The current economic downturn offers the travel industry the opportunity to find common ground in identifying problems, solutions and initiatives, and for the industry to emerge from the current crisis stronger and better unified, Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition believes.
“The silver lining in the current economic crisis may be a window-of-opportunity to remake ourselves into a unified and powerful industry," Mitchell said. "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," Mitchell continued. "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," Mitchell said. “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.
“While difficult problems threatened the sustainability of many aspects of the airline and business travel industries before the current economic downturn malaise, 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)," Mitchell continued. "It’s time for us to come together in this season of change and find a new and better way forward.”
To achieve this, the BTC is convening the travel industry’s first BarCamp, July 9-10. In his invitation to global industry leaders to participate (The BarCamp Conference will be held at the ACE Center outside Philadelphia), Mitchell seeks an unprecedented and diverse assemblage of the best-of-the-best from corporate travel management, airlines, government, hotels, technology providers, travel management companies, airports, associations, media and academia.
Mitchell contrasts the BarCamp conference concept to typical top-down planned traditional conferences with keynote speeches, expert presentations and preset agendas. A BarCamp is a bottoms-up format where the agenda and discussion topics are determined by the participants onsite and where every participant is expected to lead a session, help lead one or participate in other meaningful ways.
Mitchell says the format facilitates a massive exchange of expertise and ideas and is particularly effective in situations involving conflicting ideas, complexity and diversity of thought or industry participants. “All that is set in advance is the venue and umbrella theme, which for us will be Travel Sustainability,” he said.
Examples of silo-issues that could be discussed in one or more BarCamp sessions could include: NextGen (Air Traffic Control Technology), energy policy, the regional airline model, aircraft maintenance and crew outsourcing, immunized global alliances and distribution system reform
Prior to the actual BarCamp, there will be an online planning process where potential discussion topics will be suggested by some registrants and where other registrants will indicate sessions they are willing to lead.
“Industry leaders will find this BarCamp experience an invaluable opportunity to reconnect with customers, interact with industry participants they would otherwise not have the opportunity to be with and stress-test the assumptions that underlie their Boardroom strategies," Mitchell said.
The goal is for BarCamp participants to gain new ideas, connections and hope for the future, Mitchell says. Expected BarCamp outcomes, cited by Mitchell, are a massive exchange of industry expertise and ideas, shared perspectives and passion around top-priority strategic issues
Mitchell urges early registration online. Costs are $295 is all-inclusive.