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Opinion: A great Travel Convention – but Walsh disappointed

Johnny Pollard, commercial director, On The BeachAnd so another Travel Convention comes to an end. For me, this year’s conference in Malta had several highlights and only one real disappointment.

Firstly the long awaited, much hyped, Willie Walsh lecture was frankly disappointing. Yes he spoke well about the challenges British Airways faces and made some positive statements about the need to lobby against the forthcoming increase in Air Passenger Duty charges, but nothing we didn’t already know.

I felt his speech was aimed away from the travel agents in the room. Surely the whole point of speaking at the Convention is to address the agents.

I was however, very impressed with the ‘loose talk’ session chaired by White Hart Associates’ Chris Photi. Various entrepreneurs gave their views on the marketplace, their successes and answered questions about Air Passenger Duty and Atol frankly and honestly, as well as the never-ending debate on consumer protection.

Low Cost Travel Group’s Paul Evans is always great value for money and not afraid to say things as he sees them. Paul is a breath of fresh air when it comes to generating debate in the conference sessions.

Sanders, Pirie and Jacobs

I was also very impressed by Teletext Holidays managing director Victoria Sanders, who spoke about how in 18 months, she has turned a loss-making business into a considerably profitable one thanks to her entrepreneurial desire to succeed and willingness to take the risks, which were pretty high, with a national household brand. 

Travel Republic managing director Kane Pirie finally stepped into the limelight and gave a fairly frank and honest session on several subjects, including a strong view on consumer protection, his battle with the Civil Aviation Authority and his appointment to the Abta board.

TWgroup chairman Clive Jacobs also gave an inspirational interview on his success and his plans for his company. Clive is one of those guys that commands excellence but gives so much in return. To hear him speaking openly was a high point of the Abta convention.

Trade is fighting fit

And then of course there were the networking opportunities and events. Where else can you sit down with such high quality delegates all in one place? The various events were very well presented and attended, and everyone had a great time.

I commend every delegate for attending, every speaker for taking part and every sponsor for supporting the event. Our industry is being attacked by the economy, the government and the lack of clarity and clear regulation.

On the evidence of this year’s Abta convention, all these challenges had better be ready for us because we are stronger than ever and more positive than any other industry.

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