Seemingly crushing news for startups and event organisers trading on the word “innovation” with an industry veteran claiming there is no such thing in the sector.
A former-CEO of Asian GDS Abacus and a Cathay Pacific exec for 20 years, Don Birch says about 95% of new travel projects (skunkworks inside establish corporates or startups) are just playing with or fixing an existing problem rather than doing something “truly innovative” or groundbreaking .
This is no innovation, it’s “creativity”, he surmises.
When pushed on what was the last innovative move he saw in travel, Birch (now MD of consultancy China Opportunity Partners) shrugs, stays silent.
But he explains further. Game-changing projects (“proper innovation”) generally happen outside of travel and all we are seeing in this particular sector are those willing to re-engineer or find a solution to something that already exists.
Is the latter what is nowÂ masqueradingÂ as innovation? Perhaps…
Using a strange but relevant comparison, Morten Lund, serial investor, a founder of Everbread and fellow member of a panel at WebinTravel, agrees.
Citing how critics often gush how Vincent van Gogh was a fabulously innovative artist, Lund says the reality was that the Dutch painter was actually just creating the same forms and style as many of the “other painters he was hanging around with”.
Not innovative at all, he suggests.
So provocative words from Birch and Lund (and slightly ironic, in a way, as Everbread is trying to make a big play in Singapore this week), but perhaps simply a question of semantics and nuances of language.
Nevertheless, “travel creativity” doesn’t sound as sexy as “travel innovation”.