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Opinion & Comment

This man has seen the future. And he says there is far too much stuff in it.

Daniel Kahneman and Nate Silver. The place to begin the

James Wallman, author and futurist

You should see people’s faces when I say I can tell the future. They’re incredulous, with eyes wide open and arched eyebrows that say: “Come on, be serious”. They automatically file me next to fortune

tellers and palm readers. Until I explain, and slowly, slowly, their disbelief gives way to curiosity. I don’t read palms or gaze into crystal balls,

you see. The method I use is a lot less esoteric. It’s inspired by something the futurist William Gibson once said, that “the future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed”. And it’s informed by sociologists, psychologists and statisticians — in particular, Everett Rogers,

explanation is an often-overlooked truth: forecasts aren’t facts, they’re maps. A good forecast, like a good map, should provide enough information about the future so that you can plan. It will not mention every detail — every sight or bump in the road — but it will give you ideas on how to get to your destination, like when to turn left or right, and it will sketch out what it will look like when you get there. If you don’t have one of these maps, you’re

like the general who stumbles through the fog of war. But if you have one, it clears the fog a little, giving you a better picture of the future. That picture will give you two powerful things

to think about. One — is the future good, or not, for people, the planet, your profits? Two — if you keep doing what you do now, will you ride the wave to the future or be drowned by it? Once you have the answers to these two

questions, you can plan your response. One answer is to change the curve of the wave. So if you like the look of the future, for instance, you can nudge it to come quicker.

Low-cost carriers and crowded airports have meant the making of his luxury business.

or upgrade, including ground services such as express check-in and priority boarding. This has made passengers question what

represents best value for their journey. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that sitting in front of a curtain is expensive and often provides less value. The money saved can contribute to what really matters, be that a licence to queue jump, or a lounge to relax – or work – in. Originally, our aim was to provide a quality

phil cameron, founder and chief executive, no.1 traveller

Founding No.1 was really an accident – an opportunistic moment. I could never have known quite how successful it would turn out to be – and not because an exclusive pre-flight lounge experience was anything new, or because we wanted to make it better, but for two reasons we could never have foreseen. The first was actually very simple, and has

little to do with premium travel; we have the low-cost carriers to thank for our success. In the past, if you booked a flight you got a seat, a baggage allowance and some food. Now almost all elements are available for sale

escape from the relentless rush of catching a flight. We’ve realised that a really premium departure is as much about a great lounge and all it has to offer, as it is about the process of getting there and to the boarding gate. A combination of efficiency where it’s needed and calm where it’s wanted, effortless passage from driveway to runway, and great, unrushed service along the way are what represent real value. The second important reason we have

become successful is because of the airports themselves. In the six years we’ve operated at the UK’s top airports, passenger engagement and experience has markedly improved. Every terminal leads their passengers through World Duty Free immediately after security, before


That’s what I’m doing with my recently published book Stuffocation. In it, I explain why and how our culture is fundamentally shifting from materialism to “experientialism”: instead of looking for happiness, identity, and status in material goods, we are now finding them in experiences instead. I think this is the opportunity of

the century. Just as materialism and the consumer revolution transformed standards of living in the 20th century, so experientialism and its “experience revolution” will transform quality of life in the 21st century. As a result, I also think of this

experience revolution in similar terms to Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. But whereas the Food Revolution is seeking to help people be healthier by nudging them to eat less unhealthy and more healthy food, this experience revolution will help people be happier by nudging them to spend ever less of their time and money on material things, and, instead, ever more on experiences — like holidays. What’s your reaction to that: disbelief, or are you at least a little bit curious?

James wrote the best-selling book Stuffocation, and founded think tank The Future Is Already Here,

presenting other ways to spend money with renowned chefs and brands. This equates the process of catching a flight with aspiration; but the one thing airports can’t escape from are the crowds they are so successfully creating. That combination of aspirational behaviour and increasingly crowded terminals has created an explosion in the popularity of lounges and other premium services. We always try to put ourselves in our

customers’ shoes and ask what innovation might be next. What’s most exciting for us at No.1 though is that preferences are always changing, and none of us, not even our guests, can really predict how.

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