Free thinking leads the way

We are all familiar with the adage “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” but is getting tough good enough?

Well, one certainly needs to pull upon all available resources in a crisis, but in the corporate world it’s often other qualities or skills that can make the difference.

Since the turn of the century, Spain has been innovating its way to the top in rail travel with the goal to link the entire country with the most advanced high-speed rail system by 2010.

However, it’s not just the population of Spain that will benefit but also the Spanish companies that consult on engineering, design and build, infrastructure, signalling and ticketing systems and more, that has allowed Spain to take full advantage of the explosive growth in demand for advanced rail transportation in the international markets.

It is a great example of how one country pulled its corporate resources together and turned itself in to a world beater through innovation and collaboration.

In air travel we have seen huge leaps in air passenger comfort with the fairly recent arrival of the Airbus 380 and, from across the Atlantic, Boeing is just months away from releasing its new Dreamliner Boeing 787.

Essentially ditching the traditional aluminium construction for a ‘composite’ material, Boeing claims it will gain 8% more efficiency through weight loss and reduced fuel consumption. Surprisingly, Boeing claims to have secured advance orders for 861 aircraft valued at $144 billion, making this the most successful launch of a commercial aircraft in Boeing’s history. So look out for the new plastic airliner in 2010 and let me know how you enjoyed the experience!

But we don’t have to go all the way to Seattle to experience the new ‘must have’ service that I have been, for example, invited to experience from Paul Stanyer’s Holiday Taxis – the all-new ‘Marhaba VIP’ service, which provides a personal escort programme from the airline flybridge, fast tracking you all the way through customs to your luxury limousine taking you to your chosen destination.

This is just what one needs after a long and arduous flight to the ITT Conference in June and, of course, a good example of a company thinking about its business, creating new revenue opportunities while at the same time expanding its corporate profile to the world’s largest airlines.

Technology will always have a part to play and I heard it said recently that within travel, the choice of technology partner is crucial to your survival. Indeed, with the huge growth in retail consumer shopping online, (16% retail growth online in 2008) the internet is a medium no one can afford to ignore and to maximise the opportunity its essential that the consumer journey ‘flows’ well, without confusion in the booking process. 

Whilst systems are indeed vital, so too is marketing your product and I have personally been amazed at some techniques that have produced dramatic results – such as the Los Angeles-based shop, ScanMyPhoto, that boosted its online awareness by offering bloggers 1,000 free photo scans if they agreed to place a link to Scan’s site on their blogs.

The result was so dramatic that within just two months, the company appeared in Google as the top search result for ‘photo scanning’ leading to tremendous online sales and a big boost in online conversions.

Finally, as a man who makes his living from technology and innovation, I have, like many others, been amazed at just how well Viewdata has survived the technology revolution but none more so than our very own development director when he was asked by one client to take all of the client’s stock from the internet and make it available via Viewdata. Welcome to 1973, he replied!

Kenny Picken is managing director of Traveltek

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