Australia is steadily and skillfully manoeuvring its way through the pandemic as it eyes to beat down the COVID-19 infection. While Victoria and New South Wales are continuing to impose the safety restrictions proactively, the other states appear to be approaching safe grounds. The restoration of different business operations, including the hard-hit travel industry, would primarily depend on how the situations pan out in the coming days.
Australian lockdown regulations brought many activities to a standstill as the new lifestyle accustomed to the confinements of the homes. The humdrum and commotion in April were menacingly low and the once busy streets recorded an eerie stillness. The drop in the business activities and the rising uncertainties were some of the direct consequence that followed the shutdown restrictions.
Over the past few weeks during late March and April, cab-hailing services joined the bandwagon of the businesses witnessing challenging operating environment. The cab drivers not only registered a decline in the number of customers but were also exposed to the infection risk as they struggled to keep their earnings afloat.
While Lyft laid off around one thousand employees, Uber Technologies Inc. plans to cut over 3,700 full-time jobs amidst the dwindled cab bookings. Meanwhile, criticism has emerged concerning the plight of the Uber and Lyft drivers.
However, the innovative strategies developed amidst the critical pandemic times and the flattening COVID-19 infection curve across the country is fostering hopes to the cab services. New Zealand PM Jacinda Arden joined the Australian cabinet meeting on Tuesday, furthering the chances of ‘Travel Bubble’ between Australia and New Zealand. As the Trans-Tasman travel talks gain momentum, the confidence is expected to return for interstate travel and so for the ‘within the city’ transportation.
Resilience Giving rise to Innovative Measures
The severe operating scenario propelled the cab services to adapt to the changed need of people. The Darwinian Survival Theory seeped deeply into the business strategies as the cab providers introduced various innovative solutions to cater to the needs of the time. The online delivery of the food and grocery was one of the key trends that broadly gained momentum during the restrictions.
The essential goods and services remained operational to sustain smooth living while the other businesses shut down their operations. The extraordinary demand for e-commerce primarily related to the delivery of the essential goods, Uber rolled out the real-time deliveries option. The digitally innovated and GPS-enabled Uber platform provided scope to carry out the various functions such as booking the deliveries, managing urgent pickups and real-time tracing the movement of products.
Meanwhile, Uber also launched the ‘Hourly Driver’ service, which would allow the customers to perform the essential shopping without the hassle of several cab bookings. The new service mainly provides a solution to the current consumer needs during the pandemic. The electric scooter and bike rental company, Lime announced that Uber is leading a US$170 million investment in the company. It would further expand the business opportunities for Uber outside the cab services.
The focus on the delivery of grocery essentials also led to the development of partnership between Woolworths and Uber. It would provide further impetus to the grocery sales of the supermarket giant while filling the earning gaps for Uber. The peer to peer connective service through Uber Connect and pet supplies service through Uber Direct is also in a trial in Australia.
The cab service provider 13cabs unveiled 13 things that were centric to the delivery of the parcels. Chief operating officer Steven Overell indicated a 10 minutes average pickup time for the parcel while he mentioned the service cost would remain the same as that of the cab. While the new service promises convenience, the users may remain apprehensive about the fare of the service in the period of crisis.
The economic revival has been the primary agenda of the government as the nation faces an impending financial crisis. The country, amidst the pandemic, lost jobs and the unemployment rate is expected to reach double-digit. Reopening businesses with effective precautionary measures remain a plausible solution to sustain the economy.
The cab services, which remained mainly dormant with the decimated demand, are expected to blossom as the businesses gear up usual activities. Although the face-to-face services such as dining, etc. are expected to remain shut, the gradual surge in the business operations with offices reopening would translate into higher demand for the taxies.
The tourism industry, which seems famished with the current wave of the pandemic, provides significant revenue to the cab services. The declining infection rate is building hope for the lifting of the lockdown restrictions in the near time. However, the travellers might still be wary of opting for Air Travel. Qantas has cancelled the bookings until 31 July, showing that the air travel may take some time to recoup. Amidst the improving infection conditions, the cab services are likely to witness to higher demands.
Meanwhile, the International Education Association of Australia has asked for travel bans exceptions for the overseas students studying in Australian universities. The Australian education industry largely derives its revenue from overseas and is expected to lose a substantial amount considering the travel bans. While international travel would largely depend upon the infection condition across the world, the return of the students may fairly promote the cab services revenue.
Australia getting back to work transpire gleaming hopes for the cab-hailing service industry. The increase in the number of people on roads is expected to increase the number of vehicles as well. The eagerness of the people to get off the existing restraining shackles further indicates positive market sentiments for the cab businesses. At the same time, fear would persist concerning the infection transmission, which may lead to wariness among the consumers to use the cab services. However, taking cues from similar historical incidences, the economy is expected to steadily revive if the country does not experience the second wave of infection. The current economic slowdown and financial crunches may limit people’s interest to use cab services, which is usually considered overpriced. Amidst the silver lining and the shadows that linger on the cab services, the answer to revival to old glory may lie on the incorporation of the innovative solutions.