Once again, I have organised a couple of the technology/digital travel events at World Travel Market this year. I have been doing this for quite a few years. I am one of these people who are quite pedantic about keeping all my electronic files, so I was looking back to see what I had to say in some of my early presentations. I actually have PowerPoint presentations dating back to World Travel Market 1996. Good old Microsoft, these old ppt files are not compatible with recent versions of PowerPoint. However, I have managed to convert them using Zamzar which is a great file conversion website.
You can see above, the very first slide in my 1996 presentation. This was a screenshot of British Midland’s CyberSeat, claimed to be the first internet booking system capable of supporting online credit card payments. Clearly, expectations about booking volumes were quite modest with the first 100 bookings to travel being offered a bottle of champagne. CyberSeat’s booking system was called Quick Book which in ye olde days meant anything under 30 minutes!
Then I have screenshots from Late Escapes’ website that include a Quicktime video of Tina and Christine. The caption reads, “Tina and Christine were on holiday in Kos from Switzerland (and you thought Switzerland was just cuckoo clocks and bankers.)” Perhaps some things just haven’t changed. Meanwhile, the Thomas Cook website announced, “This site has been enhanced for Netscape 1.2.” These were clearly very early days.
My final slide of the presentation made a prediction, “In one generation, on-line buying of travel will be accepted as more convenient and natural than walking into a travel agent.” I think I got that one right!
In 1996 those involved in online travel were pioneers, pushing the frontiers of technology and consumer acceptability. What is really striking is that, 20 years later, we are still pioneers, continuing to push the frontiers. In all that time, technology has not once stood still. Online travel was a leap into the future but, from those first rather pathetic looking websites (which we thought were great at the time), we have continued to innovate and introduce ever-more sophisticated technology.
I am reflecting this in the WTM events I have organised. On Monday afternoon, there is the WTM Travel Innovation Summit in Association with TTI. My four speakers are covering four areas of innovation. First up will be Andy Phillips will be talking about bringing innovation to market. You may remember Andy founded Active Hotels. This was one of the very first online accommodation businesses which was acquired by Priceline in 2004 for $161 million. Andy went on to found Revoo and has been involved in several other innovative businesses.
Then I have Regis Pezous, Senior Manager, Product Innovation, Carlson Wagonlit Travel speaking about Innovation in Corporate Travel. Who would have thought back in 1996 that the word “Innovation” would be found in anyone’s job title? Likewise, “transformation.” My third speaker is Dirk Tietz, Chief Transformation Officer, DER Touristik who will give us a case study of Travel Transformation @ DER Touristik.
Finally, Jeroen Oskam, Director Research Centre, Hotelschool The Hague will be talking about the research his team has done on the impact of Airbnb, considered by the travel industry to be one of the most disruptive businesses on Earth.
On Tuesday morning I am running my Genesys Digital Transformation Summit. I have organised this into two one hour sessions. The first, Established Players Make Good, features speakers from three well established companies that are really embracing digital transformation. The second, New Entrants and New Business Models, has speakers from three new businesses that simply could not have existed pre- the Internet era. So you will be hearing from Voyage-SNCF, Cosmos, GCH Hotels, Veeve, Hotel Bonanza and Feelter.
Travel and its use of technology is ever-changing. We are in a digital world and many of us are adapting well to get the most out of it. For your part, you need to keep up with latest developments, so do come along to my two WTM sessions. I promise you an exciting and inspiring time.