The best of times, the worst

ITB Berlin highlights the ability of the industry to sustain over passing phases.

THIS month we will gather at the 51st edition of ITB Berlin, discussing ideas, connecting with emerging opportunities, celebrating success and sharing ideas for overcoming challenges that face us all.One aspect of our industry clearly needs to be celebrated, and that is, there will be high seasons and low, but the passion for our work, the goal for creating more happy moments, the quest for discovery and the love for travel as an abiding principle of life cannot be subdued by market forces.

ITB Berlin through its decades of connecting our industry is an immediate and outstanding example that highlights the ability of our industry to sustain over passing phases.

Very recently, we were reminded by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) of the right to travel freely, the very bedrock of our industry that must be preserved in the long run. WTTC believes that all people have the right to cross international borders safely and efficiently for business and tourism purposes. David Scowsill, president and CEO, WTTC, said, “The Executive Order issued by US President Trump on January 27 banning travel to the US from seven countries for 90 days goes directly against the fundamental right of freedom to travel. It has created immense confusion among travellers and travel companies worldwide.”

Travel and tourism bridges divides between cultures, fosters understanding across religious and geographic boundaries, and generates more peaceful co-existence. What better time than now to push more cross-cultural exchanges and immersion in the face of temporary challenges?

According to ForwardKeys, the travel industry analyst, for the Middle East as a whole – beyond the banned countries – during the last year, bookings to the USA were already down 8.8 per cent, but focusing on bookings issued from January 28 to February 4, they fell 38 per cent. Bookings from Saudi Arabia were down 60 per cent but the substantial decrease is probably due partly to a school break, from Jan 26 to February 5, which fell at a different time last year.

Bottom line being, short-term snapshots make great material for panic, but we are not here for the short-term, are we? There are brands and service providers out there who are actively looking at the silver lining and responding strategically, what explains, the email newsletter from a prominent European carrier that I have received just now.

It says, “Go big in North America” followed five great ideas (lucratively priced). Some conditions suddenly become the perfect trigger points to convert and tap into latent customer base.

While we reflect on the incidents and challenges of the past few weeks and its impending impact, it is heartening to know that the greater good prevails, that the mindset to push our boundaries and connect with ideas and continue with our business will not be stalled. The Association of Corporate Travel Executives responded to the announcement of the US travel ban with a global survey designed to measure the emotional and economic impact of this policy. In response to the question “Will the recent travel ban reduce your company’s travel?” Some 61 per cent said “Not at all”. That’s the spirit we will take forward.

As consultants, experts and service providers, we need to help things settle down so that we can go about the business of building value in travel and tourism the way it should be.