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Have Travel Retail Awards
Now Become Meaningless?

By: Peter Marshall, Founder www.trunblocked.com

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In two words: not all. But having read Martin Moodie’s recent article www.moodiedavittreport.com/the-moodie-view-why-the-meadfa-awards-need-a-rethink/ about MEADFA also now throwing their hat in the ring and him suggesting a rethink, it made me take another look at our industry Awards in general.

My personal belief is that there are simply too many in our industry sector and they are in danger of becoming seriously devalued and diluted.

Why? Because when you look at the number of finalists across both the Frontier Awards and the TRBusiness Travel Awards (some 141 and 175 respectively), you really have to wonder whether all entrants became finalists. There is a real question of credibility here. Especially if publishers produce pre-ceremony publications and ask finalists to advertise.

The list of finalists in some categories is absurdly long, others show only 2 or 3 finalists. Where is the balance? Questions over the criteria must surely be asked of the respective juries and their moderators. I would propose that 5  finalists at the most is where the line should be drawn. Just how long an event do the respective publications expect their audience to sit/stand through in Cannes?

Of course we all know the main reasons why companies enter awards. They include (almost) free marketing/exposure, increased credibility, employee morale, benchmarking, customer retention, the possibility of attracting talent, increasing sales, PR from winning and networking.

On the negative side, awards submissions take time and money, they can be stressful, there is a morale downside not to win when expectations are high, the cost of event attendance, and – more than occasionally – the choice of winner provokes debate.

Then, of course, we also understand the motivation from the organisers. I am not questioning the categories or the fact that theirs are often worthwhile, albeit commercial events. For the publishers it helps cement bonding with existing and prospective clients and building their business. We get it. However, in an age post COVID where many are thinking differently, I would like to know whether any of the profits yielded will find their way into industry-led welfare or charity causes?

There is a growing consensus that enough is enough. Cannes this year has special significance because it will be a full house and everyone is looking forward to it. But this business does have a propensity of being complacent coupled with too much self-congratulation, which these events tend to feed. It needs to change and so clearly should the criteria for the judging panels when selecting the finalists.

I have argued for many years that some of the trade media are remarkably ‘tame’ when it comes to tackling major industry issues or challenging industry leaders. They do not want to rock the boat because it may adversely affect their advertising income stream. I understand that.

But does the otherwise widespread ‘tameness’ necessarily earn the respect of the industry’s leaders and decision makers? I suspect not. Perhaps that is why trunblocked.com has resonated so well with the business, because we do cover the issues most others do not, we challenge as well as pioneer new ideas and products that will make a difference, add value to the business community and enhance the customer experience.

If I had to single out awards, I do especially like the Moodie Davitt Report’s FAB Superstars and pioneering ESG Awards and commend the company on their ceaseless contributions to charities. I respect what TRB are doing under the Sustainability banner and believe that the rationale for and elements of the Frontier Awards are good. I do think, however, that no sponsor should enter any category, nor any entrant be a judge. They should be seen to be wholly independent of the event.

Just an idea… in football there is a Football Writers Association, whose annual awards are revered in the industry precisely because they are completely independent (is our industry?) Would it be too much to introduce something like this, too, as part of the annual calendar and integrate into an existing event?

In all awards events there are winners and losers. If we are not careful, our industry’s awards events will increasingly lose their credibility and interest if they do not change.

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