29 Jun, 2016
Bangkok – The biggest global mistake exposed by the Brexit vote is the fallacious assumption that the rich, famous and powerful know it all.
Since time immemorial, the content of travel industry conferences and events has remained chock-full of the inevitable top-down approach which assumes that if you are rich, powerful, famous or otherwise holding some influential “thought-leadership” position, you can be trusted to know what is going to happen next and what is “good” for everyone.
Well, the Brexit vote proved them all wrong. All of them, without exception.
So what lesson are the rich and powerful likely to learn from the mess?
Admitting mistakes and learning lessons does not come naturally to the rich and powerful. However, some are scrambling to do U-turns.
On 28 June, the World Economic Forum, the world’s biggest shindig of the rich and powerful, issued a news release quoting Nouriel Roubini, Professor of Economics and International Business at the Leonard N. Stern School of Business, New York University, as saying that mediocre growth is the new normal. “Traditional monetary and fiscal policies have lost their efficacy to jumpstart anaemic economies, and structural reforms have been constrained by politics, Roubini added,” according to the WEF media release.
It went on: “Commenting on Brexit, Roubini warned of a global trend of backlash against globalization spurred by the fruits of growth not trickling down to all segments of society. “What we saw in the UK referendum was a division between rich and less rich, young and old, skilled and less skilled. This kind of pressure is becoming severe,” he said. “Look at the United States: you have Donald Trump representing the angry white blue-collar worker, and Bernie Sanders for both angry white- and blue-collar workers.”
Roubini’s view was shared by Mehmet Simsek, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey. “Brexit represents one of the most significant pullbacks from post-World War Two consensus on openness in trade, labour movements and globalization in general,” he said.
Prof Roubini is a johnny-come-lately. Only one travel industry publication has consistently maintained over the years that globalisation will fail to deliver the promised results. That is Travel Impact Newswire, the travel industry’s leading “alternative perspective” media.
Here is some of my early-warning journalism dating back to 2003 and 2004:
In 1999, as the first Asian editor of the PATA Intelligence Centre publication “Issues and Trends,” I published this forecast called “Rethinking Globalisation”.
That was followed up in 2001 with another 100% accurate forecast called “Protesting Globalisation”.
In December 2014, I organised the first PATA webinar on the subject of “Prepare, Prevent, Pre-empt” which was designed to set in motion a process to mainstream a “prevention-rather-than-cure” mindset into travel & tourism thinking.
Interestingly, such against-the-grain revolutionary thoughts have never been incorporated into the mainstream agendas.
The ITB Berlin Convention, which claims to be “the Leading Travel Industry Think Tank” and the industry’s “main knowledge platform” has never featured a speaker who could provide a counter-trend. We know the reason: Telling industry “leaders” that they could be wrong is a grievous blasphemy. It may singe their thin skins and deprive Messe Berlin of potential sponsorship funds.
The same applies to the conferences of other major international travel industry associations, the WTTC, UNWTO, PATA, and many others.
Well, the Brexit fiasco proves them wrong, all of them. As of now, they have zero credibility.
Now, perhaps, the “leaders” will start realising the importance of listening to the “followers” – the people at the bottom who feel the impact (for better and for worse) of the policies and power-plays of the people at the top.
Industry events would now be better off dumping the zero-credibility “thought leaders”, futurists, techno-babblers, CEOs, investors and “strategic thinkers” and replacing them with those who have been proved right – the revolutionary NGOs, academics, social activists and others who have heretofore been frivolously dismissed as “dissidents”.
Don’t know who they are? I will be happy to recommend a whole team.
Continuing to do business as usual will be a huge disservice to the industry at large, and grossly irresponsible to boot.
Those who don’t learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.
The industry “doctors” have all failed. It’s time to seek a second opinion.