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01 Sep 2018

BY Lisa McAuley

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Opinion: Has the pace of change defeated the disruptors?

Lisa McAuley, managing director, Gold Medal and Travel 2, assesses how "old-fashioned" quality of service can challenge the disruptors...

Lisa McAuley opinion 2018

It’s an understatement to say that it feels like there’s a lot of change in the air these days.

 

Everywhere you look the rule book is being torn up, and young guns are telling us there are different ways to shop, learn, bank, heat our homes, drive, and even order a take away. It’s one-part exhilarating – change is good – and one-part bewildering. Wait, what, there’s an airbnb for cats now?

 

As a society, we’ve steamed ahead with disruption since the dotcom boom of the early 90s. It has brought an awful lot of social good – look at how our world has been shaken up by the iPhone, or the way discourse has been altered by Twitter.

 

But as recent controversies involving some of the biggest disruptor brands out there – such as Facebook and Uber – have recently shown, sometimes the pace of change can outstrip what the world is ready to embrace.

 

Is this the case in the world of travel entrepreneurship? To get noticed in recent years, you will have needed to be a disruptor. Gone are the days of steady and prudent growth trajectories. Today, you’ve got to shake up the world order and, if you can, have a trendy loft office with a ball pond and treadmill desks.

 

The challenge is this: eventually, the reality of what customers and employees really want catches up.

 

The pressure and stress of that can take its toll on a disrupter. Take Ryanair. After years of making a point of its cheeky “life on a shoestring” USP, and a determination to break up the norms of air travel, the airline now labours under the threat of industrial action, staff shortages and some questionable PR from a summer of cancellations.

 

Michael O’Leary’s vision has changed the face of the aviation business, but now consumers and staff are speaking up. And what they are saying is that businesses are only as good as what they deliver. Do we want to fly with a carrier that upsets its pilots and can’t always be relied upon to get us to our destination?

 

Meanwhile, over at airbnb, things are just as sticky. Staying in someone’s home can bring a unique perspective to a foreign trip but that ideal has been undermined in many cities by private landlords, who have in effect set up their own lodging chains, which often don’t conform to safety rules.

 

The result is a lack of private rentals for locals and a glut of tourists in residential areas.

 

And so we see consumers turning back to the brands they can trust. Travel agents have had it tough, but the survivors today are those who have evolved to meet modern threats by specialising and majoring on service.

 

Gold Medal and Travel 2, along with other reputable operators, have done the same: we’ve upped our touring and cruise offerings and delivered greater value, with our luxury brands leading the way. Both have innovation at their heart plus something that can’t be easily replicated – trust.

 

We continue to be committed to keeping agents happy and engaged, always acting in the best interests of suppliers and customers.

 

Does that sound old-fashioned, or is it the new disruption?

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