A rough guide to eight big travel industry battles
Travel industry conference season is upon us once again. The distribution cohort has gone from Singapore to London, is now in Scottsdale, Ariz., and in the new year will be heading off to Berlin then back to London.
This adrenalin-fuelled grand tour of long days—and even longer nights—can be a real drain on financial and mental resources.
To let you spend more time schmoozing (or sleeping), here is a quick guide to what is often discussed in travel industry panel debates.
With this little guide you can pretend to your boss (or your colleagues) that you really were paying attention rather than sleeping in the back row. Just hope your boss doesn’t read Tnooz too
The main debates (not necessarily in this order)
1. Innovation vs it works perfectly well now, thank you
You will hear the innovation word a lot. A LOT. No one really knows whether innovation is better or just different. What most of these innovation debates miss is feedback from the part of the industry that the innovation is meant to eliminate or simplify. Simple rule: If the innovation has been created by a twenty-something-year-old and aims to eliminate part of the industry they have never worked in, the innovation will fail.
2. Travel bloggers vs travel writers
Yes, this debate is ENDLESS. According to travel writers, travel writers create well researched, independent articles, while travel bloggers don’t. Travel bloggers don’t share that point of view, obviously. While those two groups fight it out, most of the travel destination content created by companies within the travel industry will continue to be actually written by interns. You won’t see an intern on a panel, though.
3. Data centres vs cloud
Cloud! Cloud! You must be using cloud technology! But turns out that cloud technology is really just a data centre susceptible to all the same problems normal data centres are.
4. Local vs global
You will hear plenty of mention of the L-word on travel panels. Local tours, hiring locals peer-to-peer (P2P), partying with locals, eating with locals, and arranging for local transport. All you need to know is that global is “local that has scaled.”
5. P2P vs businesses
Expect P2P (e.g., peer-to-peer accommodation marketplaces like AirBnB) to receive plenty of airtime. Are hotel chains worried? Maybe, but probably less so than regional tax inspectors. Don’t expect sensible debate from industry insiders as they would often prefer AirBnB and their ilk to just disappear. Instead expect stories like, “When I stayed in AirBnB in Berlin for ITB, my room was plastered with Justin Bieber posters.”
6. Standards vs chaos
Oh travel distribution conferences never pass without a good old ding dong about standards. Standards theoretically make the world a better place. Turns out travel technology companies either want standards (because that can help them catch up market share vs a larger competitor) or don’t want standards (because they want to continue selling expensive systems to suppliers and standards would weaken the value of that market).
7. Agents vs the web
Probably one of the most confusing types of panel debate you can go to. After all, agents are on the web, right? Most debates end up by saying companies should consider what can be automated and what should be made efficient (because the human still adds value) If you go back to your boss and give that clever answer you’ll be fine.
8. Responsible tourism debates
Travel industry executives who spend half their lives jetting to industry conferences all around the world really want to talk about their “green” credentials in supporting low-carbon, environmentally friendly travel. Yes, that makes a lot of sense.
Any other regular debates I have missed?
Alex is a contributing Node to Tnooz and writes about travel technology, travel startups, specialist tour operators and the tours & activities sector. He has previously led ecommerce, social media and reservation system projects for airlines, leading mainstream tour operators and hotel distribution companies in both leisure and business travel sectors.
He is the CEO of TourCMS, a web based software-as-a-service reservation system and distribution platform used by many specialist tour operators worldwide to take online bookings and distribute to 3rd parties.
He also moderates Small Fish Big Ocean, a community that welcomes small tour operators and niche travel agents to come and discuss travel ecommerce issues. Alex has a computing degree, is passionate about usability, speaks French and still writes and reviews code.