Thursday, November 01, 2007

Is the events business taking the air travel threat seriously?

One key take-away from both the UFI and ICCA meetings from which I've just returned: the business events industry (exhibitions, conventions, conferences and other meetings) is only waking up to a huge threat very slowly. Reed Exhibitions' Nick Forster mentioned it at UFI and the Pacific Asia Travel Association's Peter de Jong at ICCA: it's not the threat of terror in the skies, miserable major airports or surly security personnel. It's the growing focus on the environmental lobby on air travel as a significant contributor to global warming.

This issue does not seem to have taken hold of the consciousness of anybody in the industry in Asia in a serious way. They are merrily marketing in the assumption that people will continue to get on 'planes in ever larger numbers and keep the business humming along. In the short term, and particularly for local and regional business in Asia (as budget airlines explode relatively late onto the scene here), this may be true. But longer term, I am concerned that most seriously under-estimate the challenge.

PATA's de Jong noted that the mainstream travel industry is fighting a serious rearguard action against knee-jerk legislation on this issue, especially in Europe. But it seems clear that we can expect higher 'carbon' taxes on air travel and, perhaps, demonstrators outside major events like the ones who camped outside Heathrow this summer.

Be aware and beware. The level of environmental awareness in the meetings and events industry is pretty pitiful. That will have to change.

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