This article is also available at Prospect.
Last week I attended the World Youth, Student and Educational Travel Conference over two days in Manchester. In a particularly difficult climate for all aspects of the travel industry, it was reassuring to see so many delegates at a conference aimed at investing in new ides and innovating its way out of the situation.
The keynote speech was by Lee Crockett, writer and commentator on the effects digital technologies are having on businesses and society, because of how they are changing the behaviour of individuals en masse. Lee also highlighted a major barrier to innovaiton being an organisation’s inability to question itself and it’s preconceptions and practices, coining ‘TTWADI’ – That’s The way We’ve Always Done It’ as a root cause of problems with examples going back over 2,000 years that still affect us today!
One of the organisers mentioned Lee’s tactic was to entertain, scare, scare again and then finish with a joke. Needless to say, a lot of people walked out of the room worried by the realisation that their difficulties didn’t just exist in the immediate issues of high oil prices and low expenditure and growth, but much stronger groundswells of customer behaviour.
This was reinforced by the opening panel, who emphasised the importance of user-centred services as the key to survival. In an age when feedback and word-of-mouth verdicts on the performance, user-friendliness and effectiveness of a service can be circulated round the world almost instantly, a brand can be built or broken overnight.
The second day was packed with seminars ranging from an excellent discussion on sustainable tourism chaired by Lelei LeLaulu – an entrepreneur who has worked in humanitarian and development roles for non-profits and the UN – to talks on innovative marketing and harnessing technology to reduce the environmental impact of travel and tourism, which LeLaulu explained as ‘the best system we have for distributing wealth and knowledge around the world’.
I presented an overview of co-creation and service design as a way for the travel industry to innovate its way out of a difficult environment. This was alongside a presentation by Jason Fulton who described how his work for nike had turned consumer behaviours into new branding offers. Jason’s talk runs from 00:00 to 23:30, and mine from 23:30 onwards.