Giles Hawke, executive director, MSC Cruises

Kevin Ford, Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin. Brilliant guys, all of them. Yep, I know. You’ve absolutely no idea who they are. And without the benefit of Google I wouldn’t either.

Chances are though that you have heard of Chris Hadfield – the astronaut who made space travel super cool – and who, it just so happens, will be keynote speaker at next month’s Advantage Conference on MSC Fantasia.

With my company plug out of the way, I can get back to talking about Kevin, Oleg and Evgeny. The trio were the three astronauts on the International Space Station just before Chris arrived.

There they were, doing all sorts of amazing scientific research and suddenly…along comes a fella singing David Bowie songs, making YouTube videos and getting a book deal.

Positive PR

Space exploration, like travel, is something we’d started to take for granted. Hadfield showed the value of simple, positive PR.

Similarly, in the music world, The Stones, Bowie and Madonna reinvented themselves to retain appeal across generations. Staying relevant is about staying cool, and travel can learn a whole lot from this approach.

The labels ‘tour operators’ and ‘travel agents’ are outdated – these days companies need to act as travel organisations staffed by professionals who act as tour operator, agent and advisor.

And we all need to look at the way we talk up our benefits.

We often mention price and destination but what about all the other things that travel offers that are more important: spending time with family, having a break, educating yourself, seeing new things, doing new things, meeting new people, understanding other cultures, switching off and seeing the world in a whole new light.

Promote the benefits

Who should be responsible for promoting all the other benefits of a holiday? You could argue that it is part of Abta’s role to promote travel positively, rather than just firefighting.

Do we need some star advocates to go out into the wider world and sell the wider benefits of travelling?

Kuoni has done a great job recently by linking with TV presenter Simon Reeve, but the truth is that most travel headlines still focus on the negatives such as school holiday pricing, airline failures and major incidents overseas.

How about a collective approach as to how we reinvent our industry? A holiday is essential and travelling helps you become a better person.

Travel sits firmly in the hierarchy of needs. 

While we are all competitors, there must be a better way of working jointly, as Clia does for the cruise industry, 
to get more people taking holidays 
and spending a greater percentage 
of their disposable income to appreciate its benefits.

We’ve got great technology to help us sell, great travel journalists with plenty of inspiring stories and plenty of industry bodies who know their sectors inside-out.

Maybe now we just need some tips from Chris on how to take a view from on high?