Comment: The SPAA Travel Awards is the Scottish event of the year

Comment: The SPAA Travel Awards is the Scottish event of the year

On Thursday I will be all black-tied up for the event of the year in Scotland – the SPAA Annual Travel Awards.

There are many awards nights, but not too many as personal as the Scottish one. And being a former president, I see it as our showcase event, put together with meticulous attention to detail.

You could say this about many events, but everyone who comes to this goes away with the same feeling – that it was a night to remember.

If you have not been before, you do not know what you are missing. The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association will show you the Scottish welcome that you may have heard about on numerous occasions.

But awards don’t come without the hard graft – effort that makes it all the more deserved for everyone to let their hair down after what has been a rollercoaster of a year for most.

Expansion benefits

Last week, the government finally announced plans to forge ahead with the expansion of Heathrow, backed by Scotland first minister Nicola Sturgeon. This could also bring a raft of benefits for Scotland, including new domestic routes and the potential for Prestwick airport to become a logistics hub.

But how and why has this has taken so long? Other countries around the world are marching ahead with huge new airports while we drag our heels. It’s a ridiculous state of affairs: the British economy is enhanced by the travel industry, yet we are always last in line for expansion but always first for regulation.

The impact of incidents around the world, Brexit and the economic struggles we are now seeing in the UK – all make for a slightly uneasy forecast for the months to come. But being the travel industry, we put a smile on it and look forward to 2017 with a passion, confidence and expectation that not many industries can muster. We just get on with it because that is our way.

High street confidence

It is great to see the growing confidence in the high street and some major operators treating third-party agents as colleagues to work with rather than against by offering price parity online.

This is what we should be doing – working together. But there is always a shark lurking in the background, so don’t get too close for comfort. I have seen it all too many times.

As I toast goodbye to 2016, with two months to go, I am having a makeover – not me personally, although I can hear the comments already! – but in our shop. I hope, like a few of my fellow agents before me, that it brings a wee upsurge of business.

I also hope by putting money back into the business it shows clients the confidence and security that I feel for my own business and for the high street in general.

It comes at a cost, though. I still have to work as hard, if not harder.

And my golf handicap will stay high for a while yet.


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