Difficult problems threatened the sustainability of many aspects of the airline and business travel industries before the current economic malaise came upon us. One of the most intractable problems is that we rarely act like a real industry (the way, for example, the oil or pharmaceutical industries do). It’s time for us to come together in this season of change and find a new and better way forward.
The silver lining in this economic crisis may be a window-of-opportunity to remake ourselves into a unified and powerful industry. None of the problems BTC has ever worked on exist neatly in a single silo; the impacts of government or industry initiatives are much broader and are often characterized by collateral damage to many other industry participants. To be fair, a typical industry is cohesively led by dominant suppliers. In contrast, our industry is a collection of independent-minded suppliers of inputs to the travel experience such as hotels, travel management companies, airlines, labor, rental cars, airport authorities, technology providers and charge card companies, among others.
As an industry we are an assemblage of different interests toiling away on issues within our individual silos that correctly looks to outsiders, including governments, like we are highly fragmented and seemingly incapable of agreeing on and prioritizing our own problems, let alone solving them. We need to turn away from these constricting silos and toward inclusive coalitions organized around issues of strategic importance to the entire industry. If the jet-fuel crisis of last summer taught us anything it was that all our fortunes are tied together. Airlines lost money, labor lost jobs, airports lost service, communities lost connectivity, hotels lost guests, travelers lost service and corporations lost productivity.
We have the opportunity to find common ground in identifying solutions and initiatives vis-à-vis our industry’s most pressing problems, and to adjust strategies to help us come out on the other side of the current economic crisis and to strengthen our industry to meet the crises ahead. To this end, BTC is convening the travel industry’s first BarCamp on July 9 and 10 just outside Philadelphia at the ACE Center with a diverse assemblage of some of the best thinkers from corporate travel management, airlines, government, hotels, technology providers, travel management companies, airports, associations, media, academia, labor, analysts and consultancies.