The Sky Is Falling? Really??

For the third year in a row, the folks (now "The BTN Group") pulled together a first-class slate of speakers and panelists for The Beat Live, held earlier this week in Chicago. Attendance was good (up from last year) and there was a palpable buzz of networking in the hallways before, during and after each session. Well done!
Attendees for this event represent a somewhat disproportionate mix of niche technology providers, industry consultants and wanna-be newsmakers who have much to gain by supporting the notion that the industry at-large is teetering on the verge of near-meltdown and we should all begin some all-encompassing re-engineering programs immediately or else face certain chaos and collapse. But, is that really the case?

Let's see ... over 100 executives managed to book air travel, fly to Chicago, stay at a nice (although awfully dark) hotel, enjoy the conference and, presumably, most made it home safely, filed an expense report and, when all was said and done, felt they received good value for the time, energy and expense associated with the trip.

Did each traveler pay the absolute lowest possible airfare in the history of all airfares ever filed for their ticket? Probably not. Did each attendee receive a 24/7 constant stream of mobile-enabled content letting them know of every possible detail associated with their travels from the maintenance record of the aircraft they would be flying home to list of favorite donut shops within walking distance of the hotel as voted-on by a group of Dutch students on Easter break last year? I hope not.

And guess what? Nearly every conference attendee represented a company that is currently making money. That's right ... making money!

Hey, I'm not suggesting we all just put our collective heads in the sand and ignore some of the inefficiencies that have grown from our centuries-old industry. (After all, with Columbus Day approaching, wasn't Chris traveling on business?) Electronic distribution and all things e-commerce will continue to be pushed to deliver new business models. But really, not today any more than yesterday or the day before. Every year is "the year" when technology will change our industry. This is the new normal ... the status quo ... not a call for revolution.

This year's "killer app" is next year's Betamax. Just around the time we get every hotel room, airplane and rental car wired for Wi-Fi, and spend endless hours of energy negotiating with our supplier to cut the cost of using it, we'll all be traveling with mobile broadband cards making the whole exercise a little silly.

It's not about technology; it's about economics. So, keep innovating, keep pushing new business models, keep asking questions but, let's not stock up on potable water just yet. Our industry has survived terrorist attacks, legislative incompetence and the worst recession in most of our lifetimes. I think we'll survive another round of airline/GDS negotiations.

And, I'll see you at The Beat Live in 2011.