*This post originally appeared as a ‘letter from Mike’ in Global Business Travel magazine volume three, issue two.*
We tend to think of disruptions negatively, as undesired events or activities. For business travelers, disruptions too often involve a loss of time and money. Thunderstorms can shut down airports and create cascading flight delays and cancellations. Wars and natural disasters can strand people and threaten their well-being. Political disruptions, such as the recent near-shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security over immigration-policy differences can create widespread problems.
From a different perspective, disruption can have immensely positive effects. In 1908, Henry Ford built his first Model T automobile. He also developed the first assembly line mode of production, a process that enabled the car to be made quickly and efficiently. This is a vehicle that was affordable for the masses. It revolutionized travel. Decades later, Howard Hughes designed increasingly efficient aircraft that made it possible to travel nonstop across continents and oceans.
Elon Musk, the subject of the magazine’s cover story, is another such positive disruptor for the travel industry. He is one of our era’s leading visionaries, who is best known as the head of Tesla Motors, a company that manufactures electric vehicles that can travel nearly 275 miles on a single charge and never use gasoline. He also is the founder of SpaceX, which develops and manufactures vehicles for transportation into space. The company’s rockets have replaced the space shuttle and may well take the first people to distant planets. Musk is focused on the future of travel…to Mars! While electric cars and space travel represent potentially positive disruptions for the future, Musk already has achieved a lifetime’s worth of positive disruption. He co-founded an online financial services and email payment company in 1999 that became PayPal, dramatically expanding the online retail universe.
Disruptions such as these can have tremendous impact on our day-to-day lives, let alone for the business travel industry. Business travel professionals must confront a seemingly never-ending series of positive and negative changes affecting the way they facilitate in-person business interactions. At GBTA, we pride ourselves on keeping abreast of these various disruptions – helping our members respond appropriately within their own companies and organizations.
GBTA’s annual Convention represents an opportunity for all our current and prospective members to learn about the latest issues affecting the business travel industry. This year’s Convention will be held in Orlando, Florida, July 25 to 29. The location is particularly relevant to a discussion of disruptors, as Orlando is home to Walt Disney World. Disney is one of the world’s most (positive) disruptive companies. It revolutionized the theme park industry. It set new standards in animated motion pictures. It has become a global media leader with its ownership of ABC Studios and ESPN. I encourage all of you to join us in Orlando, where we can continue the discussion on disruption.