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Travel and Technology Conference Notes 2013

National travel and technology industry experts explored technology trends, challenges and opportunities in the travel industry at the second annual TNT Conference last Tuesday, October 1 in Seattle. The TNT Conference featured industry leaders sharing thoughts and ideas about the future of how emerging technologies will impact and shape the hospitality landscape. The Conference featured two expert panels of users and suppliers that focused on big data and the distribution of content.  Following the panels, a Pundits Panel, consisting of consultants and investors, shared reactions and insights on the content that is summarized below. Culminating the Conference was a competition that featured Northwest companies that have developed cutting edge technologies focused on the travel and tourism sector.  The Conference judges heard presentations from buuteeq, dwellable, Poached, MovingWorlds, dealScoopr, and Appetas, all competing for the evening’s awards for Best Overall Pitch and Best Investment Opportunity.

 Below are highlights from the panel discussions. 

Big Data – The Power of Content 

Moderator, Scott Warner of Garvey Schubert Barer, focused the panel on an overarching question - What’s important and how do you use the data that’s being collected?

  • Mike Blake, of Commune Hotels, addressed the challenge of using data to make an organization more efficient by developing the big picture view of how to manage the vast amounts of available information at our fingertips. He used the analogy of the “two car accident”…if you’re above the traffic in a helicopter, you could probably predict when the accident was going to happen.
  • Other challenges posed by the panel included knowing what data to collect, what informative questions to ask and who are the right people to ask.  

Challenges of big data?

  • Privacy. Where do you draw the line between intimate and creepy?
  • Distribution. How do we take the data and share it to make it relevant to the hotel, front desk, and the staff?  
  • Maturity. We have the infrastructure but not the maturity to handle big data.
  • Utilization. We have the power of big data but we’re only using “medium data.”

How do you make it relevant to people that need to consume this data?

  • Storage is relatively inexpensive these days so collect and save everything and come back to it when you need it.
  • Figure out what questions are rising to the top and start looking for trends, which then opens up the ability to start asking the right questions.
  • Arm your staff with information so they can treat VIP guests appropriately.
  • Take advantage of the “click through” information on websites. Every website should have browser and IP address information. Leverage this information to create a good customer experience.

Structured v. unstructured data?

  • Data co-ops need to look outside their own industry and start sharing information much like the retail industry. It’s for the betterment of the company and customer experience.
  • Understand the market from the entire industry and not just from your specific market.
  • ALL of your information is currently being collected such as credit cards, shopping habits and spending.
  • Walk before you run – first get structured data in order, then think about adding more data.

Distribution

John Burns, of Hospitality Technology Consulting, moderated this panel focused on distribution including the challenges and disruptions.

What are the latest generational technologies?

  • “Pop unders” are similar to pop ups and occurs when a customer hits the “leave button” on a website and directs you to another related site. The goal is to turn shoppers into buyers.
  • User interface can now change and adapt to the varying screen sizes (from phone to tablet to laptop to desktop), which is a very simple concept to wrap your head around, but difficult to implement.

Distribution challenges?

  • Mobile. 50% of business is now coming from mobile devices and tablets and it’s growing exponentially, especially in other countries like Japan and Asia Pacific. Your mobile phone is now your credit card, room key, and plane ticket. Apps are now primarily being designed for mobile.
  • Keeping up! This technology will not slow down; it will only get more complicated. Those working in the field probably need to become experts on this new way of doing business.
  • The new iPhone 5 has more computer power than when NASA landed on the moon in 1969. Now we are carrying this thing in our pocket and thinking nothing of it.

The idea of globalization?

  • You must think globally.
  • Think about IP issues, antitrust, pricing, and maintenance.
  • Hire teams on the ground in other regions.
  • Understand what customers in other regions are looking for.
  • Wherever you are in the world, there’s data that can help you in any market. The power of big data allows you to leverage information and respond centrally.

What to expect looking forward?

  • Distribution. We’re going to see more programmatic marketing solutions enabling industries or corporations to take advantage of new technology.
  • Volumetrics and more biometrics.
  • Increase in coding skills. Expect to see 200 more hotel apps in the next two years
  • Continued industry consolidation (think William Shatner of Priceline, Booking, Kayak, and Travelocity).

The Pundits' Reaction

This panel was moderated by Rich Siegel, of Hospitality Upgrade. 

  • For a long, time data wasn't in a hoteliers’ job description, it was centered on accommodation. Now it’s becoming part of the job.
  • Make the data easily accessible to your employees for better customer service. Know your clients. Connect the data and implementation.
  • Aggregate. Normalize. Then make the information visible.
  • Privacy is dead. The younger generation doesn't understand the idea of privacy.
  • Draw the line between creepy and courteous. Don’t scare your customers. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

The Pundits' reaction was followed up by the awarding of Best Overall Pitch and Best Investment Opportunity.  Drum role please…MovingWorlds, a company that helps customers donate their professional skills worldwide, won Best Overall Pitch and Appetas, a company that designs affordable websites for the restaurant industry, won Best Investment Opportunity. Congratulations to both companies. Conference attendees agreed that we will see great innovation from both of these companies in the future!

On behalf of Zino Society and Garvey Schubert Barer, I would like to thank all of the participating companies: Appetas, Clairvoyix, Commune Hotels, Digital Alchemy, Benchmark, Hipmunk, Thayer Ventures, Google, Roomkey, Tnooz, Concur, Jon Inge & Associates, Expedia Media Solutions, Voyager Capital, Hospitality Technology Consulting, nSight, Travelport, buuteeq, dwellable, Poached, MovingWorlds and dealScoopr. A special thank you to our 2013 sponsors: Clark Nuber, GeekWire, Guestware, and Hospitality Upgrade.

If you have interest in participating in next year’s TNT Conference (or want more information about this year’s Conference), please email me, Scott Warner, or Ruth Walters.

To view pictures from the 2013 TNT event, click here.

To read about 2012’s Conference, click here

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    Greg Duff founded and chairs the firm’s national Hospitality, Travel and Tourism group. Greg’s practice is directed at the variety of operations-oriented matters faced by hospitality and travel industry members, including ...

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Greg Duff, Editor
Greg Duff founded and chairs GSB’s national Hospitality, Travel & Tourism group. His practice largely focuses on operations-oriented matters faced by hospitality industry members, including sales and marketing, distribution and e-commerce, procurement and technology. Greg also serves as counsel and legal advisor to many of the hospitality industry’s associations and trade groups, including AH&LA, HFTP and HSMAI.

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