It's getting late on a Thursday night. You have a big FIT itinerary to sort out before you leave the office so you order in some Chinese takeaway and put your head down to finish the job. The sky is darkening outside the window pane when all of a sudden there is a blinding flash of light and a flying saucer swoops out of the night sky to hover to a standstill outside your office. A steel platform unrolls, a door opens and a red and green alien slithers like a massive snail down the platform and into your office.
"I looked up your agency on the internet as I came out of hyper-space, and wonder if you can help me with a travel question," explains the alien using a translation application. In your open-mouthed amazement, you say nothing. The alien continues, "I am on an intergalactic journey and only have 10 days on your planet. I don't want to rush unnecessarily. I have the wife and kids in the back of my saucer and I want to show them the best that Earth has to offer. It's our first time here. My friends told me that both Italy and China have had a massive impact on your civilization and so I wanted to ask your advice on which one I should visit?"
Before you can say anything, your colleague answers, "Over the past thirty years, we have had great success with earthlings in Italy and so we know it like the back of our hand. By contrast, China is a bit of an unknown quantity to us, and so we would strongly recommend Italy for your first ten days on our planet."
"I was expecting you to say that," retorts the alien knowingly, "because I was pulling up the data and saw that most luxury travel agents sell fifty to sixty times more Italy than China. What you are recommending ties in with the last 30 years of your travel sales. Thing is I don't feel it's as clear cut as that. After all China and Italy both have beautiful landscapes, amazing cuisines, friendly people and stunning cultural sites. But as we were flying in, my wife got involved and she looked up the price of the Cipriani. Do you know what an entry level room goes for! Meanwhile, the Peninsula Shanghai which won best Virtuoso hotel two years ago is a fraction of the price… Similarly, we looked up the average room size at the Hotel de Russie in Rome and compared it to that of the Shangri-la China World Summit Wing in Beijing… do you know the size difference? And then my daughter found this terrific little company called Imperial Tours who can do all kinds of cool things like a banquet on the Great Wall or a private gondola with orchestra on Hangzhou's West Lake. She asked me how much it might cost to organize a banquet in the Colosseum and whether union rules would allow for an orchestra inside a gondola in Venice? It seemed to us that China would be about 40-50% cheaper than Italy on a like for like basis, offering a similar level of quality and a similarly amazing set of experiences.
At this point, there is a ring on the door bell and in walks the Chinese delivery man, bringing the food you ordered earlier. "I couldn't help but overhear your conversation from outside the door," he begins. Turning to the alien he adds, "but there is one thing that China has that Italy doesn't have, nor France, nor the UK, nor Switzerland, nor the rest of this agency's top selling destinations."
"What's that?" asks the alien.
"The Future," he answers.
Then turning to you and your colleague, he continues "and there's something else that you might also not know. According to data from Virtuoso, a luxury travel consortium, travel agents on average make 2.3 times more selling China than other destinations because people go for longer and usually require more services when they're there."
So the question now is: on which side of history do you want to be? Do you want to continue to reflect what's happened on planet earth for the past 30 years, or do you want to be on the right side of the future and invest in learning about China?