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Trust, foresight & embracing change: ABTA concludes 2018 Travel Convention

A busy final session was held at the ABTA Travel Convention in Seville this morning with delegates hearing from LBC presenter Maajid Nawaz on the importance of trust, a "View from the top"-themed panel discussion and a talk on embracing change from photographer Giles Duley, which resulted in a standing ovation.

Mr Nawaz talked about the breakdown of trust in institutions, such as the government and police, in the context of his own experience as a 16-year-old who became radicalised by an Islamist group, his journey away from extremism after serving time in an Egyptian prison, and his setting up of Quilliam, a Muslim-led counter-extremist organisation. For travel agents working during often tumultuous political times, Mr Nawaz had a strong message: "The travel industry should be engaged on some level with the geopolitical landscape."

The panel discussion featured three chief executives: John Bevan of dnata, Robin Shaw of Saga and Richard Calvert of Specialist Leisure Group. The three panellists agreed that Brexit had created uncertainty, especially with no deal agreed on with six months before Britain leaves the EU, but said they were preparing as much as they can for a range of scenarios, including no deal. While staycation business could improve post-Brexit, it was still unclear how leaving the EU will affect travel across the channel as well as employees in the travel industry from the EU.

Customer engagement was a strong theme of the discussion with Mr Bevan telling delegates to communicate with customers through a wide range of channels so that options to engage and make sales are not limited.

The final session was a talk by Mr Duley in which he shared his experiences with photographing people affected by conflict before and after losing both legs and an arm when he stepped on an IED in Afghanistan. His main message was to embrace change, even if the change is unwanted or unexpected, which reflected another strong theme of the conference - that a wide range of changes are affecting the travel industry in positive and negative ways and it is up to the entire industry to continue to be creative and enterprising to remain competitive

The ABTA Travel Convention concluded with the announcement that next year's conference will be held in Japan’s capital of Tokyo.

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