You may remember a TV series broadcast a few years ago called Life On Mars. It told the story of a modern day detective who, after a life-threatening incident, found himself propelled back into a police force of the politically incorrect 1970s, complete with chauvanistic boss, Audi Quattro and platform shoes. I experienced my own Life On Mars moment a few days ago when I saw the following headline in one of the online newsletters: "GDS Quest For Hotel Dominance Faces Obstacles". I blinked hard and looked again at the date... no, it definitely said March 2013.
In our closeted world of hotel distribution we're very fond of telling ourselves that everything is changing so fast. It's a claim made with just a hint of smugness...aren't we amazing for managing to keep up with these strange new trends! But the truth is we treat new challenges like foreign cuisine - OK for an occasional night out, but they can never replace those comfort food discussions: the future of the GDS and the role of travel agents, the perfect way to describe an A1K and the best way to avoid paying Expedia. These familiar topics have been circling around for so many years that the debate resembles a hospitality version of Groundhog Day.
Last week prior to ITB, Nexus and Trust hosted our annual Consultant's Day. This event has become a real fixture in the calendar, bringing together as it does a couple of dozen strategic thinkers and experienced advisors from across our industry for a day of presentations and discussion on where we're headed and who are the key players that will change our world. It may or may not surprise you to learn that no one mentioned the GDS. Or travel agents. We did talk about Expedia, but only in the context of how when the OTAs have finished cleaning our clocks, it will be the merchandising experts like Amazon that take the next swing. Amazon is a great example of a company that managed to separate fundamental truths from temporary solutions: people may always want to buy books, but you can redefine the bookshop. If we don't figure out the hospitality equivalent for ourselves then we can be sure that someone else will do it for us.