In his book, Winning The Battle For Relevance, Michael McQueen talks about how to stay relevant in a constantly changing world. His principles apply to both businesses and individuals. In one section, he uses a sailing metaphor to describe dealing with change.
Three Rules of Sailing:
- You can’t change the wind. As adverse or inconvenient as the wind may be, we must accept that it is out of our control.
- You can’t fight the wind. The wind is a greater force than us.
- You can’t ignore the wind. If we simply ignore the wind we will be knocked off course or dashed against the rocks.
However, we can utilize the wind to navigate to our desired destination. Simply set your sails based on the current wind and the direction you want to go. In fact, we can even head straight into the wind if that is the direction of our destination. We simply need to tack across the wind until we reach our goal.
The wind is constantly shifting in the world of travel and we need to adjust our sails. Let’s consider some of the shifts we are currently experiencing in the business travel industry:
- Gen Y Travelers – Growing up with technology, they prefer to do things themselves via the web, resulting in the “open booking” trend.
- Aging Agent Population – Most agents today have 20-30 years experience in the industry. They are comfortable using the same global distribution system (GDS) tools they started with. As a result, GDS companies struggle to get adoption of their newest platforms and tools (which they have invested heavily in), and we remain in a blue-screen, cryptic world.
- Airline Industry Consolidation – Less competition has given airlines the ability to reduce inventory to fill their planes, un-bundle their fees and then re-bundle them with less price transparency for the traveler.
- Vendor Direct Selling – Airlines, hotels, and car rental companies use this tactic in an attempt to take direct control of the client relationship and reduce their distribution costs.
- New Entrants – Concur, Google, and others are entering the travel industry in a variety of interesting ways. Global travel spend is a large number and it attracts the attention of potential new entrants with new ideas on how things could be done.
- Legislative Shifts – PCI Compliance, DOT Compliance, and the NDC Distribution Initiative are just a few legislative shifts that are currently impacting the travel industry.
As an industry, we can and are adapting to these wind shifts. We have faced heavy headwinds in the past, e.g. the shift to service fees after the airlines ended most commissions, TSA changes impacting the traveler after 9/11, and the internet now providing self-service tools and transparency which, in turn, drives the “consumerization” of the travel industry.
All of these shifts were predicted to end the era of the travel agent and travel management companies. But by adjusting our sails, Christopherson Business Travel has embraced the new winds and continues to maintain relevance in the industry by providing valuable services at fair prices, helping clients manage and report on their travel spend, helping to improve the traveler experience with upgrades and amenities, and improving traveler security by with important duty of care solutions.
As individuals, we must also be aware of the wind shifts that may affect our personal relevance within our companies and organizations. We need to look for ways to improve our skill sets and change our mindsets, to utilize the winds of change and keep us headed towards our goals.