Published on : Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Travel Forward, the new technology-focussed event co-located with WTM London, has added a cosmopolitan line-up of speakers to its conference programme, representing high-profile consumer brands and B2B tech providers from Europe and beyond.
The inaugural Travel Forward – comprising a conference, exhibition and buyer programme– will take place from 5 – 7th November 2018 at ExCeL London, UK.
The conference sessions take place on the first two days. Mike Croucher, chief architect for Travelport, will open the event on Monday 5 November with a keynote presentation, drawing on his vast experience of travel technology to deliver what promises to be a compelling perspective on the trends and innovations to watch.
Other speakers from the technology sector include Francesca Benati, who is vice president of online for Western Europe, MEA for Amadeus. She is also managing director for Amadeus’ entire Italian business and will be on a panel talking about distribution on Tuesday 6th.
Travel Forward aims to position travel as part of the overall technology landscape, and has confirmed that Dr Sue Black, a technology evangelist with a PhD in software engineering, will deliver a keynote speech on the Monday.
Dr Black is a government adviser and has played a prominent role in championing the role of women in the technology industry.
While Amadeus and Travelport are pure-play B2B tech providers to the travel and hospitality sectors, technology is no longer a discrete silo within consumer brands. Businesses such as kiwi.com and Skyscanner have built successful businesses based on proprietary technology, and senior execs from both will be part of the Travel Forward conference programme.
Kiwi.com has coined the phrase “virtual interlining” and has built a platform which connects flights from different airlines, allowing passengers to visit destinations from their chosen airport which are not served by direct flights. It is capable of creating more than 15 million flight combinations and handles around 90 million search queries a day.
Stephen Davis is kiwi.com’s chief marketing officer and will be talking about personalisation on the Monday afternoon.
Skycanner’sFilip Filipov will also be speaking at Travel Forward. His CV confirms the extent to which travel technology is truly global – he was educated at Harvard in the US and INSEAD in France, before working for a VC firm in Bulgaria and in Singapore. He relocated to Skyscanner’s base in Scotland in 2013, a few years before Skyscanner was bought by Ctrip, China’s largest online travel agency.
His session on the opening day will look at the theory and practice of blockchain, from the perspective of a truly global and innovative technology-based travel business.
Elsewhere, some mainstream travel brands are also on the agenda. Club Med has been around since 1950 and has successfully managed its digital transformation by focussing on direct bookings to drive customer loyalty. This will be the topic discussed by its MD for the UK and Northern Europe, Estelle Giraudeau on the Monday afternoon.
Secret Escapes is well established in the UK and is growing across Europe. It uses TV advertising to build up awareness of its members-only luxury deals business and counts the investment arm of search giant Google as one of its backers. Co-founder and chief operating officer Tom Valentine will be part of panel on Monday 5, looking at how technology is changing the traveller experience.
He will be joined by GunjanVerma, chief technology officer for The Travel Corporation, a US-based holding company which handles nearly two million travellers a year across its global portfolio of 29 brands, and Didier Pinson, chief information officer for Rail Europe, which distributes tickets from European rail operators to North Americans visiting Europe.
Elsewhere, the rail industry is also represented by Roberto Abbondio, managing director of new business for Eurostar International. On the Monday afternoon, he will talk about how dynamic packaging technology has helped it to become a successful tour operator.
The hospitality sector has arguably faced the most disruption from technology and will be prominent across Travel Forward. Distribution is the most obvious example of how hotels have had to adapt.
NayanPeshkar, senior vice-president of revenue management and distribution for Millennium Hotels and Resorts will be on a panel sharing his thoughts on distribution and brand ownership, alongside Nils Korsvoll, senior vice president for eBerry, a standalone business within Nordic Choice Hotels which is dedicated to technology and distribution. Their session takes place on Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile, Tim Hentschel, CEO of group bookings specialist HotelPlanner.com, will be interviewed on stage on Monday, explaining how its proprietary technology makes group bookings easier for travellers and hotels alike. The business also owns meetings.com and is also bringing new technology to that portion of the hotel sector.
The airline industry, which invented travel technology in the 1960s with its computer reservation systems, is also exposed to changing tech trends. Mobile as a search, booking and customer service channel is firmly established but constantly evolving. Vincent Fillon is the director of mobile strategy and development for Air France and will be sharing his insightsinto what travellers want and expect from their mobile interaction with suppliers. This takes place on Tuesday 6.
Finally, the online travel agencies who brought online booking into the consumer mainstream, will also be featured. Expedia Group is now aglobal travel platform business, best known for expedia.com but with interests in corporate travel (Egencia), metasearch (Trivago), distribution (Expedia Affiliate Network), B2B rail technology (SilverRail) and much more.
One of the fastest growing parts of the business is Media Solutions, its in-house digital marketing agency which sells access to Expedia’s audience to advertisers from travel and other sectors. The unit’s global senior vice president, Hari Nair, is on stage on the opening day, giving his data-backed insights into what the traveller of tomorrow will demand.
Richard Gayle, Event Manager, Travel Forward, said: “Looking through the list of confirmed speakers shows that tech is now an integral part of every travel company across all sectors and geographies. Attendees at Travel Forward will be spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding which sessions to attend andthe strength of the conference programme for our inaugural event confirms that we have identified and addressed a need in the market for a dedicated deep dive into travel technology.”