Special Report: What makes Abta’s Travel Convention important?

Ahead of October’s event in Marrakech Ian Taylor speaks to members of its advisory board

‘The convention is all about content –it combines heart and head really well’

Cat Jordan, communications director, Travelzoo


My parents are tour operators. They went to the Abta convention every year when I was a kid. To me, the convention is a staple of the travel industry calendar. You go to a location and discuss how we move forward while experiencing why we’re all in travel in the first place.

The convention is particularly important this year. We’ve all taken such a kicking and now we probably have to live with Covid.

Abta’s voice on behalf of travel has been particularly strong. The industry has taken such a battering. Certain people really fought for the industry and Abta was part of that.

The beauty of travel is that we bring pleasure to people. It’s why so many people haven’t left the industry despite such a difficult time.

Other events are about meetings and doing business. The convention is all about content. Abta does the combination of heart and head really well, with a dose of realism.

It’s an opportunity to get in a room with your industry peers, to hear experts from outside travel and get ideas for how to move your business forward. [Former Conservative minister] Rory Stewart’s piece will be interesting and the macroeconomic piece will be important.

But Abta doesn’t get you into a conference space from 9am till 5pm. It’s easy to check your email or go to your room and work and still feel part of the convention. It’s possible to get work done.

I’m excited about Marrakech. We’ve all planned to go there twice over. I’m a believer in never going to a conference and not taking at least half a day to see the destination. I’m going Sunday and have booked a tour for Monday.”

‘I’m looking forward to Tanzer putting down a strong marker’

Ben Bouldin, vice-president, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Royal Caribbean Cruises

Ben Bouldin

The landscape of travel has changed significantly. Not many suffered more financially in the pandemic than us.

Travel has changed in terms of the consideration consumers give to how they travel and where. Consumers are looking for greater protection and are happier with holidays protected by one principal.

I hope the convention marks the start of an exciting time as we move into 2023, although I say that tentatively because we have fuel and food costs rising, airport disruption – so many things happening that can have an impact on consumer confidence.

I’m looking forward to reconnecting with people – we’ve been apart for three years. I would not underestimate the importance of people getting back together to share experiences and discuss the challenges, and what better way to do that than at the convention?

We need to make our industry attractive again, attract talent and embrace the talent we have.

Second, there is sustainability. We have to get our heads around the EU’s Fit for 55 roadmap [which proposes to reduce CO2 emissions by 55% by 2030]. It’s complicated, but it’s going to have an impact and we need to be ready. Third, distribution is changing, and the distribution curve has also changed.

We have Chris Ship moderating the convention and I always enjoy a conference when he is involved.

I’m looking forward to [Abta chief] Mark Tanzer putting down a strong marker to remind people of what Abta does. It’s an important convention for him.

Early on in the pandemic, there was some criticism of Abta because of the pressure on agencies. But the messaging, and what Abta tried to get the government to do, was consistent and professional.

Those who have gone off and done their own thing have done no better despite maybe getting greater media coverage. It split the industry voice. When travel speaks with one voice it is much stronger.

I’ve been to Marrakech once and am looking forward to going back.

‘The convention offers insight to widen your horizons’

Jeanette Harper, senior director of international travel and partnerships, Avis Budget Group


Avis has long been a supporter of Abta and the convention. The trade is a key part of our distribution network and will continue to be.

The convention is one of the key events in the industry calendar where the trade comes together with industry leaders.

I lead our partnerships and relationships team and having face‑to-face contact is more important than ever.

While Zoom continues to be beneficial, I’ve relished meeting people in person again. Networking is more important than it has ever been. The convention is an opportunity to reconnect with people.

The world has changed and I want to look forward. I’m interested in how the landscape of distribution is changing. Is it different by customer segment, or different for tour operators or for online travel agents?

I like to use the event as a sponge, to take in everything. You get a lot of insight at the convention and it helps widen your horizons.

I like [Abta chief] Mark Tanzer’s keynote speech, and Intrepid Travel is always interesting because of its focus on sustainability so I’m looking forward to hearing [chief executive] James Thornton. Intrepid is also co-sponsoring the Abta LifeLine cycle ride with us.

We’re life-long supporters of Abta LifeLine and continue to sponsor the bike ride in aid of it. We started sponsoring the ride in Seville and it has become more and more popular. It is an opportunity to see the real Marrakech, although I’m not sure about the traffic.

We have changed our approach to how we support events. We’re very deliberate in our decision-making, paying close attention to relevance, thought leadership and the breadth of the network. The Abta convention is a key event.

Personally, I love Marrakech. I haven’t been for 10 years, but I know people there. I’m going to add a little leisure time.

‘The key thing is networking with decision-makers in the industry’

Martin Alcock, director, The Travel Trade Consultancy


The convention is one of the key events in the annual calendar and October is a good time for it to take place for us because we get the September Atol renewals out of the way and have a chance to reset.

The networking is always important. But this year in particular the convention is important because we’re all grappling with so much more – so much is changing.

The key thing is networking with decision-makers in the industry.

We don’t go to the convention to win business, but what we sell is having a finger on the pulse and being clear on issues, so the content this year will be important.

I always like to listen to [former Conservative minister] Rory Stewart. Given the unfolding political mess, he should be really interesting speaking a month after the new Conservative Party leader and prime minister is installed. Stewart is also an international traveller.

I like to hear views from people outside the industry, but I particularly like the political speakers and the economic view. However, the biggest draw of the convention is that it’s a great place to get together.

It’s an efficient way for us to see a lot of clients. We work with companies all around Europe and a lot of them will be in one place in Marrakech.

The venue is also a draw. There are so many events these days that the destination comes into it when you decide whether to go. I’ve been once before to Marrakech. I’m hoping to join the Abta LifeLine ride.

More: The Travel Convention website [External]

Special Report: Travel Convention 2022 preview

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