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4 Things we Learned from ITT 2016

4 Things we Learned from ITT 2016
17 June 2016 James Brooke

Last week I joined professionals from across the travel industry at the ITT Conference in Tel Aviv, Israel. Here are a few things I learned:

1. The industry is torn by the Brexit debate… But leaning towards ‘Remain’

Unsurprisingly, the looming EU referendum was a hot topic, culminating in a heated panel debate battling over the EU’s flaws and whether leaving would leave us (and British businesses) better or worse off.

Before the debate, 65 per cent of the audience intended to vote Remain, 28 per cent Leave and 8 per cent weren’t sure. Afterwards, 76 per cent voted Remain, 21 per cent Leave and 3 per cent undecided.

But will this reflect the actual vote? No-one will know until the outcome of the referendum is revealed in just a week.

2. The TUI rebrand can’t fail…

Nick Longman, Managing Director at TUI UK & Ireland, has ambitious plans for the company’s rebrand. Ditching Thomson is a huge risk but Longman hopes it will help change perceptions and appeal to a younger audience. Under TUI, they will move into new areas: offering tailor-made tours, city breaks and new destinations.

So, is there a fall back plan? Although the First Choice and Crystal brands will remain, once Thomson has been scrapped, ‘that’s it’, Longman said. There’s no turning back so ‘failure is not an option’.

3. Phones and email are going to disappear

Given the amount of time we spend glued to our phones, it seems unlikely they will soon be a thing of the past. Yet, according to economist Graeme Leach, we could soon be heading towards a time when ‘artificial interfaces could take over, effectively replacing smartphones as a user interface’.

Picking up the phone? With a bracelet that projects the phone screen onto your arm (essentially turning your own skin into a touchscreen), you won’t need to. Send an email? No, your own Virtual Personal Assistant will manage that for you. Efficient or terrifying? We’re not sure!

4. We’ve fallen in love with Israel

Many of the delegates, myself included, admitted Israel hadn’t previously been particularly high on their bucket list. After our visit, we wondered why not.

In just a few days we explored the stunning UNESCO heritage site of Masada, experienced the bizarre feeling of floating in the Dead Sea (spoiler: avoid getting the water in your eyes or mouth!) and visited some of the most Holy sites in the world. We followed the Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa, saw the Western Wall, the gleaming gold Dome of the Rock and saw Christians, Jews and Muslims alike praying in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is said to have died and been resurrected. Not to mention exploring the buzzing city of Tel Aviv during Pride weekend.

Despite the tragic shooting in Tel Aviv during our visit (thankfully, all delegates were safe in another part of the city), safe to say that this beautiful country won us over.

A huge thank you to the IGTO, ITT, TTG and everyone involved in making the Conference such a great event. My first of many, I hope…

By Melissa Hobson