country’s GDP.
So, it’s clear that the cruise industry needs to find a way back – in a hurry. The problem is how to do it?
Image Is Everything
How does an industry saddled with an extremely negative public image fight to change that? By doing what they can, where and when they can, to ensure the safety of future passengers. The initial attempts at re-launching the cruise market ended badly for Norwegian cruise line, Hurtigruten, when its first sailing since the pandemic revealed that 33 crew members tested positive for Covid-19 at the end of July. The ship, the Roald Amundsen, was on its second voyage that month when the discovery was made.
This underscored the absolute need for rigid protocols and testing procedures, which cruise lines are now rushing to implement.
Using Work.com As A Guide
One of the critical ways, as identified by many public health organizations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to the World Health Organization, to contain the virus is through contact tracing. When Salesforce introduced Work.com in May, designed to provide organizations with the technology for safe re-opening, Gerent’s product architect, Murty Chennubhotla, immediately began to improve on the offering by expanding Work.com’s contact tracing methodology and inputting data and information from the CDC’s website. Chennubhotla also architected Gerent’s proprietary platform for the travel and hospitality industry, DeepQuest, in conjunction with a veteran senior executive from the cruise industry, Ketta Riley. Ketta picked up on what Murty had done with Work.com and, along with the Gerent team, they developed the Booked Customer Experience (BCE) module that can work in conjunction with DeepQuest’s modules or as a stand-alone product.
Vital Health Data To Aid Contact Tracing
What BCE offers travel and hospitality companies, large and small, is a Salesforce CRM-based platform that is designed to do for hotels, cruise lines, bus, and train excursion firms as well as airlines what Work.com is doing for other industries. BCE enables everyone – employee or customer – to adhere to the latest global guidelines from CDC, meet the requirements of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and, perhaps most critically, the module can record data on all guests and customers prior to the event for which they have booked. In this way, travel companies can reduce the need for lineups and support social distancing while having key contact tracing information about guests on file.
The aim is to reduce or remove completely as much physical contact as possible via two essential areas:
Pre-registration For Booked Customers and Guests
• This element allows reservation specialists to provide customers with the latest Covid-19 data through guideline forms uploaded into the module from websites like CDC and others.
• It provides guests with the information they need to know before they embark on their cruise, trip, or stay.
• The module will also offer the latest Covid guidelines by destination so a guest can quickly find out whether or not the risk of visiting a particular destination is worth it.
• For those who are booking a cruise, the module allows them to pre-check in before sailing. This reduces the number of steps to board, once cruise lines begin to implement mandatory pre-boarding Covid testing. It also encourages social distancing at the dock.
• The module also contains airline and bus information, emergency contact information and/or disability information.
• Finally, cruise guests can pick their time to arrive at the ship to avoid crowds.
Pre-Sales of On-Board and Shore Activities
• To further social distancing, the pre-sell element of the BCE module will allow for pre-booking dining, entertainment, shore excursions, and any other requests through the use of a pre-recorded credit card. Again, the aim is to reduce physical contact as much as possible, thereby reducing the risk of possible infection.
“This module will work with our DeepQuest reservation system, of course, but you could have your own reservation system and it will work. So long as somewhere in your company, you’re using Salesforce, it will work. So, if your sales team uses Salesforce, then the Booked Customer Experience module can be implemented for your reservation staff and customer service people”, Ketta Riley explains. “So, this is tailor-made for any company that relies on guests, whether it’s a hotel, cruise line, bus company, shore tour, plane or train – it doesn’t matter.”
Data Holds The Key To Staying Safe
Ketta stresses that data analysis is the backbone of the Booked Customer Experience module. “You’re keeping track of when people come in, where they’ve come from, where they originally booked, and comparing that data instantly with CDC information on Covid hotspots. So, if someone has booked their trip from a part of the country that’s experiencing an outbreak or a spike, the travel company will know that and will be able to inform the guest on the steps they’d need to take to ensure a safe and pleasant trip. It might mean self-isolating or taking a Covid test beforehand.”
Riley adds that many cruise destinations will require a recent Covid test before debarkation, a test the passenger will have to pay for, something that can be pre-paid well in advance. “So, it’s about getting that information to the consumer and working with them to maximize the outcome.”
Using Technology To Jump-Start Travel
This one self-contained module for the travel industry can go a long way to creating a safe environment for any traveler. The data gathering and analysis, combined with up-to-the-minute CDC guidelines around the world, work to provide an optimal situation in which the traveler is protected and the travel company can assist health authorities in the event of a passenger becoming ill or exhibiting Covid symptoms.
The travel and hospitality industry needs to leverage technology like the Booked Customer Experience module to help jumpstart travel and, equally important, regenerate a sense of confidence among the general public that traveling can be safe and enjoyable again.
For further information on the Booked Customer Experience module and DeepQuest, please contact us at Gerent and we’ll be happy to assist in your inquiries.