Skift Global Forum Preview: Global Strategist Parag Kanna Spots for the Forces: Travel Relocation

As we examine our theme for 2021, join Skift’s editors and analysts. Skift Global Forum 2021, now in its 8th year, is where industry leaders from around the world will gather to discuss how travel has made a great comeback. This Forum marks its most significant in history.

The pandemic has changed the way we live and work. Migrations are expected to scatter the poor and well-off in the near future. What can we do to make travel a powerful geopolitical tool in a world that is constantly on the move?

Parag Khanna, an author and a geopolitical scientist, gave a lot of thought to this topic when writing his latest book, Move — which examines the forces uprooting the world.

Khanna spoke to us about how the sector of travel should be aware about the upcoming changes in mobility. The chat was prelude to his interview with Skift CEO Rafat Ali at Skift Global Forum on September 21 at the TWA Hotel in New York City.

For clarity, we have lightly edited the conversation.

Skift: The forthcoming book Move, which will be available in the U.S. on October 5, is an authoritative and informative vision of the future. What should decision-makers from the travel industry know?

Parag Khanna Author

Parag KhannaThe Great Lockdown has been replaced by the Great Reset. Soon, we will be experiencing the Great Migration.

This next stage of history is centrally shaped by the travel industry. As someone who organizes human mobility, you should see yourself as being responsible. It is a powerful and important role. This is a powerful role and obligation that can influence what and where we build. You also have the ability to determine where and how people travel.

Let me clarify: Ironically, January 2020 saw the greatest number of international tourists [1.5 billion] and almost 300 million migrants.

We’ve seen the Great Reset since then with many people going “home”, wherever they are, not knowing whether it’s permanent or temporary.

We will soon enter an era where great migrations are possible, unlocking global mobility.

The forces driving people to move are all accelerating at the same time: political instability, demographic imbalances and economic crises. Together, we can expect almost zero immigration in 2020 and a resorting to billions in the post-pandemic era.

Because the stakes for this new phase are higher, it’s crucial that we better manage them. There is a plateau in the world’s population. We must keep the economic momentum going if we are to ensure that it is inclusive of all four billion people on this planet. This will allow them to reach their potential and make more productive decisions.

Climate change is also something we need to be aware of. Some areas in the world are now unlivable and should be evacuated.

Nothing is more important than connecting people. Travel has played a significant role in history.

Join Us at Skift Global Forum in NYC September 21-23

Move, the latest book by Parag Khanna.

Skift: How can executive make sure that the industry is a positive force in the face of the future shifts in mobility?

Khanna:Access is key word

Today’s highly bureaucratic travel and migration system is not conducive to government leadership. This initiative will have to be taken by the travel industry.

We should digitize travel records and financial statements, as well as immunity passports. Apps are what we need.

While we do expect international agencies to manage such systems, the travel industry is much more technologically savvy than the average government. You are also more motivated because there is a lag between the current bureaucracy, which can be outdated, and international mobility that will be efficient.

The travel industry must develop tools to make it easy for governments to grant greater mobility, while making these requirements more appealing to customers and citizens.

What could be more significant when you consider the millions of people who want and need to move around?

Harvard World Map of Connectography is a collaboration with Jeff Blossom of the Harvard Center for Geographical Analysis.

Skift: What can travel executives do to question their assumptions regarding “Asian market,” “Northism,” and other generalizations that are too broad?

Khanna:My time has been spent with companies and governments, specializing in maps and organizational charts. Is “EMEA” a good idea? Is India a part of the “APAC” or should it stand alone? So on.

Asia has the largest human population, and will always be. It is also the region with the highest economic growth. Asia’s travel is expanding at a rate that is twice as fast than its outside counterpart. However, Asia also represents the largest new source of global migration flows between Asia and Europe.

The book describes how an entirely new generation of Asian-Europeans is emerging, as they are Asian travelers and businesspeople. Asia will be a major player in Europe’s efforts to overcome the severe labor shortages that plague technology and healthcare. Europe has a much higher climate resilience.

We are definitely seeing more Northism in terms of professional mobility. Canada and the northern European countries have been at the top of the indices for ex-pat desire. Also, I predict a substantial rise in winter (and summer) tourism in the northern countries, which includes Russia.

James Jianzhang Liang, chairman of Group and cofounder of, has done a couple of dozen “Boss Live Stream” webcasts in 2020. Source: Group.

Skift: There’s been an online “travel giant triumphalism” in travel. Some believe that e-commerce multinationals would be the dominant commercially on all market. Big Tech will take over the Earth.

Khanna:It’s not surprising that the North American, European and Chinese travel market is so large. They and their ecommerce giants have all the infrastructure to grow globally.

Ctrip and Tripadvisor are proving that they’re becoming interoperable.

This phenomenon is less important to me from the standpoint of what countries have a greater market share, and whether there are common standards emerging. This perspective helps level the playing field, and brings us closer to seamless, inclusive mobility which should be industry’s shared agenda.

Skift. But Parag. Are there any dynamics that would allow travel giants like South Korea to flourish in emerging markets such as South Korea, Indonesia and Singapore? These upstart companies can they compete with the giants of the U.S. and Europe in tech?

Khanna:This must be viewed as cross-border partnership and not just as big-versus small, West-versus rest type of situation.

Global players need local partners and investments in local supply chains. This is symbiotic in the same way that foreign investment almost always works.

An atrium in Beijing Daxing International Airport. Source: Arne Müseler / Creative Commons

Skift: In your current research on artificial intelligence (AI)’s broader impact, Can you give us insight on AI’s potential impacts that may surprise those who aren’t following AI closely?

Khanna:We’ve already seen promising results in AI used to travel. It certainly makes our lives easier, whether it be chatbots or content generation. Or personalization of the customer experience.GPT-3This could also be extremely useful for interactivity.

We will see more Augmented Reality along the continuum, from travel planning to navigation things to do within dense urban areas.

This all contributes to something bigger that is accelerating ever since the pandemic. It’s the merging of work and life. People choose to travel and migrate, working remotely in different locations for a year or more. People will lessen their need to settle down as family size shrinks and connectivity increases.

In MOVE, I also have a section on the growing ranks of mobile retirees — precisely the opposite of the sedentary nature of retirement thus far.

Keep in mind that the world can be complex. You may have to leave even if your heart is set on staying put. Moving is part of being human. It is important to regain our confidence and be nomadic once again. The travel industry is the best person to take on this enormous responsibility.

Parag talks to Rafat Ali in this interview. Register now for Skift Global Forum September 21-22

Publiated at Wed 25 August 2021, 08:37:04 +0000

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