10 Oct

The Travel Convention: a brave new world

This week, we hosted ABTA’s annual Travel Convention in Tokyo, where around 500 ABTA Members, Partners, travel media and industry colleagues came together to discuss the pressing issues our industry faces. 

Our theme was Brave New World and, in light of the recent failure of Thomas Cook, the topic seemed especially relevant. For those that attended the event, it was a chance for us to come together, take stock and discuss some of the issues and learnings from the company’s tragic demise.  

For those that didn’t attend the event, and I include in that number the vast majority of ABTA staff, work has continued diligently to ensure customers are looked after, claims are processed and to mitigate the pain being felt by other Members and suppliers. Much progress has been made, but more still needs to be done both by ABTA and our Members.  

During my opening remarks I recognised and thanked the CAA for the way they’ve handled the huge operation of repatriating Thomas Cook customers. However, I also reiterated our call for the government to launch a full consultation into the findings of the Airline Insolvency Review to address the issue of protection for scheduled flight failure. Frustratingly, it was almost exactly two years ago – following the failure of Monarch – that I asked the government to tackle this issue.

While Thomas Cook has dominated discussions, there were other thought-provoking discussions on important topics, most notably around climate change and sustainable tourism. Our industry – by that I mean ABTA and its Members – has been working for a long time to improve travel’s social and environmental footprint but the challenge is growing, particularly in respect of carbon and fossil fuels. All parties, including government, need to work together to tackle it.

There were many positives that we took away from the event too – not least experiencing, albeit for a short time only, some of the wonderful things that Tokyo and Japan have to offer as a destination. Many delegates were visiting the country for the first time and I know I speak for many others in saying that it is a fantastic destination, with a huge amount to offer, so if you didn’t get a chance to make the trip this time, please do so in the future.