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At The Global Business Travel Association’s 2012 recent annual meeting in Boston, a record-breaking 6,600 business travel professionals from around the world came together to network and gain information and insights on new solutions, developments, and the future outlook for global business travel.
In the well-attended “Luminaries in Travel” plenary session, a panel of global travel company CEOs assembled to discuss opportunities and challenges facing the industry and examine major triggers affecting the outlook for travel.
The panel included Luis Maroto, President and CEO of Amadeus; Arne Sorenson, President and CEO of Marriott International Inc.; Barney Harford, CEO of Orbitz Worldwide; and David Cush, President and CEO of Virgin America.
The session opened with a focus on “the most pressing topic for all – the economy,” according to panel moderator, Trip Davis.
Even with global economic recovery moving at a slower-than-desired pace, most of the panelists found glimmers of hope. Some examples cited were rising hotel occupancy levels and strength in travel to destination cities in Europe such as London and Paris.
Maroto pointed out that there is very strong growth in parts of the world, some still in the double digits, and he voiced an “optimistic” outlook on the future evolution of the travel industry. He added that he is looking forward to the industry being in a position to talk more about the travel business and less about the economy.
One of the discussion points brought up on the panel was “big data” and its rapidly growing impact on the travel industry.
Travel suppliers and vendors are looking at how to best use the tremendous abundance of data available to provide a better customer experience that is both personalized and customized.
The glut of data available is requiring the industry to cut through all of the clutter to determine what is actually relevant, what content makes sense for the traveller and what data services the business needs, according to Maroto.
The amount of data and information available today has led to increased fragmentation and moving forward, it will be a matter of simplifying data and integrating it in a way that makes sense.
This topic also led to comments related to the value of the data and that, perhaps interestingly, the most useful form of this data is utilizing it to examine noncustomers, those who did not purchase a ticket or hotel room, and determining why.
This type of information would be incredibly valuable to companies as they can use it to tailor the experience and offerings to better serve customers.
Another hot topic, mobile technology and its role in the travel industry in the years ahead, was a key area of discussion. The focus for most of the CEO panelists was on the ways in which mobile could be used to provide a better, more customized travel experience.
Speaking directly to the captivated audience, the panel closed with a discussion around the role of the travel buyer moving forward, emphasizing how today’s technology and available data will create efficiencies and an improved experience for the traveller.
Maroto concluded that a balance will need to be found between controls and policies given the fact that travellers have their own preferences and a desire for freedom.