As hundreds of industry leaders gather in the Azores for Abta’s annual forum, Ian Taylor previews sessions, speakers and key issues

Ship to steer speakers from cruise, ad land and rowing

The Travel Convention 2017 opens with a welcome from the president of the Azores regional government and the president of the Portuguese travel agents’ and tourism association before a hand over to convention moderator and ITV News royal editor Chris Ship.

In place of the Princes William and Harry, Chris will introduce Mark Tanzer, Abta chief executive, to set the scene for the convention and its theme, The Next Chapter.

Tanzer says: “There is so much upheaval. The industry will be in a different shape in five years’ time.” So the aim is to “look at what’s coming and how we prepare”.

Abta’s chief will be followed by one of the UK’s top advertising executives, Ogilvy Group vicechairman Rory Sutherland, who will offer his unique insights on the future of travel.

We’ll find out immediately if Sutherland’s views match those of the man heading the world’s largest travel and leisure company because he is followed by Arnold Donald, president and chief executive of Carnival Corporation and chairman of the Cruise Line Industry Association (Clia).

Donald revealed he “jumped at the chance” to appear at the convention. He plans to talk about “the golden age of cruising” we’re now living through and will tell the industry: “We couldn’t do it without you.”

The convention’s first morning will be rounded off by Tom Johnson, director of consumerinsight consultancy Trajectory, who will look at behavioural trends and how these might develop.

The afternoon will kick off with an overview of the political landscape from Peter Foster, Europe editor of The Telegraph. Could the German election result shift the balance of Brexit talks? Might Theresa May recover from her June election debacle? Could Boris Johnson make a decent fist of foreign secretary? Do members of the cabinet agree on anything? Foster has the answers.

Abta head of public affairs Alan Wardle will join him to bring delegates up to date on the association’s efforts to ensure the industry’s voice is heard amid all the political chatter.

Travel Weekly Group editor-in chief Lucy Huxley will then take the convention back to the coal face with a panel debate on ‘Designing the Future’, with Tui UK distribution and cruise director Helen Caron, Norwegian Air UK and Ireland head of sales Dominic Tucker, and Airbnb northern Europe general manager James McClure.

The final session of the day will see Natalia Cohen, one of a six-woman crew to row the Pacific, describe the peaks and troughs of her voyage from San Francisco to Cairns in a 29-foot boat. It should be oar-inspiring.

Britain’s interests no longer match EU’s, says journalist

Britain “is not without cards to play” in the Brexit process, says Peter Foster, Europe editor of The Daily Telegraph.

But he warns: “There is politics on both sides, [and] there is genuine animosity on both sides.” So the process could prove fraught.

Prime minister Theresa May provided the clearest outline yet of her Brexit strategy in a speech in Florence in late September when she proposed a two-year transition from March 2019 and a €20 billion UK contribution to the EU budget.

Foster points out money is one of the sticking points. “We’ll leave a €10 billion-a-year hole in the EU budget,” he says. “It’s a headache we can remove if we agree to contribute [to the EU] up to 2020.

“Security is another [card to play], although we need to be careful not to overplay this. Britain is an important member of Nato and of [EU law enforcement agency] Europol. We played an important role in managing the migrant crisis. The EU does not want us in the arms of the Americans.”

Foster says: “If May gets a deal on money, it could be it all gets done.” But he warns: “The problem is our interests and EU interests are no longer bound together. The EU fears we’ll end up unscarred by Brexit and want as much as possible to tie Britain’s hands.”

He adds: “The EU agrees on almost nothing, but Brexit is something they can agree on.

“The danger is that rather than let us go they try to break our legs as we walk out.”

Foster will address the convention on Tuesday, October 11, at 2pm

Consumer expert to discuss holiday influences

Consumers have “an insatiable desire” for leisure experiences, but see the world as increasingly dangerous – and both trends are driving holiday choices, according to Tom Johnson, director of consumer-insight consultancy Trajectory.

He says: “We monitor trends in consumer behaviour, as well as economic, demographic and technology trends, and what that means for decisions about travel.

“Twenty years ago the most important thing in people’s lives was family, followed by work and then leisure. Work has declined massively in importance since. We’ve become a ‘play’ society where people prioritise leisure.

“The nature of working time has also changed. If you weren’t at your place of work 20 years ago you couldn’t work.

“Now people increasingly define themselves by their leisure activities rather than by work.

“There has been a sea change. We see a deregulation of life, a breakdown of routines.

“In the 1970s, there were distinct meal times. Now it is much more of a free-for-all – people eat through the day.”

Johnson will report on a ‘timeuse’ study involving more than 6,000 consumers which examined how people fill a day.

He will address the convention on Tuesday, October 11, at 12 noon