Posted by Diane Bouzebiba (Managing Director, Amadeus UK and Ireland)
The last few months have been hectic. Hugely rewarding in many ways, but hectic! The annual GTMC conference in Doha soon merged into the Amadeus Travel Management Leadership Forum in Monaco. If my life weren’t busy enough… then I had to go to Barbados for the ITT Conference! Sometimes this job can be really tough! ; )
Some (not so great) expectations
So what was I expecting from my first ITT conference?
– Given that it was in Barbados, I was expecting the sun, sea and sand (yes, yes and yes);
– Given that we were staying at the Hilton, I was expecting a great hotel (yes again)
In addition, I was expecting a boring long-haul flight, being with a lot of travel and tourism industry people that I didn’t know, and sitting through speeches and presentations that would be vaguely similar to others I had listened to over the past 6 months. It was on the last three points that I was both seriously mistaken and pleasantly surprised at the same time.
- Virgin Atlantic delivered a level of comfort during their ground and inflight services that is to be highly recommended. Even a lanky lass like me had enough leg room in my premium economy seat, and the V-room at Gatwick was delightful! The onboard media centre was a dream!
- I certainly didn’t know many of the attendees before I went, but this event gave me unrivalled networking opportunities over the 3 days of conference and I now have a whole new set of very good friends and colleagues from all areas of this industry.
- What I found most inspiring were the business sessions themselves. Over the 2 days of the formal sessions, we heard from a wide variety of speakers that provided much food for thought for any executive working in this industry.
A notable highlight was the presentation of the proposal for the Thames estuary airport. For me, there was a slow and painful realisation that such projects are extremely unlikely EVER to be realised in my lifetime (in a Western democracy) due to the multiple and interlinked issues that are inherent in such a proposal. Not least of which is the need to encourage nesting birds to budge up the coast slightly so we can build on their traditional nesting grounds. A cross-party debate on all of the current options is to be encouraged by the travel industry, which is a logical first step.
Further insights from the speakers demonstrated the need for brands to invest in their strengths if they are to have the slightest hope of attracting and keeping the business of today’s fickle consumers. We heard a lot about differentiated product. But this means very different things to the companies presenting their approaches to differentiation. From contracting exclusive hotels to living life on the edge by publishing raw customer feedback on the consumer website and making sure that all bad feedback serves as an encouragement to improve overall quality of service. Differentiation is all about giving customers what they want, when they want it and in the manner they want to consume it. Sounds deceptively simple on paper.
What does the future hold? According to a leading Tour Operator/Travel Retailer, “Those who will succeed in the future will be those who continuously invest in technology to drive their business. We need to learn from technology providers and use it to enable our business”. I couldn’t have said it better myself! It goes without saying that Amadeus will be a part of that future, as we are today, standing with our customers and helping them succeed!