Dear Fellow Skåleague, 23 September 2013
I wanted to take this opportunity to address you and to provide a review of this past year. I served for one year as Director, two years as Vice President, and have now completed my term as your President.
My sincere thanks to you for the confidence you have shown in me and the support you have given me over the years. I am humbled by your trust and am truly grateful to you all. I started on the Executive Committee with a mission which was to ensure that your voice, the member’s voice, be heard by the Skål leadership and the changes you wanted to see be adopted and implemented. This started with the Membership Surveys in 2009 and 2010 and the efforts of the Task Force for the Repositioning of Skål. I am glad to report that the main task is essentially completed and we have made most of the structural changes that the membership was looking for. Of course implementation will continue in the future, but we can look forward to the next decade with a new confidence.
I am deeply grateful to my Executive Committee who have worked very hard and supported the changes we have made and will keep us on the path to success. I am also grateful to our Secretary General and to the Secretariat staff who have adopted the changes and taken ownership of the process for change and betterment of the organization. I wish to thank the Honorary and Past Presidents of Skål International who have taken it upon themselves to assist us with a membership regeneration program which will bring great results. Under the leadership of Past President Richard Hawkins, the envisioned regional committees are being organized to galvanize our membership recruitment efforts.
As your President, I have been on the road a great deal visiting Clubs as well as National and Area Committees. Skål International Delhi, Los Angeles and the WTM in London, SI Orlando, New York, SI San Francisco, SI Charlotte, Winnipeg, Tucson and Calgary. The AGM and Congress of the Latin American clubs in Punta Del Este Uruguay. Then on to the SI Australia AGM in Launceston, Sydney, Townsville and Melbourne where I inducted seven new members. Then to Istanbul for the ARENA event and the AGM of SI Turkey. In April it was the North American Clubs at their Congress in Sacramento. Then to Dublin on to the AGM of the UK clubs in Guernsey. Reactivating the Lake Balaton Club in Western Hungary and on to visit the Budapest club. I attended the International Council meetings along with the Executive Committee meetings in Bali. In May I visited SI Chennai and went on to the AGM and Congress of the Asian area in Sri Lanka. In June I visited our head office in Torremolinos, Spain as well as a Membership development event at SI St Thomas. I was invited as a guest of Honour at the India Day Parade in New York in August and given an award plaque naming Skål at the awards banquet which followed. Then it was on to a visit to SI Atlanta.
On 25th August, Renu & I hosted our annual event at our home for SI Los Angeles to raise funds for our local Skål charity. Earlier in September I visited SI Johannesburg, SI Pretoria, SI Durban, SI Cape Winelands, finishing up at SI Cape Town to attend their 60th anniversary event coupled with the Skål South Africa Bi-Annual event. This week it will be on to the Executive Committee meetings in New York and the 75th Anniversary event of SI New York immediately before the 74th World Congress of Skål International.
During all the visits I have made, I had the pleasure of speaking to our membership about the direction Skål is taking and the vision, mission and branding efforts we are actively pursuing, as well as the changes in the Secretariat and the new membership benefits we were adding. This message has found great resonance with our members and provides great reassurance that we are on the right track.
In the interest of raising Skål’s profile and increasing our footprint in the Travel and Tourism Industry, the Executive Committee, with able assistance from Director Nigel Pilkington in particular, put together statements and position papers on three different areas of concern in our Industry. Human rights in Tourism, Aviation with specific regard to the carbon emission issue and the Airline Passenger duty matter; and Hospitality. We posted these position drafts on the Skal website and asked for your comments. After adjusting these documents in light of your guidance, we issued them to the press as our statements. We have received much press attention and have been invited to be on a panel at the World Travel Market in London on November 6th to speak on the subject of human rights in Tourism. Skål has been nominated for a World Travel Award which is given at the opening day of the WTM in London. I have also been invited, on behalf of Skål, to speak on Peace Through Tourism at the IIPT 25th Anniversary event at WTM on 5th November.
Over the course of the past year, I have had the pleasure of giving many print media as well as television interviews on behalf of Skål. I have issued statements on our Industry as well as on current events such as the deplorable attacks on innocent tourists in Pakistan recently. Our Secretary General has attended meetings of some of the World bodies to which we belong such as ECPAT and we are now truly engaged with the UNWTO of which we are a part.
On the economic front, we have been able to rent out three of the four office units we own in Torremolinos. Thanks to the efforts of the Secretariat staff, they are finally bringing in some rental income. The Seoul AGM had authorized the reduction of the Executive Committee from a contingent of seven members down to six. This should give us cost savings going forward. Additionally, the Secretary General is focused on effecting cost containment practices wherever possible in all the Secretariat’s activities. I have been in the fortunate position to be able to pay my own airfares on all the travel I have undertaken during my time on the executive, hence generating some additional savings.
With much local help, we were able to save most of the land costs related to the EC February 2013 meeting. We have also been reviewing our revenue streams. With the approval of the Active Individual membership program, we are in a position to attract members in areas where we do not have clubs. This category of membership should grow at a good pace in future. The Corporate Affiliate program is also picking up momentum with our relationship with Diversey and Best Western expanding and with Carnival cruise lines coming on board. The Secretary General is conducting a discussion with Sixt car rental to explore additional corporate affiliation opportunities. There are other prospects we are looking at as well. I think you will be pleased with the results of the budget forecasts and the financial modelling efforts of our Secretariat staff.
Membership retention and growth is an ongoing challenge for us all and I am grateful to the Honorary and Past Presidents for their assistance. We have lost some clubs and some members, but I am glad to report that we are also constantly adding members and adding Clubs. So our appeal as a viable industry organization based on friendship continues to find resonance with potential members.
Membership benefits have been a key area of focus for us. The Benefits sections of the Skål International website should continue to show increasing numbers of offers for Skåleagues by Skåleagues. We were, through the assistance of Task Force Chair, Thom Vincent, and our able Secretary General, able to conclude an agreement with TIS, an interline travel club, which provides great travel benefits for all Skål members. Many of the trips now available with your Skål membership card through this organization, are heavily discounted for our use.
The Secretariat is re-positioning itself as a membership services center instead of a purely administrative body. I am sure you will observe that in the coming months and years. The Secretary General’s job description has been re-aligned to be more in consonance with our changing needs.
We are working towards enhancing our Brand by promoting our Vision statement “Be a Trusted Voice in Travel and Tourism”.
However, this key objective is our collective responsibility. Please also keep out Our Mission statement in mind, “Through our leadership, professionalism and friendship, work together to enhance our Vision, maximise networking opportunities and develop a Responsible Tourism Industry.”
The Secretariat, the Executive Committee and I have worked hard this past year to live up to the challenges I laid down in my remarks at the farewell event of the Seoul Congress. It has been a long process, but it was important to ensure that the collective will of the membership was recognized and a path forged to the implementation of your guidance. The leadership of Skal is no longer in any doubt as to the direction our members want us to take. We are well on our way on this road, but will need to stay the course to realize our full potential and to achieve our objectives of a better future for Skål. I thank you all for supporting me in this endeavour.
This will be my last communication to you as your President, and I want, once again, to thank each and every one of you who have supported me and made this journey possible. Thank you.
Remember, it doesn’t matter where we are, we are nowhere compared to where we can go.