2017 MARKS THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY of my entering the noble and universally admired profession of journalism. In all that time I cannot recall moral challenges like those I felt when penning a feature for this edition of Buying Business Travel on Donald Trump.
In the first place, as has frequently been diagnosed, Trump does what he does because he has a narcissistic personality disorder. He behaves outrageously to ensure his name is written and uttered billions of times daily around the globe. I worry I have, albeit to a minute degree, stoked his craving for attention through another 20 name-checks in my feature and several more in this column.
Then there is the paradox of trying to write with objectivity and balance about someone who has no interest in, indeed appears hell-bent on destroying, objectivity and balance (just look at his chosen administration, which makes no attempt to reflect the views of the majority of Americans who voted for Clinton). We have seen much the same from certain newspapers in the UK over Brexit, but for real journalists, this so-called ‘post-truth’ world feels deeply disturbing.
A column like this is designed to express opinions, but when I write news or features, I feel something close to an Hippocratic oath to present not only accurate facts but also both sides of an argument. In our new world of lies and shouting, as Othello said, my occupation is gone.
The week after Trump’s election it was the GBTA Europe/VDR conference in Frankfurt. It was very reassuring to debate with and enjoy the company of travel industry colleagues from no fewer than 34 countries. I could go on to extrapolate from this observation a glib conclusion that travel broadens the mind. Unfortunately, as history has demonstrated, from the moment Genghis Khan cantered out on his first international tour to the antics of England fans at the Euro 2016 football tournament, this is not necessarily so.
Even so, I remained convinced that engaging with people from other countries and cultures, along with much better education, is the only way out of the dismal situation we find ourselves in at the beginning of 2017. In our own small way the work we all do in business travel facilitates that important exchange of ideas.
And, as we have seen time and again, by far the best multinational travel managers are the ones who work hard to understand the varying needs of their travellers around the world and build communication channels that enable them to listen as well as to talk. If some of the demagogues who are leading the world into dangerous places at the moment were to spend 12 months as a global travel manager, they might re-think some of their attitudes.
TALKING OF CAREERS IN TRAVEL and outsized personalities, I am sure that, like me, you were tickled when Ryanair hoovered up another shovel-load of free publicity by advertising “the worst job in Ireland”: an accountant/right-hand person to CEO Michael O’Leary.
Essential attributes for the position included “thick skin, saint-like patience, aversion to bolloxology, own collection of nursery rhymes/bedtime stories, ability to operate without sleep or contact with the outside world” and “(ego) massage qualifications”.
All good knockabout fun, but I am told by those who have dealt with him at length that in private O’Leary is quite different: thoughtful, modest, reliable and, needless to say, loves his kids. Quite a pussycat, in fact. O’Leary has been noticeably quieter since he realised he could only take his airline so far with a cheap but nasty reputation. Perhaps there’s a lesson in there for others?
A NEW YEAR MEANS NEW RESOLUTIONS, so can we all reach agreement over a few linguistic points for 2017? First, why don’t we minimise our use of the word ‘pivot’ as a verb, which became unaccountably fashionable during 2016? Second, let’s please remember that when you say “GDS-agnostic” you probably don’t know what the word ‘agnostic’ means and what you actually want to say is “GDS-neutral”.
Finally, this column has largely been a plea for tolerance and measured behaviour. However, I am sure we can all agree to one exception, which is that anyone who starts a sentence with the word “So...” should be bundled outside and summarily shot.