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ABTA’s Travel Convention in Seville last week was short in duration but big on content. It might not be for everyone, as the pitch is very much directed at the strategists and management of travel companies and, of course, that mix can lead to good and not so good presentations.

However, there was no denying the quality and performance of the Speakers, with the theme of the Convention being Truth, Trust and the Future of the Expert - so you would rightly guess politics didn’t take centre stage!  Over the two days, subjects as diverse as the Psychology of shopping, Who we trust and why, Digital transformation and Sustainable tourism were addressed, and, of course, the usual panel discussions took place. While discussing the challenges of the industry, the Speakers and panellists couldn’t actually provide ultimate solutions – which is just about where Brexit came in!

However the two outstanding presentations for me were from Bryony Gordon - author of ‘Mad Girl’ and broadcaster, and Giles Duley - one of the world’s leading documentary photographers. Bryony talked about mental health in the workplace - a subject we don’t always take seriously; but addressing her own challenges - and in a manner that was very frank and open, she raised many questions about how companies, large and small, tackle a situation that may be right in front of us, but we don’t see it because of the stigma attached to it. It was heartfelt and meaningful, and certainly raised awareness amongst the audience. It’s something we need to pay attention to in our own businesses. If only this session alone makes a difference to people in our industry, then the Convention was worthwhile.

Giles Duley, on the other hand, was a total revelation. A war photographer who had been blown up by a land mine in Syria, losing both legs and an arm, he talked about his relationship with his rescuers, his recovery, his determination under incredible odds, and his journey back to Syria after a number of years. This was brought dramatically to life with an accompanying video of his rescue, including his injuries filmed by the medics. Despite all this, the lasting impression I had was of his relationship with the people of Syria. In realizing his superb photographs were not having the effect on the world that they should have had, Giles set up a charity to help those in need during war. His extraordinary journey should be heard by everyone, not just for his storytelling and bravery, but to bring home, once again, the tragic nature of war in general, and the Syrian conflict in particular.

In thinking about Giles Duley and his experiences, our day to day issues, including Brexit and all the challenges we have in the industry, seemed minor in comparison. Maybe that was the point for all of us in the audience!

Ken McLeod
SPAA President