Challenges to existing business models may be daunting, but they also offer great opportunities, says Brighter Group executive chairman Steve Dunne
I had the pleasure of attending Travel Weekly Group’s Travolution Summit in London this year.
It was a brilliantly insightful, inspiring and frightening conference.
Yes, I said frightening, as throughout the day we heard about some of the innovations coming our way.
These included computers that will monitor your emotions and understand your facial expressions and body language, designing holidays based on your search patterns and what you post on social media platforms.
We learnt which jobs would become the domain of computers rather than people, and the list of occupations destined for the scrapheap was startling.
It was pointed out that several major channels involved in inspiring holidays – YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Periscope – either did not exist or were mere fledglings just a decade ago.
The frightening part was assessing how today’s travel players, particularly agents, could survive amid these shifting sands. One could be forgiven for being worried about the future.
Back to the future
It made me cast my mind back to an afternoon in my youth when my father came home waving a black plastic box and proclaiming that it was the future.
“When you have a family of your own, son, there will be no such thing as cinemas. What I have in my hand is the future of entertainment,” he said.
In his hand was an early VHS video cassette and for quite some time his view of the future looked well founded.
At its peak, in 1946, there had been some 4,700 cinemas in Britain and 1.64 billon tickets were sold each year. As my father had predicted, by the start of the 1980s the number of cinemas in Britain had shrunk dramatically.
Cinema screens numbered fewer than 1,300 and most of them were in a sorry state: dilapidated, dirty and not great value for money. Ticket sales fell to a low of 54 million in 1984 – the Last Post was playing for the cinema industry.
But a cursory glance across the UK today shows a different picture and one from which agents can take inspiration.
Despite the downloads, Netflix and Amazon Prime, today there are 4,185 cinema screens across the UK and ticket sales are a buoyant £1.24 billion a year. Cinema complexes now resemble mini airport terminals, with coffee shops, sweet shops, memorabilia outlets and multi screens showing a variety of films.
Premium seating, reservations and themed weekends are making the cinema experience so much more than just watching a film.
The cinema industry, from being on the precipice of extinction, is now one of the most innovative sectors of the entertainment industry and set on an upward trajectory.
Reinvent to revitalise
Smart travel players have grasped this need to reinvent themselves on the retail front. What Kuoni is doing is a brilliant example and Thomas Cook and Tui are reinventing the travel retail experience too.
As the old adage goes – the only constant in life is change. And for retail agents the strategy of reinvention will be key, not just to survival, but to success. Reinvention really is the mother of success.
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