LILA* attends ALTO New York
Well I’ve finally recovered from another excellent ALTO (Association of Language Travel Operators) conference in New York City, no less! The theme of the event was ‘Directions and Trends – a Look to the Future of our Industry’ and given the recent election result, it was very timely indeed, particularly for those of us operating in the UK but also for those agents for whom the UK is a major destination.
Tom Cheesewright, Furture Strategist, entrepreneur, media commentator and author of ‘Book of the Future’ kicked off the conference with a look at the threats to our sector – or opportunities – depending on how much of an optimist you are. There so many trends which are having an impact on our volatile sector right now it’s difficult to know where to start but as Tom pointed out, a lot of them will take a long time to have any effect and we can’t do much about them, cost of air-travel, climate change etc. The one area we could actually harness to our advantage is the one which is having an exponentially dramatic effect on life in general and will, without doubt, be effecting us and our clients, is in the tech-world. He gave us a glimpse of what is happening right now – check out MS’s Realtime English-German Voice translator and their Holo Lens computer and imagine the possibilities we have to connect with our partners and students!
My personal highlight was the Industry Panel where Dr Alex Grech, Strategy Works, gave a fascinating outsider’s perspective to the debates on topics such as the role of online booking platforms and emerging destinations for delivery of English courses. What is going to be the Uber or Airbnb of the language travel sector? Jacqueline Kaasteen from ICEF Monitor gave us some inspiring examples of how players in similar industries have stolen a march on their competition by embracing tech and all the possibilities it can give us. See the Sol Wave Hotel in Majorca for inspiration; it’s kind of ‘hotel meets Tinder’ so not sure if it’s something we actually want to be encouraging in a General English class but hey…it’s all about the experience I suppose!
And finally…lots of wonderful networking opportunities as we spent hours gazing in wonder at the wonderful exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art and enjoying the company of our friends and partners over dinner.