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When looking back on 2011, many commentators are reflecting on the crises and turbulence that the travel industry has encountered. Undoubtedly these events have impacted all of us, but in my view, that’s just a normal year in our industry. I would find it more remarkable if we faced a year without crises – that would really force us to revise our targets and forecasts!
Of course this year we have all grappled to comprehend the latest wave of economic crisis. While it seems certain that it will have a ripple effect worldwide, we are still waiting to see if there will be a long-term impact. For Asia Pacific, where I am based, I feel that we are somewhat protected due to our growth patterns and emerging markets, which help to fortify us and support our rapid recovery as a region.
The economic crisis came as something of a shock, but the natural disasters unleashed on Asia Pacific were far more devastating in 2011. From floods in Australia and earthquakes in New Zealand, to the tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan and the recent floods in Thailand – all these tragic events have an impact on our people and our business. As a company with offices in all these markets, our main priority is always for the welfare of our employees and customers. But of course we also want to minimise disruption to our business as well, which fortunately we have been able to achieve due to our strong regional network and spirited team of people.
We can’t always prepare for natural disasters, they are by nature surprising and unpredictable, but we can foresee that changing pace of consumer demands.
I remember some years back when I was presented with my first BlackBerry – it seemed like a whole new world. Today, I think I’m on my fourth or fifth BlackBerry and now I have an iPhone and an iPad as well, and I can’t imagine life without them. As an industry, we have to keep up with the pace of changing technology, to anticipate what type of devices and channels consumers will rely on the most.
Historically, major technology players have hailed from the West – Google, Apple, and Microsoft all originated in the United States. But I believe that the ‘next big thing’ in travel technology will come from the East. You only have to observe the rapidly growing economy, together with technology advancements, to see that Asia has the right recipe for success.
Experts predict that China will become the world’s largest economy before 2030 and India will not be far behind – together they will probably be larger than the United States in my working lifetime. And China is already doing many exciting new things in high-speed rail, engineering and aerospace. I think the rest of the world will soon be surprised by some game-changing ideas and technology coming out of Asia.
I’m excited to see what lies ahead in 2012, especially from my viewpoint sitting in the dynamic Asia Pacific region. I believe that whatever 2012 throws at us and no matter what crises we face, Amadeus and our partners will be agile enough to continue our climb to success. We have the right technology, the right vision and the right people to make sure of it.