It’s already been just a bit over a week since our 9th annual Travel Directors’ Summit – a prestigious, invitation only event that brings together over 200 MDs, FDs and CEOs of travel businesses and organisations at the Emirates Stadium in London.

To those that have been religiously coming year after year, it is a great opportunity to meet up with fellow travel Industry colleagues and take part in the day’s programme of events, which includes over 10 session delivered by Travel Industry heavyweights as well as highly inspirational people. To those who were new to our event, we sure hope we convinced them why it’s worth coming back.

For its 9th year, the Summit celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Fall of The Berlin Wall as well as the importance of the freedom to travel, not only for those in the Travel Industry but for each and every individual. The theme was Beyond Borders: Against All Odds , a throwback to The Cold War and that was reflected in the various sessions throughout the day. Sessions also tackled whether we need more borders not less when it comes to climate change and over tourism. In addition, we looked at borders in the mind or rather the lack of them…


The conference kicked off with BBC presenter and political commentator Steve Richards (Behind The Curtain: Revolutionary Times?) who had taken delegates on a 40-minute mind journey on how the current UK political landscape is at the moment. Needless to say that Steve had sold out all the copies of his latest book that we had at reception after his session and rightly so. He regularly sells out his one man show ‘Rock’n’Roll Politics’ in London and we could only hear words of praise from our delegates about Steve’s session.

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The day continued with a fantastic Travel Industry summary of the past year, delivered by none other than Simon Calder, the ‘man who pays his way’. He definitely needed no introduction and he has touched on the most events of the past almost 12 months, both events that had made headlines as well as some that were a bit under the radar.


The Summit also focused on providing a platform for speakers who had a very important message to deliver: we can no longer ignore the climate crisis and we have to act now!

The session in question was impeccably delivered by Tim Williamson, Customer Director at Responsible Travel who has also emphasised that people should make their flights count.  Read more about Tim’s presentation in TTG. 


The day continued with an insightful talk about data and how we can use it in order to help our business, presented by Roy Barker, Director of Spike.

Roy touched on the smart and profitable things your competitors are doing with data – using it to fuel machine learning and AI initiatives – which have, up until the recent past cost way too much for you to implement as a SME.

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Throughout the day delegates heard form Claire Steiner too, HR & Talent Director, this year’s co-moderator and all-round lady extraordinaire, whose panel of experts included Jackie Lacey (Head of People Engagement, Gray Dawes Group), Andy Sturt ( MD, VIP Ski) and Piers Crowder (Director of People, AC Group). The session (‘The Cold War For Talent: Stop Your Staff From Defecting’) brought the spotlight on how to attract and maintain emerging talent, the impact of BREXIT within the recruitment sector as well as the importance of investing and looking after your current staff members.


Claire’s presentation was followed by yet another industry expert, Mathew Prior (Former MD Marine & Tailormade, Travelopia and Interim CEO TrustedHousesitters) whose session (‘Take Back Control: Don’t Let a Good Crisis Go To Waste’) has shed light on how you can deal with issues that your business could face. The key takeaways for delegates were:

  • Dive deep into your data
  • Reset your plan
  • Renew delivery focus
  • Improve your cash
  • Invest wisely

The session ended on a short interview conducted by Deborah Potts, Founding Director of Summit Advisory, Elman Wall’s Mergers & Acquisitions arm and Head of the Elman Wall Marketing department.


Close to the end of the day, delegates got to hear from G Adventures‘ EMEA MD, Brian Young. His session (‘Breaking Down Borders: The Benefits of Community Tourism’) has certainly had an impact and reminded us all that community tourism could be a tool for community development by changing lives and benefiting local people while, at the same time, offering unique local experiences for travelers.


The 2019 Summit finished on a high with Dr. Kevin Dutton’s engaging talk ‘The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies and Serial Killers can Teach Us About Success’. Kevin is an Oxford research psychologist, bestselling author and Fellow of the British Psychological Society. Alongside his academic work, Kevin consults within the fields of elite sport, business and military intelligence.


And with this, we have ticked off yet another year of the Elman Wall Travel Directors’ Summit. It was filled with wonderful people exchanging ideas and we, at Elman Wall, look forward to start planning next year’s Summit.

Until then, don’t forget to keep in touch by signing up to our newsletters!

To see and download all photos from the day, click here

Curious about this year’s Summit playlist? Find it here

More press coverage from the day:

TTG – Travel industry news – People ‘should make their flights count’ (

Summit Fun Fact: If you were wondering what was the purpose of the red balloons on and around the stage, here is the explanation…Back in 1983 and 1984, when Cold War tensions were high, the song “99 Luftballons,” was a global hit for West German pop star Nena. The lyrics were inspired by the image of balloons floating over the Berlin Wall, resulting in a 99-year war from this otherwise harmless flight of balloons, causing devastation on all sides and no real victory….

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