Travel businesses will need bravery to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world, Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer warned this week as he unveiled the 2019 Travel Convention theme.

The Convention in Tokyo in October will look beyond Brexit to a ‘Brave New World’ of dramatic shifts in the world economy, in technology and in the environment.

Tanzer said: “By October, we’ll presumably have some idea of what Brexit looks like. [But] the convention will start at the macro-economic level and focus down on what businesses are doing – on the challenges and opportunities and what you need in place to exploit those opportunities.

“We’ll look at the big picture. There is an economic shift from East to West that is going to impact on travel. There are cruise ships now being exclusively designed for the Chinese market. What does that mean [for the sector]?

“Then there is technological innovation. Travel has gone through a period of innovation but mainly at the booking end. What can technology do when people travel?”

“Japan is a leader in technology. What developments, for example in artificial intelligence, could change the landscape?


Special Report: What’s in store at The Travel Convention


Tanzer said: “Holidays have not really changed [since the 1970s]. Now people are asking for new types of holiday. We’ll look at new kinds of travel experiences. Are we set up to deliver on personalisation and customised itineraries? We can’t be complacent that we will be the people to take advantage of these opportunities. There is an urgency to this.

“More people are competing for data. Everyone wants access to it. At the same time, we have the GDPR and calls for the break-up of the big tech monopolies. In China, they are introducing a social-credit system where people will be given points for life. We could be tracked throughout our lives. This is on our doorstep now.

“We’ll have speakers talking about the cutting edge of technology and climate change from inside and outside the industry.”

He added: “We’ll look at the challenges. We touched on over-tourism last year in Seville. Our own research suggests people expect holiday providers to address sustainability.

“As an industry and as a society we have to find ways of minimising climate change and the use of plastics.

“Overcrowding is becoming more of an issue. We need dispersal strategies so that we don’t degrade people’s experience or places. We have to show we’re minimising our environmental footprint, partly because there will be an increasing reaction against tourism if we’re not seen to address this.”

Tanzer insisted: “There is a lot in Brave New World – the challenge but also the risk. It does require bravery to embrace the challenges. It’s part of our intention to throw down a gauntlet to the industry.”

He added: “Japan is an extraordinary society – technologically advanced but with a strong sense of its own identity and traditions. I hope people will take the time to explore.”

The Travel Convention 2019

October 7-9, Tokyo

Full details: thetravelconvention.com