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Thu 21 Oct 2010 12:00 AM

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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?

Let’s see some industry unity

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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