ABTA’s Travel Convention goes virtual for the first time and I miss it already

TD Editor
Mark Tanzer

I have been dreaming of Morocco since it was announced as the host destination for the next ABTA Travel Convention. Unfortunately, the annual conference of travel agents will take place as a virtual one-day event this year due to the ongoing pandemic.

This year’s event will be held on 14 October. Some aspects of the beloved convention will remain such as thought-provoking content around the future of travel and tourism explained and facilitated by top-notch keynote speakers, business sessions, a range of specialist workshops and networking opportunities delivered to delegates via a virtual event portal.

The Travel Convention programme is developed around three key pillars: Our World, Our Industry and Your Business. This year’s theme is ‘Rebuilding Confidence in Travel’.

In Our World, hear about the Government’s approach to restoring confidence in travel and how Brexit will impact the industry. A panel of economists will explain what is happening in the economy at a macro-level, whilst commentators and industry speakers will examine how consumer expectations are changing as a result of Covid-19.

In Our Industry, hear insights on how to operate travel in a world with Covid-19. A range of speakers will explore what is happening throughout the customer journey, including in destinations, to encourage the return of safe travel.

In Your Business, there will be a focus on sustainability, diversity and inclusion, digital transformation and new ways of working – as getting these things right will help to build confidence in our industry. Interviews and panel discussions with industry leaders will focus on the different ways in which travel businesses have adapted to the new climate created by the Coronavirus crisis, and other current events, and how they are promoting confidence to their customers to start travelling again.

Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA – The Travel Association said, “We took the difficult decision a few months ago to postpone this year’s Travel Convention in Marrakech to 2021, but we look forward to welcoming our delegates there in person next year.

“In the meantime, with the start of the recovery presenting so many challenges to businesses, it has never been more important for us to come together to discuss the future of travel and how we can rebuild confidence in customers. From our virtual studio, we’ll be delivering high-level business sessions, practical workshops and time for networking. It will be unlike any other Convention before it – and we look forward to seeing our delegates there.”

While I am looking forward to the topics teased at this year’s convention, I will definitely miss the networking events, the after-parties, and all of the extra flair that add colour to the conference. My first attendance at ABTA’s Travel Convention is in Tokyo last year. The hot topics at the conference were Thomas Cook bankruptcy and (you guessed it) Brexit, carefully sandwiched in relatively fun issues such as new travel products and trends.

It is like reading a newspaper – you have your news and your lifestyle section. That was the first time I said that I enjoyed the conference with a sincere heart. Nothing beats British humour delivered by the host and some of the speakers that provided comic relief to what we expected as bone-dry sessions.

Being the only Asian in the team of British journalists, I was an outsider looking in fascinated with the culture shock that was happening to them and to myself. I saw them wince at raw fish and pickled vegetables and how they ordered chips to no end for sustenance, and they saw me shop like a maniac at Don Quixote using CASH!

Brits work hard, but they play even harder! Unlike other conferences that run like a normal working day from 9-5, sessions ended at 2PM and we were free to explore and experience the dynamic city of Tokyo. Moreover, every night ends with free-flowing drinks as if we do not have work the next day. I drank like a sailor for the whole week that I spent in Japan, but who says no to an open bar, right?

God, I miss it already!

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