WTM London’s technology-focused sessions concluded on a digital high, with attendees getting an update on some familiar trends and an introduction to some new ones.
Artificial intelligence and big data warranted a standalone session, and was referenced throughout most if not all of the 20 or so presentations taking place across the three days on the Technology Stage, sponsored by Sabre Hospitality Solutions.
Many start-ups basing their business on artificial intelligence (AI), big data and machine learning have emerged over the past few years, disrupting traditional sectors with a more modern and contemporary approach. Cruisewatch is an AI-driven business which uses, among other things, voice recognition and natural language processing the improve the productivity of call centre agents, cruise sellers in particular. Its CEO and co-founder Markus Stumpe said; “We can help the efficiency and productivity of existing agents through better technology, and with machine learning built in, the more it is used the better it gets.”
On the same panel, Manuel Hilty from trip planning start-up Nezasa noted that the upside for businesses with AI and machine learning embedded into their technology “will help to address the challenges that are yet to come, as well as solving problems that exist today.”
bd4 is a data-driven business which is more of a scale-up than a start-up, having been founded in 2013. Its CEO and co-founder Andy Owen Jones was asked about potential future use cases for AI and data, and raised the possibility of “personal shopping robots”, a product which could automatically curate the content of a web site based on the profile of the user, giving autonomy in the search and shop flow to the user.
In 2013, blockchain was still widely regarded as a concept. It started to become a product in 2015 when the Ethereum blockchain was launched, and use cases emerged in travel, and beyond. The dedicated session at this year’s WTM was led by industry and blockchain veteran Don Birch, CEO of Simard. His approach was that blockchain has now reached a level of maturity and adoption where the technology behind it is no longer relevant to most users, and that the conversations need to be about what problems blockchain could solve and the innovation it can support.
Travel Ledger is one such business, which has grown rapidly over the past few years by building a platform, using blockchain and associated functionalities, allowing direct settlement of business-to-business payments between buyers and sellers. CEO and founder Roberto Da Re said that some 1800 sellers and more than 40 suppliers were already using the platform and that it was planning to launch in Europe.
Looking ahead, a dedicated blockchain for travel is being developed by Chain4Travel, led by travel technology stalwart Ralf Usbeck. The platform, known as Comino, will use smart contracts to connect suppliers with consumers. He explained that the travel industry needs a consortium blockchain, because travel is a low margin business and the validation costs of the public blockchain would eat into these margins, so it has signed up travel companies to act as validators.
One of the advantages that blockchain promises is decentralization, which could support a power shift away from marketplaces controlled by OTAs by giving suppliers a way to connect directly with travelers. However, online travel agents are upping their game by using data to make the search and shop experience for travelers more personalised.
Jennifer Andre, VP, Expedia Media Solutions, was keen to talk about relevancy in the same context as personalisation. “Relevancy is the most important thing,” she said, which is why data is critical. Irrelevancy feels intrusive.”
There are many ways for suppliers to connect with travelers. One option which sits between the decentralised and centralised options was presented by Ada Xu, EMEA director of Fliggy, the travel brand with just under one billion annual active users. It is part of Alibaba Group, China’s internet and e-commerce giant. Xu told delegates that travel brands can have a flagship store on the Fliggy platform, which allows them to talk directly to Chinese users and build their brand on the platform.
Xu also contributed to the panel discussion about emerging technology use cases, talking up the role of augmented and mixed reality headsets. The technology, which is mature in China, was adopted by many European-based attractions – from the British Museum in London to the Pompidou Centre – to establish a relationship with Chinese travelers.
Overall, the tone of the technology sessions across the three days reflected the travel industry’s commitment to innovation, to making the most of the technology currently available while exploring the possibilities of the new and emerging. But using technology to improve the traveler experience came across as a driving force behind all the innovations.
As Expedia’s Andre said: “The traveller is going to win”.
