Business report

Travel: High hopes for 2022

Gilles Feith, pictured at the Luxair Munsbach headquarters . Mike Zenari /MM

Gilles Feith, pictured at the Luxair Munsbach headquarters . Mike Zenari /MM

“We had two aims during the pandemic. To fly the maximum we could, and keep connectivity for Luxembourg,” says Gilles Feith, CEO of Luxair Group. Results of a survey show half of travel managers predict positive trends in 2022.

During the crisis, the group collaborated with the Horesca federation through the (re)Discover Luxembourg campaign. This led to 1,603 passengers benefitting from the €50 reduction for hotel bookings, as well as an increase of 46% of first-time visits on the web page for participating hotels offering the 10% discount on hotel stays, explains Feith. “As a ­Luxembourger, I love when people visit.”

Encouraging more business travel

In the past months, the group carried out several changes to cater to the needs of business and other travellers, who often rely on airlines to provide a stable and reliable network, and flexibility. “We have a stable flight plan now and we try not to change it,” said Feith. Part of the actions include flexible fares--smart fare--allowing clients to customise the tariff. “We noticed that customers accepted this offer and we didn’t increase the standard fares,” he adds.

Given that business travel managers have different needs, Feith underlines plans to develop corporate offers backed by contracts with varying conditions depending on the situation. A digital SME programme is being developed to complement the group’s existing business partner programme. The airline now offers 85 destinations from Luxembourg, ­including 16 new destinations--10 for Luxair and six for LuxairTours--in a bid to compensate for flight frequency loss on some of the routes, he explains.

Predicting recovery patterns

An October survey shows business ­travel in 2021 surpassed 2020 by over 50%. However, it remains 42% below the 2019 levels. A separate survey expects a slow recovery for corporate meetings by 2022 and for the Mice cluster by 2024, explains Alain Krier, the head of research and media management at Luxembourg for Tourism. Although business travel for Luxair was estimated to have fallen by 80% before September, “it’s getting ­better slowly.”

Luxair quarterly surveys show below half of travel managers anticipate travel to remain at below 50% in the short term. In contrast to past and current numbers, this remains a positive outlook. About 22% believe travel will return to between 80% to 100%, while 8% think the numbers will surpass pre-pandemic levels due to a pent-up demand.

On the supply side, artificial restriction is not an option, Feith reassures. “Once demand is fully there again, we will fly as often as possible,” the CEO explains, adding that a snowball effect could propel a fast return of activities as competitors in all sectors do not want to be left behind. “I spoke to some business leaders, who are now following up on deals that took longer or did not happen due to covid.”

Anticipated collaborations

Besides the current Expo 2020 Dubai collaboration, “I’d like to keep working with Horesca, and I’m in contact with the tourism ministry to find nice ideas on how to boost travel to and from ­Luxembourg.” In terms of service expansion, innovation and serving all potential clients are high on the agenda. “The only strategy is to keep innovating, listening to the market and making different offers,” Feith notes. “We will surprise Luxembourg with new offers. I want to have at least 1,000 new hotels in the Luxair ­holidays à la carte offers.”

This article was originally published in the January 2022 Delano print edition.