On Tuesday & Wednesday last week, ITM (Institute of Travel Management) held their annual conference - this year, aptly called ‘Revive’. This is the second year in a row the event had to be hosted virtually due to the pandemic, and for the second year in a row it did not disappoint in the slightest. I can only imagine the level of organisation that needs to go into organising a consistently engaging and diverse conference for over 850 delegates - so hats off to the entire ITM team and their fantastic lineup of speakers.
If your organisation is eagerly prepping for the return to travel or is indeed involved in business travel then you are probably wondering what are the latest insights. Here are my top 5 learnings..
We are nomads
A number of fascinating signals, shifts and macro trends are becoming apparent as told by Kelly Beaver, MD of Ipsos MORI. Signals of the future include the astounding estimation that now 3 in every 5 households have a pet; 2020 was really the year for dogs and cats. Other signals include green interventionism picking up pace and also the idea of scaling the number of transport bridges and bubbles (eg AU to NZ). There are however conflicting tensions within these trends. The attraction of a return to normal travel Vs a lingering unease about foregin travel. The importance of green issues Vs air travel’s economic value to society. The economic recovery Vs the societal recovery. And also, pandemic changes to behaviour (short term) Vs slower-changing values. Even with these pull-push factors, it's reported there does seem to be an increasing nomadic urge or ‘wanderlust’ to travel becoming more prevalent. We may not be able to put our finger on it but there is the overwhelming sense to begin to move out there, complementing societies' nomadic roots.
Reduce, replace, remove
“Sustainability needs to be part of the company DNA” advises Julia Fidler from Microsoft. Responsible travel will be the new default and a higher priority than ever. Leadership needs to be involved and integrated into shaping travel policies when it comes to sustainability and our carbon footprint. An astounding 75% of companies don’t know their overall emissions yet: we need to make progress on identifying this through our partners so we can actually track and reduce, replace, remove. Similarly as catchy was Cisco’s credo of Purpose, People, Planet - but no matter what the phrase, there is no time for company complacency regarding sustainable travel.
After 14 months of living in a virtual world of Zoom, Teams, Hangouts, most of us are earnestly awaiting the return of face to face interaction (when it is safe to do so). The thought may be daunting from a ‘feeling safe’ perspective when we are suddenly in a room with 6 other people after such a long time, but the excitement is there and building at the prospect of getting on the road to recovery. While we want the concept of face to face to return, we want our travel experiences to offer contactless options where possible. United Airlines and British Airways have made operational changes to optimising the contactless experience throughout all touchpoints. Interesting to hear Clean Stay @ Hilton now offers a full contactless experience; digital check in/out, your phone becomes your key where you can control lighting, temperature, television and payment seamlessly.
Vaccination is the gateway to travel
Dr Simon Worrell of Collinson urged attendees to get the vaccine if offered to them, citing it will indeed be our gateway to the return of travel. Travel will not be as we knew it before of course - there will be changes we will all have to get used to like the introduction of vaccine passports and a number of tests, check. The more people that are vaccinated the less extensive these checks may become.
Fix the roof is when the sun is shining
Day 1 saw a motivational keynote from Martin Offiah MBE that was full of energy, emotion, astute quotes throughout - discussing positive mindset (very relevant in these times) and diversity & inclusion. He encouraged attendees to share stories frequently and in an organic way, go and connect with people emotionally. Uncover your own and others' actual intent to make things better - be honest and authentic, speak up! People often make decisions based on trust; Martin shared an excellent example of this if we were getting someone to mind our children… do we feel more comfortable leaving them with someone who is highly qualified in this area over someone we truly trust. You will always go with someone you trust over credentials.
Some top tips directly from Martin himself on where to start on self-improvement: 1) Read books 2) Don’t take things for granted 3) Internalise (have a great attitude, be thankful, practice gratitude) 4) Best the best you can be. The best things in life really ARE free and the time to make change is now. Don’t wait until it’s raining (too late), the time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining.
‘The Greatest Show’
The conference had an evening social of mixed entertainment including an awards ceremony, networking, music, magic and dance performances. Congrats to Carol Fergus of Fidelity International (Travel Buyer Award), Abby Penston of Focus Travel Partnership (Resilience Award) and Jo Lloyd of Nina & Pinta (Chairman's Award) A very nice touch from ITM to go to those efforts for their members with the evening entertainment and networking, once again creating a much needed sense of community within the business travel industry. Gary Neville touched on compassionate leadership in the Day 2 keynote, reminding us “commitment is everything” and in light of the last year, we know how true that really is.
If your company has any employee in Ireland, the UK or across Europe making considerations around any of the topics covered in the Revive conference, for example sustainable partnership and CO2 tracking, - with regard to ground transportation and mutil-modality, please do feel free to connect or reach out.
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