Opinion: An outsider’s take on The Travel Convention

Opinion: An outsider’s take on The Travel Convention

After becoming an inadvertent spectator rather than moderator, Chris Ship could give the speakers his undivided attention

As I was unable to communicate with most of you verbally during the Abta Travel Convention, I thought I might have more luck using the written form.

Most of you will know that I became a spectator of the Convention on day two rather than the moderator of it and if I’m to take something positive from the missing voice, it was that I was able to give my undivided attention to what the speakers were saying on the stage.

As an industry outsider, I was very impressed with the breadth of the presentations and the quality of the speakers who gave them.

As the speakers come from within and outside your industry you enjoyed both the trade talk about which you’re all so knowledgeable and your minds were stretched in subject areas in which you’re not so confident

So within a few hours, Paul Redmond identified that most of us in the room were really old and out-of-date because we wear jeans, send emails and remember phones which were not mobile and then one of your own leaders, Andy Washington, spoke about technology and how we must embrace it rather than run from it.

Mark Tanzer’s presentation might have had some running for the hills, but a first-time delegate to the Abta conference told me it was refreshing to hear an industry insider deliver an unvarnished speech.

Actually, Mark made a very neat analogy when he said the travel industry was like the Royal Family: you had just had an annus difficilis, he said, rather than an annus horribilis (copyright HM Queen, 1992).

But instead of family divorce, the axing of Royal Yacht Britannia and being told to start paying tax, you’ve been dealing with Brexit, Monarch, terrorism and false sickness claims.

I had a long chat with John Hays about the Bath Travel shops I remember as a child in the south of England which he now owns.

“Isn’t travel entirely online these days”, I asked this owner of shops (actual retail shops). “No”, he replied, “we’re opening new branches all the time.”

And it seems many of you do focus on the opportunities rather than the constraints.

Arnold Donald told us, in his smooth southern American accent, that cruising is growing at a phenomenal rate (as I understood it, at a rate about as fast as they can build new ships).

But his battle is not one between cruise lines but a fight against perception. His biggest challenge is to encourage those who don’t cruise to start cruising. His video on virgins (cruise virgins) was a very good watch.

The highlight for me was listening to Travel Weekly’s own Lucy Huxley interview Rob and Paul Forkan.

From the adversity of the Boxing Day tsunami, they chose to live their life and donate their time and money to orphans who suffered a more desperate plight than the Forkans endured themselves.

The lowlight for me? The high-pitched squeak which left my voicebox during the Q&A session on Brexit.

But it all meant I had a chance to take the advice of cross-Pacific rower Natalia Cohen who told us: “You can only control the controllable.”

And I imagine that goes for my own ability to speak as much as it does for you, the travel industry.

So control what you can over the next year!

More: Travel Weekly coverage of The Travel Convention

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