Special Report: What’s in store at The Travel Convention

Abta develops diverse agenda. Ian Taylor previews event

The Travel Convention gets under way in Seville on Monday with the usual array of activities for those arriving before the opening night.

The convention’s business sessions start at 9.30am on Tuesday with moderator Chris Ship, the ITV News royal editor, introducing the conference and its theme of ‘trust’.

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer will emphasise the importance of confidence and trust in his opening remarks ahead of the first keynote speaker Rory Sutherland, one of the most senior figures in UK marketing.

Sutherland, vice-chairman of advertising agency Ogilvy, will discuss ‘Who We Trust and How We Choose’. Expect him to dismiss fears for the future of travel agents in a sharp-witted presentation.

He argues: “The prophets of the digital generation tend to be in the top 10% of the population for wealth and can afford to make a mistake. A lot of predictions about where the market will go are exaggerated. Most people will continue to use intermediaries.”

Sutherland will be followed by retail expert Sofia Natal, who heads customer experience transformation at technology giant IBM’s subsidiary IBM iX. Natal will talk about the psychology of shopping discussing: “How to build a proposition to global customers, how brands are building trust, what it means to engage with customers and why people would want to buy from a middleman.”

There will be time for an update and appeal on behalf of the Abta LifeLine charity before another keynote speaker, Philip Wolf, takes the stage.

Wolf, an evangelist of digital technology in the industry, founded travel research firm Phocuswright in the mid-1990s when the internet was barely on the horizon for most people. He will examine the next stage of digital transformation, its impact on the industry, and the technology giants that will largely control it.

Tuesday morning’s final session will see journalist and popular author Bryony Gordon of The Telegraph ponder the absurdities of modern life.

The highlight of the afternoon could well be Dr Paul Redmond’s discussion of ‘the Zombie Apocalypse’ threatened by technology. Redmond proved one of the big hits of the 2017 convention in the Azores. But expect insight as well as humour from the Liverpool University academic, who says: “Your customers will never be more happy than your staff.”

The final session of the day sees the first panel discussion, with Travel Weekly’s Lucy Huxley hosting a debate on ‘The Future of the Expert’ with Kuoni’s Derek Jones, Becky Power of Google UK, Alistair Rowland of The Midcounties Co-operative and Claire Irvin of The Telegraph.

However, the day does not end there, with a choice of workshops before the close and an evening party at the magnificent Cortijo Torre de la Reina hotel outside Seville.

Day one offers delegates choice of four workshops

Tuesday’s programme diverges after the final plenary session when delegates have a choice of one of four workshops.

Travel M&A in Uncertain Times will examine the state of the mergers and acquisitions market, and offer tips on how to approach a deal from a panel of experts who advise on or have experience of the process.

Wellbeing in the Workplace will see the return of Dr Paul Desmond who will present ‘Five ways to wellbeing’ before moderating a panel debate on issues in the travel sector.

In Reputation Management Inside Out, VFS Global chief operating officer Dusty Amroliwala will discuss mitigating the risks of reputation damage due to business processes or employee action.

In Get Ready for Voice!, delegates will hear from Global Radio creative director Jo McCrostie who suggests we can soon look forward to voice activated cars. Apparently, 50% of all web browsing will be screenless by 2020. It will “take some pressure off our eyes”, but what about our ears?

Travel Weekly is trade media partner of The Travel Convention
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