ANTOR held its first conference earlier this week at the Royal Garden Hotel in London, Kensington.

Representatives from a total of 58 countries attended along with more than 57 industry delegates to hear a line-up of speakers.

Kicking off with a topic which has been very much the centre of attention for the travel industry over recent months, Luke Petherbridge, public affairs manager for ABTA, presented ‘Brexit - What now?’

Highlighting the results and regional differences in how people cast their vote across the UK and briefly outlining the political aftermath and economical impact, he said: “Uncertainty is never good for the travel industry, whenever there is uncertainty we see bookings fall so we need to counter this as much as we can.”

Talking points covered how the process of Brexit could occur in the next couple of years as a new relationship between the UK and EU is established and the most relevant trading relationships that could be adopted. Addressing the room Petherbridge commented: “The main battleground is going to be access to the single market which is very important to everybody here; trading across borders and freedom of movement. The more access we want to the EU single market, 500million consumers, the more we are going to have to accept in some degree freedom of movement. This splits between the two elements of the freedom of movement which is freedom for travel for leisure purposes and business meetings, and freedom of employment and freedom of labour.”

Highlighting the importance of the travel industry between the UK and the EU; 76% of all UK outbound holidays last year were to countries within the EU, accounting for approximately 29 million trips, with almost two thirds of all inbound visitors to the UK from the EU.

The Travel Association’s immediate focus is to maintain the confidence that people have to travel and answering questions from consumers, members and travel businesses, about what is going to happen after leaving the EU with a particular emphasis on messages of stability. In tandem with this ABTA will also be active in fighting negative perceptions of the UK. Petherbridge noted: “We've seen some unsavoury news coverage over the last few weeks since the vote and we need to fight the perception that the UK is not a great place to visit or that the UK citizens going overseas may not be the kinds of tourists that people wish to attract.”

The association is also keen to ensure good relationships with key political stakeholders so that priorities, such as the consumer benefits of visa free travel and open skies, will be heard in Westminster and Brussels. Petherbridge concluded: “We must make our voice heard. The UK simply does not have the trade negotiators in place that we are going to need and the government is not prepared for the types of negotiations that we are going to see over the next three or four years. All industries across the UK will be making their voices heard and the government will be pointing out where their priorities lay and what we need to see as part of the trade deal. Travel needs to be at the front of that queue as well.”

Echoing this sentiment Tracey Poggio, chairman at ANTOR, also commented: “We're certainly an industry that's seen many troubled times but we also know how well we work together; right now we really need to act as one.”

Other speakers included wellness consultant Anni Hood on ‘Wellness Tourism’ and Maria Pieri from National Geographic Traveller on ‘Changing Consumer Behaviour’; Tourism Society Consultants Network’s Tom Buncle talked on ‘Crisis Management’; whilst Luca Romozzi from Expedia unveiled their recent study into consumer digital purchasing behaviour; with Bruce Martin from Ginger Juice providing a light-hearted review of the do’s and don'ts of social media.

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