“The future is unlikely to be paradise, but there’s no reason to believe that it will be hell either.”
That was the prediction from Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer, as he opened the association’s annual Travel Convention in Seville today.
He acknowledged that most in the travel industry were probably suffering from “Brexit fatigue” but added that while politicians “have argued and dithered, customers have continued to travel and book into the future, even with the fall in the pound”.
Tanzer insisted his conversations with Brussels over the last 12 months had demonstrated that everyone across the EU was in agreement about the importance of UK outbound tourism – “both sides gain, economically and culturally”, he pointed out.
Despite this, Tanzer was keen to stress “there’s no doubt that we are living through a period of major technological, economic, political and social”.
He conceded the industry was likely to see “winners and losers, at the country level, at the industry level, and at the company level”, and said the aim of the Abta Travel Convention was to help the sector understand what would create winners.
Preparation, Tanzer said, remained key, particularly in the current climate of uncertainty – not just to minimise the impact on business but also to maintain confidence among consumers.
He also highlighted the core theme for this year’s convention - trust – and pointed out the trend for news items to often now be dismissed as “fake news”.
“We’re in the middle of a fundamental reassessment of which sources of news and expertise we can trust. The ‘Fake News’ phenomenon is still with us, and can now be used to refute unwelcome truth, or as a first line of defence against all sorts of accusation.
“But the techniques of data analysis extend beyond political influencing and are becoming part of mainstream advertising, so the question of whom to trust becomes pervasive in our lives.
“It was only a few years ago that social media were seen as more trustworthy than traditional media… Now we learn that fewer than 25% of us trust social media; trust in the traditional media, perhaps surprisingly to some, is on the rise again.”
Tanzer underlined how the decline in trust of social media had also created opportunities for the travel sector, referencing findings from Abta’s Holiday Habits report which showed there had been a significant drop among younger age groups in trust in review sites as sources of information and inspiration for their holiday.