Photography from WTM shows is available to download via the following link: https://wtm.mediafiler.net/wtm/start/index
World Travel Market (WTM) Portfolio comprises leading travel events, online portals and virtual platforms across four continents. The events are:
WTM London, the leading global event for the travel industry, is the must-attend three-day exhibition for the worldwide travel and tourism industry. The show facilitates business connections for the global (leisure) travel community. Senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international media visit ExCeL London every November, generating travel industry contracts.
Next live event: Monday 7 to 9 November 2022 at ExCel London and 6-8 November 2023 at ExCel London. http://london.wtm.com/
Arabian Travel Market (ATM), now on its 30th year, is the leading, international travel and tourism event in the Middle East for inbound and outbound tourism professionals. ATM 2022 attracted over 23,000 visitors and hosted over 30,000 participants including 1,500 exhibitors and attendees from 150 countries, across 10 halls at Dubai World Trade Centre. Arabian Travel Market is part of Arabian Travel Week. #ATMDubai
Next in-person event: Monday 1 to Thursday 4 May 2023, Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai
Arabian Travel Week is a festival of events taking place within and alongside Arabian Travel Market 2023. Providing a renewed focus for the Middle East’s travel and tourism sector, it includes ILTM Arabia, ARIVAL Dubai, Influencers’ events and activations, ITIC, GBTA Business Travel Forums, as well as ATM Travel Tech. It also features the ATM Buyer Forums, ATM Speed Networking Events as well as a series of country forums.
WTM Latin America takes place annually in the city of São Paulo and attracts around 20,000 tourism professionals during the three-day event. The event offers qualified content together with networking and business opportunities. In this its ninth edition – there have been eight face-to-face events along with a 100% virtual one, which was held in 2021 – WTM Latin America continued to focus on effective business generation, and achieved the advance booking of six thousand meetings that were held between buyers, travel agents and exhibitors in 2022.
Next event: Monday April 3rd to Wednesday 5th April 2023 – Expo Center Norte, SP, Brazil
WTM Africa launched in 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa. In 2022, WTM Africa facilitated more than 7 thousand unique pre-scheduled appointments, an increase of more than 7% compared to 2019 and welcomed more than 6 thousand visitors (unaudited), the same number as in 2019.
Next event: Monday 3 to Wednesday 5 April 2023 – Cape Town International Convention Centre, Cape Town http://africa.wtm.com/
About ATW Connect: Africa Travel Week’s digital arm, is a virtual hub packed to the seams with interesting content, industry news and insights, and the opportunity to hear from experts on a variety of topics in our new monthly webinar series. All with the aim to keep all of us in the travel and tourism industry connected. ATW Connect focuses on inbound and outbound markets for general leisure tourism, luxury travel, LGBTQ+ travel and the MICE/business travel sector as well as travel technology.
WTM Global Hub, is the new WTM Portfolio online portal created to connect and support travel industry professionals around the world. The resource hub offers the latest guidance and knowledge to help exhibitors, buyers and others in the travel industry face the challenges of the global coronavirus pandemic. WTM Portfolio is tapping into its global network of experts to create content for the hub. https://hub.wtm.com/
About RX (Reed Exhibitions)
RX is in the business of building businesses for individuals, communities and organisations. We elevate the power of face to face events by combining data and digital products to help customers learn about markets, source products and complete transactions at over 400 events in 22 countries across 43 industry sectors. RX is passionate about making a positive impact on society and is fully committed to creating an inclusive work environment for all our people. RX is part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers. www.rxglobal.com
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RELX is a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers. The Group serves customers in more than 180 countries and has offices in about 40 countries. It employs over 33,000 people, of whom almost half are in North America. The shares of RELX PLC, the parent company, are traded on the London, Amsterdam and New York Stock Exchanges using the following ticker symbols: London: REL; Amsterdam: REN; New York: RELX. The market capitalisation is approximately £33bn, €39bn, $47bn.*
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