Meet an ALCS member: Rob Davidson

Throughout 2017, in celebration of our 40th anniversary, we've been saluting a different ALCS member each month. This month we profile business travel writer Rob Davidson.

Who are you?

To give me my full title, I’m Dr Rob Davidson. I’m quite proud of that ‘Dr’, which I earned two years ago when I completed my PhD at the University of Greenwich at the ripe old age of 60.

What do you write?

I work as a freelance writer, specialising in business travel, notably travel for meetings and conferences. I write a monthly column on this theme in the UK-based trade magazine Conference News. But I also write regularly for overseas publications serving the conference industry in their countries. For example, I write a monthly blog for the Polish trade magazine Think MICE (MICE = Meetings, Incentive Travel, Conferences, Events) and I contribute regularly to the Serbia-based magazine SEE (South East Europe) Business Travel & Meetings.

But although my journalism work is what raises my profile most effectively, most of my actual income comes from the textbooks I write on business topics. I wrote my first textbook at the end of the 1980s, and my seventh one, Marketing Destinations and Venues for Conferences, Conventions and Business Events was published a couple of years ago. These are read mainly by university students on degree courses in subjects such as Tourism, Hospitality and Events Management, but many people in the conference industry also buy them, to get an overview of the business they’re working in.

Do you have a ‘day’ job?

Until recently I worked as a university lecturer, teaching and researching in the field of business events. This was something I enjoyed a lot, because (as well as an income) it brought me the contact with people that I like so much. Teaching in higher education had the additional advantage of letting me see students’ reactions to, and understanding of, my textbooks, and that gave me useful insights into what works best in academic writing.

My other main source of income comes from speaking engagements at conferences, mainly overseas. There are many more ‘conferences about conferences’ than you could possibly imagine, and I find myself being invited more and more to speak at such events as some kind of business travel ‘guru’.

In 2014, I gave up my full-time teaching post and created my own company, MICE Knowledge, focusing on education, training and consultancy in this field, and that keeps me busy these days.

How useful do you find social media and/or blogging?

I use Facebook and LinkedIn quite a lot, for professional purposes. I hardly use Facebook at all for personal purposes, more as a way of posting news of where I am in the world (usually speaking at conferences) or to announce the publication of a new book or report I have written. I find it worthwhile uploading the occasional opinion piece on to LinkedIn, just as a way of maintaining my profile in the conference industry. For example, my latest LinkedIn article was about a technique that I used as an ice-breaker at a conference that I was moderating in Dubai.

Apart from my monthly blog for the Polish magazine, I don’t blog regularly – although I feel that I ought to, because whenever I do, I get a huge response. The chap who helps me with my website and social media activities is always telling me that I should blog more and put them on my website,

How long have you been an ALCS member and how did you hear about us?

I think that ALCS found me, rather than the other way around! In the 1990s, I was based in France, working freelance in travel journalism and writing textbooks. Each year I was contacted by this organisation called ‘ALCS’, which I’d never heard of. I ignored those letters informing me that I was owed increasingly large amounts of money, because I thought this sounded suspicious and far too good to be true. In 1998, I moved back to the UK, and that’s when the messages (by now via email) from ALCS became more insistent – to the point where I finally decided to respond and pay my membership fee, after checking online that ALCS actually was a bona fide organisation. The result was that a handsome sum, representing a considerable back-payment, was instantly paid into my bank account!

For what sort of uses of your work do you receive royalties from ALCS?

My textbooks are definitely the greatest source of my royalties from ALCS, and I can see that those royalties will form part of my future pension plan! Some of my textbooks are now into their second editions, which suggests that there’s an ongoing market for them. I like the permanency of textbooks, compared with the more ephemeral nature of trade magazine articles.

Which is your most surprising source of ALCS income?

I’d have to say that I’m always surprised by the ‘Miscellaneous’ entry in my ALCS statement. I never question it, just in case it’s a mistake – in my favour, of course …

Which is your highest-earning work with ALCS?

That has to be a textbook I wrote in 2003 called Business Travel, which quickly became my bestseller. It was translated into other languages including Chinese. It was adopted as a course textbook by many universities in the UK and beyond, and continues to sell well to this day. The book I mentioned above (Business Events) is in effect a new version of this bestseller.

How important are your ALCS payments to you as a writer?

My ALCS payments come as a welcome bonus every year, reminding me that, amid all the rushing around to meet deadlines for magazine articles, I am in fact an ‘author’ and part of a community of people doing what they love and getting rewarded for it. That reminder that I am connected, through ALCS, with people who are much more creative and productive than I am is more valuable to me than the actual income.

Are you aware of any potential threats to your ALCS income?

The market for textbooks in higher education is changing, as the internet is increasingly disrupting how students access such books. They are buying fewer traditional printed textbooks in favour of digital resources, as the internet has created a demand for digital textbooks, reducing the revenue of the established publishers. Also, the internet has facilitated the purchase and rental of used textbooks. These developments represent threats to the income of all authors serving the academic market in the UK and beyond.

What does the future hold for you as a writer?

Good question. The textbook I’m working on now (Business Events) will be my last, I think. After that, I’d like to have a go at writing fiction, just for the fun of it. My degree is in English Literature, so I know quality writing when I see it.  And if the quality isn’t good enough, I can always hit the delete button!