Registration opens on Monday for the Travel Convention, with Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer anticipating ‘a momentous year for travel’. He spoke to Ian Taylor
The challenges facing the travel sector show no signs of weakening, says Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer.
So the question is: “How do you get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable?”
Tanzer foresees “a period of continuing economic uncertainty in some of the UK’s main destinations”.
Greece is the most obvious example, but there could be knock-on effects elsewhere and Tanzer asks: “Will the eurozone survive?”
That is not the only problem. He says: “We face a continual threat of terrorist attacks, plus a major political and diplomatic crisis as Russia seeks to extend her influence [in Ukraine]. What will the ramifications be?
“The world economy is making a patchy recovery. In the UK, consumer spending should be boosted by the fall in the oil price and travel made cheaper by the strengthening of sterling against the euro.” But Tanzer asks: “Can we have another consumer-led boom?”
Then there are the domestic political issues. Tanzer says: “The general election may bring a referendum on EU membership. But regardless, if the pressure to renegotiate terms or leave continues to grow, what will be the consequences?”
Looking ahead to May, he says: “The new government will receive a recommendation from the Airports Commission on runway expansion. Will it accept the proposal? Will there be the political will to push through the planning process? What will additional capacity mean for UK travel businesses?
“Will the devolution of Air Passenger Duty to Scotland put pressure on the UK government to reassess its position on APD so as not to disadvantage English airports?”
It’s easy to see why Tanzer believes “2015 will be a momentous year for travel”. He points out: “We expect to have a new Package Travel Directive unveiled by the summer. What will this mean for consumers and travel companies? What implications will there be for the Atol scheme and the costs of providing protection?”
There is also a new Data Protection Directive on the way. “What will this mean for the industry’s ability to store, manage and profit from personal data?” Tanzer asks. And on top of it all, “the revolution brought by the internet and changing consumer behaviour continues. Will consolidation continue? Will the sharing economy make inroads?”
Yet Tanzer says the overarching question the convention will address is this: “In the face of these uncertainties, how do you prepare for and manage change – at a company level and as an individual?”
The Abta chief promises external speakers as well as big names from the industry in a convention programme whose theme is “Our world, our industry, your business”.
Tanzer says: “We are in a disrupted market. Do we just sit here and say ‘Oh my God’ or do we grasp this as an opportunity? How do you move from managing change to capitalising on it?”
The Travel Convention 2015
When: October 12-14
Where: Costa Navarino, Messinia (Kalamata), Greece.Luxury Westin Resort, with two five-star hotels and a conference centre. Abta will take the whole resort so there will be no transfers other than to parties outside.
Business sessions: Finish at 3.30pm to allow networking
Room rates: £145 single, £154 double, per night
Flights: Aegean Airlines direct flights to Kalamata – outbound October 11-12, inbound October 14-15. Fares from £287 return (incl taxes), economy or club class
Registration: from 9am, Monday, February 23
Early Bird convention rates: Abta members/first Abta partner: £450 Other delegates: £615 Rates available until July 13
Agents: Headline sponsors Fred Olsen and Travel 2 will respectively host 35 and 20 agents at the convention
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