2006 was not a vintage year for the Travel Industry. Market conditions were tough resulting in many failures, some high profile, and the state of confusion that now exists over Consumer Protection post the Judicial Review and the unedifying squabbling on interpretations of same is a depressing end to the year.
Will 2007 bring an upturn? Consumer Protection issues will drag on interminably and we are years away from meaningful reform and restructure. Confusion and complexity is a professional’s bedfellow so my business prospects are good but regrettably the beleaguered travel company owners/managers have more of the same to look forward to in what is becoming an increasingly confusing and complex forum. Are the Government Agencies, ABTA and other related organisations really seeking wide enough consultation and independent comment? I believe this matter is far too insular and in the hands of too few all of whom have their own agendas.
One of the most exciting, fulfilling and exacting parts of my professional life is in relation to the rescue of distressed travel companies. 2006 was not a stand out year in this regard and it is plain to see that the existing models that I have used, with my International Rescue colleague Roger Allard, will need to be revamped and reworked. This industry is ever changing and it is clear the common denominator in this year’s failures is that old fashioned business models based around flight and bed commitments sold conventionally no longer work irrespective of how good the “brand” is. I am often asked what I perceive is the major reason for travel failures. The answer is simple – Management. While there are exceptions businesses generally fail due to management decisions taken or more importantly not taken. The Travel Industry is ever changing and is not one where management can be complacent or feel tomorrow will bring something better. Management need to be prudent, decisive, well advised and open to change and innovation. Do not rely on a trusty old business model because it worked in the past. The time to make careful and difficult decisions is not when it is too late but when it is clear, standing back and looking at your business, that things need to change and quickly. What better time to do it than at year end.
Some of my holiday time will be spent reflecting upon the events of 2006 and what 2007 is likely to bring. Can the plethora of bed banks all still be profitable and successful? How much longer can your marketplace support four “majors”? How much longer can tour operators support such expensive and complex consumer protection when the airline industry has none? I hope 2007 is a better year for us all.