The second day of technology-based sessions at WTM London looked at how the demand for developers, engineers and data scientists is prompting travel sellers and system providers to reassess how to recruit and retain talent.
At the same time, many businesses are wrestling with decisions around the hybrid workplace, and the extent to which the work from home/work from anywhere trend, which emerged during lockdowns, will play out in the future.
On the technology stage, sponsored by Sabre Hospitality Solutions and moderated by Charlotte Lamp Davies of A Bright Approach, speakers from the front line of the talent crisis shared their experience and advice with attendees. “Tech people are different,” explained Alex Medovoi, CEO of tech consultancy AltexSoft, “they want to learn new skills, switch projects, work on different things. You need to create a culture of engineering, not a culture of fixing things.”
However there are some tech firms, such as wbe.travel, who are successfully engaging their workforce by “fixing things”.
CEO George Dumitru explained that developing and integrating software to address specific pain points of its SME travel agent client base can be inspirational. “Our developers can see the immediate positive results of their work, and that feeling of ‘what I am doing is making a difference’ is very motivating.”
Paula Felstead, chief technology office of Hotelbeds, also talked in terms of an engineering culture. This is supported by letting the tech team, including data scientists and product developers, know the business outcomes of their work. Similarly, “demystifying tech” helps the business people engage more with their tech colleagues.
Alan French, CEO of Thomas Cook, was also an advocate of sharing the business outcomes with the tech team. The tech team, in his view, is comprised of in-house salaried staff and third parties brought in on contracts or for specific products. “It is important to not distinguish between them,” he said, “and you need to make sure that people brought in are treated with the same care and given the same credit as in-house staff.”
At the same time, there are material changes in the workplace which are feeding into the talent challenges which apply beyond tech. In a separate session hosted by John Lee from Work From Anywhere, panellists offered a range of views on hybrid working. Lee’s session kicked off with a slide of statistics highlighting the benefits of working from anywhere. He noted that Spotify, which introduced work from anywhere in February 2021, has seen a 15% drop in attrition – people leaving – since it introduced work from anywhere.
Another statistic of note piqued the interest of many destinations in the audience. Barbados, he explained, was one of the first destinations to offer a “digital nomad visa” for people who wanted to temporarily relocate and work from the east Caribbean. It raised $100 million in revenues for the country.
Cape Town in South Africa is very interested in attracting digital nomads, and is lobbying to make it easier for remote workers to work from Cape Town. Alderman James Vos, part of a team looking at how the grow the city’s economy through tourism, outlined what is needed at the government level. He pointed out that allowing remote workers from overseas to stay for more than the current limit of 90 days would generate incremental revenue for the city and the government. Providing an “infrastructure for families”, such as access to childcare, family friendly long-term accommodation, education, would encourage more remote workers to consider Cape Town as an option, as would allowing them to apply for the visa electronically. “We can be the destination of choice and the longer they stay, the more they spend,” he said.
Meanwhile, as with the talent session earlier, not everyone had the same perspective. Tim Herschel, CEO of HotelPlanner, talked about how the work from anywhere trend was behind a big reduction in the amount of office space needed in London. He said that the business was using the cost savings to fund corporate access to private members clubs available, available to staff.
In contrast, Tanya Ruesch, chief people officer of tours and activities marketplace Get Your Guide, shared that it has expanded and reconfigured its Berlin headquarters, introducing a greater element on social spaces. She explained that “in-person contact drives collaboration, and collaboration drives innovation.”
Securing tech talent and giving all workers the option of work from anywhere are two of the defining trends characterising the future of post-pandemic travel industry. As Alex Medovoi from AltexSoft said at the start of the day, “we are not just competing [for staff] with travel companies, we are competing with all sectors.”
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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/
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