In this time of global crisis and uncertainty, we put the call out to leaders, CEOs, strategists and consultants to sit down and tell us, in their own words, what is going on and what is going to happen next in this vital global industry.

Listen up!

This is a year not to lecture to young leaders but to listen to them. 

Queensland, Australia, has its Young Tourism Leaders Program. Phocuswright holds an annual Young Leaders Summit. Destinations International has its 30 Under 30. The Mountain Travel Symposium has its own Young Leaders Summit. And European Cities Marketing has its annual ECM Summer School. 

We have all sorts of reasons as businesses and industries for investing in youth development. That includes helping them hone their tactical abilities or build the emotional intelligence that they will need to be the leaders of the future.

But this year I am seeing a shift — it's the ideas, the freshness, the bold and unrestrained insights and reminders that young leaders are bringing to the table that are having the biggest impact.

Greta Thunberg’s speech in late September in which she mocked world leaders for “empty words and promises” when it comes to climate change is an iconic example of the unfettered clarity it comes with youth — clarity not bound by convention or dumbed down by resistance or systems. Do you personally remember those days in your own life?

Take yourself back to your twenties and your idealistic view of the world. None of us were advocates for a less sustainable climate, none of us believed that war and genocide or scarcity was tolerable even in small doses. There is so much to be learned from listening to our 20- and 30-year-old better versions of ourselves.

When Patrick Delaney was in his twenties, he had just finished his hospitality degree and worked for the Irish tourism board. He worked in the US in the five-star sector and then returned to Ireland to run the highly successful Adare Festival. He has been recognized by Conference & Incentive Travel (UK) on their Power 50 list and he is the managing partner at the SoolNua strategy and marketing agency.

Delaney was the host and moderator for the annual ECM Summer School this year, a challenging task for a virtual event that has always gone hard and gone deep on the issues and opportunities we face as an industry.

I was there at ECM Summer School, and I got to give a lecture on authentic social and cultural diversity — but I think it is safe to say that it was me who got schooled those two days in August. I was literally transformed by listening anew to the purity, the clarity of mind around issues such as climate change and social justice that sprung unfettered, unadulterated and unfiltered from the minds of our younger peers. 

I will put it as simply as I can: we all need to listen more closely to young leaders and to our 20-year-old selves if we are going to do the things that really need to be done.