Brushing up on ancient Greek history out at the Travel Convention this week, I was fascinated to learn how one of the seven districts on the Peloponnese peninsula was responsible for the coining of the word “laconic”.
The people of the city state of Sparta, in Laconia, were famed for their military prowess, as well as their dry sense of humour. So when, in 346BC, King Phillip of Macedonia sent a message to the King of the Spartans saying, “If I capture Sparta I will crush every stone”, the bullish reply from the Spartans was simply: “if”.
Risk and resilience was the theme of this year’s event, and if there’s one thing the sessions proved, it’s that the threats facing the UK travel industry in 2015 are vast and varied.
From the impact of geopolitical unrest and terrorism on holiday destinations to eurozone instability, and from new sharing-economy platforms to questions about the future of the airline charter model, the conference threw up plenty of challenges.
And yet the conference also gave travel agents – and the UK trade more widely – several reasons to be cheerful.
Abta’s latest Holiday Habits Report revealed that more holidays have been booked this year than last, with affluent clients in particular taking more breaks. The prospects for 2016 are even better, with almost a quarter intending to spend more on holidays next year. The number of people booking with travel agents did not rise but nor did it significantly decline, and a consumer’s likelihood to use an agent for more complicated holiday bookings this year was incredibly high.
What’s more, we heard from one home-sharing website, onefinestay, that agents can play a part in distribution for certain sharing-economy platforms. So despite the complex challenges of being a travel agent in this changing industry, it remains a market full of opportunities for the resilient.
Of course, if travel agents don’t adapt and don’t find new ways to add value, then their future is less secure. But as the Spartans would say, that’s a pretty big “if”.