Of the many inspiring sessions at this year’s ITT Conference, it was the closing speech by the founder of a tour operator that seemed to leave the strongest impression on delegates.
Long after the applause from his standing ovation had died down, delegates were still discussing the incredible story of Amar Latif who, despite going blind at the age of 18, went to Canada to do his degree, became an accountant, and founded a tour operator when he was told “there was no way to travel as a blind person”.
Traveleyes pairs partially sighted and blind customers with sighted travellers, enabling those who might not otherwise be able to travel to still experience the world. “Every time I was told ‘no’,” Latif said, “it just made me more determined to succeed.”
It’s an attitude that struck a chord with delegates, many of whom admitted this year is continuing to prove tough as the market grapples with the ongoing Brexit uncertainty, customers’ memories of last year’s hot summer and the current Tory leadership contest.
Not that this is putting easyJet off relaunching its holiday division. The airline has unashamedly bold ambitions to convert some of the airline’s existing 19.5 million passengers (from a total of 100 million) who go on to book accommodation with another provider.
And, crucially, travel agents could be part of the plan. In an interview on stage with TTG, chief executive Johan Lundgren insisted easyJet “completely recognises the value of the trade”, and that there would be “discussions” with retailers about how easyJet Holidays might work with agents.
It’s another example of pairing up to overcome obstacles, in what Lundgren acknowledged were “tough trading conditions”. With “Opportunities of Change” the conference theme for ITT this year, it’s heartening to hear the trade will remain at the heart of the travel industry, whatever and wherever the next changes may be.