Advantage Conference BBC scotland editor Sarah Smith

Brexit: Keynote speaker Sarah Smith discusses the ‘crisis of trust’ in travel

Despite the celebrations of the company’s milestone year, this year’s Advantage Conference took the time to address the issue of customer uncertainty regarding Britain’s departure from the European Union on October 31.

Discussing the matter at the conference’s plenary session, keynote speaker Sarah Smith, editor of BBC Scotland, likened the public mistrust of Britain’s travel industry to the impending issue of ‘fake news’, which has brought the mainstream media’s legitimacy into question.

“We are suffering through a crisis of trust,” she began. “This is a time where people just don’t know what to believe, and they certainly don’t know who to trust, and that matters to all of you every bit as much as it does to us in the news. The era of authority is over.”

Likewise, in a Q&A session with Steven Esom, non executive chairman at the Advantage Travel Partnership, described Brexit’s effect on the British travel industry as a ‘grey area’, calling for industry leaders to wade their way through the market’s current climate. “What we’re trying to do is to cut through this to provide clarity because we know that [UK] sector very well,” he said.

“We’re just trying to make sense of what we can, but also control what we can control, and if we do that well hopefully we can manage the rest.”

Smith, who worked as a business correspondent for Channel four before joining the BBC, also called for travel leaders to show transparency on the lead up to Brexit, promoting an honest approach in order to restore faith in the industry. “None of us can continue to believe we know best, because nobody believes us,” she explained. “Of course, we’re only going to thrive if our customers believe the message they are receiving from us is authentic. I’m sure you all know authenticity is so highly prized these days, even more than experience of empathy, its authenticity that everyone is always looking for.”

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