Let’s see some industry unity

Tim Waddell wonders if the region’s travel industry players will ever really be able to work together to bring about vital change?

Iam sitting in my office surrounded by mountains of paperwork, buried by invoices that need approval and trapped between walls adorned with marketing concept proofs.

It is that time of year again – post Ramadan, when the industry seems to undergo a new burst of life and everything goes from just being busy to completely manic.

We have coined a new phrase in our team for the way we work this month; we are no longer ‘multi-tasking’, we are ‘hyper-tasking’, and I know we are not alone.

Despite all the activity, the papers and the mess, (which should be occupying my mind) something continues to nag at me, and as I look up at the Business Travel Show (BTS) floor plan, which is hanging from one corner of my overfull pin-board, the thought starts to come into focus.

The travel industry in our region needs a new CEO. It’s true! As an industry we are out of shape and the BTS floor plan that has caught my eye begins to explain why.

There are some significant players missing from the forthcoming exhibition. Key regional airlines, who spend a great deal of money during the year on their brand delivery, have –  for whatever reason – opted not to attend the Business Travel Show.

Their individual non-participation is not really the issue here.

What does concern me though is the underlying message that there is no cohesion between all the different entities in the travel arena. No agreement on what or who is important.

Regional airlines, hotel chains, car rental companies and TMCs – they are are all competing for slices of the same business. They all rely on the same consumer groups and yet, continue to operate so independently that the resulting industry fragmentation can only end up weakening the travel product offered to customers, as well as the overall perception of the industry in the mind of the market as a whole.

As the Open Axis Group, (a recently established non-profit organisation dedicated to the promotion of XML as the optimal electronic messaging structure for airline system connectivity worldwide), starts to gain more attention globally, the importance of travel industry cohesion is going to continue to be drawn into focus.

But, for all the travel industry players in the Middle East region, this is about much more than simply the issue of content fragmentation.

This is about agreeing a common set of objectives, goals and best practice among travel entities – including the corporate customer – that provide all parties with an equal voice.

And then  we must look at how those best practices can be implemented going forward, working together as an industry.

Travel is an exciting and rewarding profession to work in, and yet, as a travel management company  we are constantly fighting an uphill battle to attract the best talent to come and join us.

The travel industry is not viewed by many as an elite ‘profession’, and we need to make a united effort as an industry to change this. If airlines, hotels, TMCs and corporate travel buyers improved communication we could all work together to accelerate our own industry’s growth.

It’s a task that would frighten off even the most seasoned CEO but one which we can at least begin to work on from the factory floor – if we all agree?

Tim Waddell is the director of marketing at Alshamel International.

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