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The return of ETC

Jeremy recounts his experiences at the ETC conference in Reno, Nevada

The return of ETC

Jeremy has been to the ETC (the Educational Travel Consortium) conference in the USA, catching up with some familiar faces and leading a session on travel uncertainty.

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Finding Calm after the Storm

Pico Iyer is a thought provoking traveller and writer, the Indian heritage, British born author of The Global Soul who splits his time between California and Japan. As the ETC community (the Educational Travel Consortium) reconvened for the first time since Covid, Pico illuminated the mixed emotions provoked by the storm the travel industry has negotiated in the last 3 years.

Pico reminded us of the importance of humility, ‘when you arrive in a new country you realise that you know nothing of what you thought you did and it’s always more complex and surprising than you imagined’. He was talking about Iran, Cuba and Japan but spoke for all of us about the importance of packing curiosity and an open mind in your travel bag together with an eager desire to find insightful travel companions and locals to illuminate your journey.

Another part of the conference looked at transformational travel and the journey within, suggesting we look at the motivations for our travels and what journey we’re looking to make for ourselves each time we travel. Our journey to Reno in Nevada for this conference certainly provoked a few echoes in my soul from the 10 ETC events I’ve attended over the years across North America. I was one of a much smaller band of overseas operators and Tourist Destinations than in the pre Covid years, survivors from the storms responsible for shaping better ways of travelling together in future.

I led a session on how heightened levels of uncertainty across many parameters affect our ability to plan and manage tours and traveller experiences. Together with Elizabeth Player Jones from Stanford Travel, Rumit Mehta, founder of Immersion Journeys (in East Africa) and Vanessa Segovia of Gohagan, we acknowledged that unpredictability about flight choices, travel rules, schedules and much else can inhibit the joy of travel. Sustaining long term relationships and horizons with your travel partners allied to a spirit of flexibility are the key attributes to combat this. Of course, clear communications between all parties and explicit expectation setting with the traveller enhance everyone’s travel experiences. In short, a positive, flexible mindset is key.

Overall, there was a lot of joy about being back together as a community and celebrating the future of educational travel. We sensed a shift in demand to the next generation of travellers and an increased desire to maximise every travel opportunity to learn about new places and cultures and go to your bucket list places whenever you can. For operators like us, the emphasis is on how to make our travel experiences more special and to increase the connections we and our travellers make with all the people and places our tours visit. 

The Alumni associations return gradually to tours, numbers and destinations similar to 2019 and the wider travel community across North America is very thirsty to travel again, tempered by an imbalance around capacity and operational capability that makes it harder to offer what was available in 2019. We all need to find a balanced path back to joyous travel.

I was lucky enough to host an Iberian Wine Tours ‘bar’ on the Tuesday of the conference with Spanish wines and Irish Whiskey. I was also fortunate to have a great travel companion on my journey home, an employment lawyer from Belfast now using every spare moment to travel the more exotic parts of the world in search of poetry to illuminate the more prosaic days in the office in London, much as I once did. Great connections made with a good glass in your hand.

To conclude, think about what you are longing for each time you travel and (as Pico suggested) think about a short video or note 2 days and 2 months after your tour – what inspired me, what’s changed in me and what surprised me. If you can, look past the details and rediscover the joy of travel.