During the 2017 Skift Global Forum in September in New York City, we heard from a host of the travel industry’s top leaders from across every sector. And after first speaking to them on stage in front of an audience of more than 1,100, we took another few minutes with them to get more insight in our backstage Skift Take Studio.
When Apple Leisure Group CEO Alex Zozaya spoke at Skift Global Forum last year, there had been plenty of bad news to worry about, including major hurricanes and travel bans.
But as he told us behind the scenes in the Skift Take Studio, Zozaya was optimistic about all the new travelers he was expecting to see in 2018. And, he said, his company — which includes resorts, tour operators, a Caribbean-focused booking site, and more — has a strong advantage.
“One of the good things about the space we’re on, which is traveling for pleasure, is that technology will not be able to replace the product,” he said. “Unlike other products that are being completely replaced by technology, in this case you cannot reproduce, you cannot replace the experience of being there with any type of technology, even virtual reality.”
Despite that, Zozaya said, the travel industry still had to overcome the barriers put up by the Trump administration since the inauguration in January 2017, including travel bans, laptop bans, and isolationist rhetoric.
“We have Donald Trump not really helping the cause by putting all this fear and actions and banning things and making things more complicated and [embracing] protectionism,” he said. “Anything that is against globalization, against people traveling, against combatting the ignorance hurts traveling.”
Zozaya believes those challenges can be overcome with proper messaging.
“But I think the way we can combat that is by delivering the right information,” he said. “We have to focus on the value proposition, the convenience — even though with all these security things, additional measures, it’s less convenient than it was in the past.”
He added: “I think there is still a lot of value for money, a lot of wonderful product.”