TC agent reports: A crash-course in successful lobbying

Travel Weekly’s ten ‘agent reporters’ will be giving us their perspective on the Travel Convention 2010 throughout the event

“My best remembered political act was to leave Margaret Thatcher’s government to spend more time with my family, many followed!”

So started an amusing and it has to be said ultimately challenging presentation from Lord Norman Fowler, erstwhile member of Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet, and recently appointed member of the Abta board.

Apparently he had a “warm personal relationship” with Margaret!

Lord Fowler’s talk, spattered with humorous anecdotes and political memories, was best summed up by the message he received addressed to “Norm boyo” from a less than impressed Welsh voter who having slated him on his resignation decided some time later that perhaps he had returned to the human race.

“Tracking the Political Landscape” was an attempt to encourage the travel industry to take seriously the challenge to interact with government, or those who influence it, namely constituency MPs.

We were encouraged to make known industry concerns through the medium of personal contact, rather than the now discredited, or at least over-used, email.

According to Lord Fowler MPs seek to serve and are dedicated to their constituencies, so any constituent who makes serious representations to their MP, either through their regular clinics, or by inviting them to visit a place of work to discuss issues, will receive a favourable response.

Predicting a turbulent time to come for politicians, with protest, complaint and industrial action likely in response to straightened times for all, he encouraged delegates not to “shout at politicians” but to develop relationships and endeavour to persuade them by strength of argument and weight of numbers.

If enough MPs are getting the same message from travel agents, who exist in every constituency, then the weight of evidence will be sufficient to convince the government to take our case seriously.

The issues to raise include jobs (every politician’s concern) and the potential losses if the trade declines, the future of many SMEs, and the need to allow individuals to make choices, to spend money they earned as they see fit, not nannied into a UK break when what they want is an overseas adventure.

Government needs to take service industries as seriously as it does manufacturing to secure Britain’s finances, and the travel industry can play its part by lobbying, through Abta and through individual interaction with MPs.

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