Travel Technology Europe (February 20-21) is returning to Olympia London for two days of innovation, networking and tech news. Andrew Doherty takes a sneak peek at what visitors can expect.
Travel Technology Europe (TTE) is back and celebrating its 16th anniversary this year. Featuring more than 100 brands and start-ups working in the travel technology sector, the two-day free-to-attend exhibition will also welcome 120 professionals for a series of talks and seminars that will run in tandem with the main event.
Hot topics slated for discussion across the show’s three theatres include the Internet of Things, New Distribution Capability (NDC), cybersecurity, blockchain and personalisation.
Conference director, Mark Frary, who has been working closely with TTE’s 18 advisory board members in the run-up to the event, says visitors can expect a more streamlined experience this year.
“We have broken the conference down into three streams – Inside, Interaction and Innovation – to make it easier for visitors to identify the sessions that are the most relevant to them based on their business’s challenges,” he says.
“’Inside’ will address internal business issues; ‘Interaction’ at how brands can connect with travellers; and ‘Innovation’ focuses on forward-thinking topics and technology.”
Frary says that each keynote session will be staggered so that visitors can attend all three.
“Must attend sessions include Nicolas Dussart from Google Assistant talking about how brands must adapt their interactions to customers; Sharon Moore MBE, chief technology officer at IBM Travel and Transportation, who will be discussing women in travel tech; and the C-suite Question Time, featuring experts from dnata, Amadeus, Costa, Red Carnation Hotels and Rentals United.”
This year TTE will also take on a “Travel 2022” theme, which Frary says will address the challenge of developing a successful long-term business strategy.
“Looking ahead 12 months is never going to be enough to develop a future proof strategy. Three years ahead though, you can start taking a more visionary approach,” he says.
A key element of the Travel 2022 theme will be the show’s Innovation Playground – a dedicated area where established companies can showcase their latest products. Delegates include Austella – Ascot-based digital content creators that specialise in Virtual and Augmented Reality; AtmosVR – experts in 3D scanning; and EXP360, who offer VR solutions for sales, marketing and training processes.
Meanwhile, “Innovation 20:19, which takes place on February 21, will see industry thought leaders work against the clock to get their message across to the audience using only 20 slides. After 19 seconds each slide will automatically move on, meaning the presenter must be as concise as possible. Afterwards, the audience will vote for their favourite presentation.
Also returning this year is the Launchpad area and Disrupt Awards, which will see 10 start-ups showcase their products and services to help buyers source the latest industry innovations.
Finalists will then take part in a Dragons’ Den-style pitching session where they will present their idea to a panel of judges, with the winners receiving a free stand at TTE 2020.
Here we speak to three tech entrepreneurs making their debut to ascertain how their products can benefit the travel industry.
TripX Tech provides tour operators, OTAs and tourist boards with an in-destination application for booking custom tours, activities and ancillary products.
Founder, Waseem Nasir says the app will make it possible for travel companies to offer greater levels of aftersales support.
“We offer content management systems, API integration and trip planning software that are a cost-effective way for travel companies to generate revenue in-resort."
Nasir will also give his expert opinion on the topic with John Melchior, director of business development at Sports Events 365 and Patrick Whyte, Europe editor at Skift during the “Are tours and activities your new favourite revenue stream?” session, which looks at how companies can capitalise on increasing demand for experiential travel.
2. Travel Ledger
Blockchain-based platform, Travel Ledger, has been designed to replace the “fragmented” reconciliation and settlement processes in the industry. The system stores and shares all billing records between buyers and sellers in a decentralised ledger, with subsequent releases focusing on automating payments so funds won’t have to go through a third party.
Founder Roberto Da Re, founder of the Travel Ledger Alliance, says the system will work in a similar fashion as Iata’s Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP), which airlines use to manage their distribution network.
“Based on our research, if travel companies had a similar platform to automate their non-air product settlement, they would reduce their financial reconciliation effort by up to 80%.
“This because travel is a highly transactional and fragmented industry, and each travel company buys and sells to hundreds of other companies, creating a data aggregation and reconciliation problem when all of the data is received using a mix of excel files, pdf and proprietary formats.”
The software platform enables users to create personalised and data-driven video content, before sending customised emails to potential clients before converting the sale with a final “interactive push”.
Founder and managing director, Matthew Cooper, says Hopper can benefit the travel industry by increasing levels of client engagement by converting fresh enquiries into sales or re-engaging dormant customers.
“Its real power is the combination of video content and personalisation. Customers are now expecting a 1-1 sales or marketing experience and we provide that with the most powerful medium, video. Hopper automatically sends out striking, highly personalised and tracked videos. When the videos are watched, the viewer gets an interactive call to action.
“Hopper can either be used as a standalone platform or it can be integrated into a CRM system. It also creates personalised emails with the video appearing to be embedded within it."
Charlotte Lamp Davies, principal consultant at A Bright Approach, will again reprise her role moderating the C-suite Question Time panel discussion, joining leading chief technology, information and marketing officers to discuss topics affecting the travel industry. She will also moderate a session highlighting how SMEs can compete with the big players.
What will travel technology look like in 2022?
Automation technology will be more widespread while Artificial intelligence (AI) will be a big winner, from solving smaller day-to-day back end office problems to servicing customers directly. I recently heard of a hotel bot that received thank you notes from guests as they were under the impression a real person had dealt with their problems - that's an effective use of technology.
Virtual reality (VR) and voice recognition also stand to develop and will in time offer travellers a more seamless journey, be it from keyless room access using your phone, personalised multi-lingual travel hints and tips to help you plan and prepare trips better.
I also noticed recent research pointing out that Generation Z likes the idea of a virtual travel agent in their home, using voice-activated tech to answer their queries.
How can the travel industry survive the next three years?
Create nimble organisations and allow your technology teams the freedom to experiment with new innovations. Work in short iterations, measure ROI over short periods and add relevant technology partners rather than always building bespoke tech. Many product lines offer the solution companies look for. Research is key in establishing strong tech platforms and partners.
Why do you attend TTE?
I meet with new and existing customers, who all have a keen interest in technology and the way it influences and shapes our industry. I personally always engage with the start-ups. It’s always exciting to see what new players come up with.
In a few years, some of these companies will be taking the lead in travel tech. We have played it safe for far too long. Now innovation is coming from outside the travel sector, and we’re paying more attention than ever before. I come at the show thinking, “who’s the next Airbnb?”
The C-Suite Question Time takes place on February 20 in the Innovation Theatre from 14.00-14.45.