PhoCusWright’s Travel Innovation Summit lives up to expectations

Ben Hunt

Group Communications Director, Amadeus IT Group

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The DigiClean was in the welcome pack I was given when I registered this morning for the PhoCusWright Conference in Hollywood, Florida. It seemed a good omen for the rest of the conference. If the innovation in the welcome pack was this good…

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Innovation comes in all shapes and sizes. This evening as I write this, I have a small adhesive patch stuck to the back of my BlackBerry which I can take off and use to clean the screen. It’s called a DigiClean and I am disproportionately pleased with it given that it’s a fairly low tech piece of technology. But it’s new, it fulfills a need and I like it. (Insert your own simple things, simple minds joke here.)

What followed – The Travel Innovation Summit – has lived up to those expectations, and indicated that innovation in travel technology is alive and kicking. Throughout a long day 30 companies showcased the best of their new technology in a game show-style Travel Tech’s Got Talent type of format. And while there did not seem to be anything truly transformational on display, there was a great deal of clever thinking applied to the way in which travel is marketed, delivered and experienced.

The content was heavily dominated by two areas. First, hotels were a major focus. Seven presentations were aimed at improving the way in which we book hotel rooms and the way hotels present themselves. The businesses ranged from a distribution system called Global.li aimed at providing a dedicated distribution platform for boutique hotels in Asia, Africa and Latin America to Groupize, which provides a booking engine and management platform for hotels to use on group leads and bookings. It would appear hotel marketing and check-in technology is in line for a makeover.

The second dominant idea was personalization – how is the industry going to tailor the offer it makes to consumers by using social media and other user generated content. These themes ran through a number of presentations throughout the day, including Peek, which aims to help activity operators find new customers and Mygola, which aims to help travelers plan “completely personalized trips in just 15 minutes”.

To supplement the broad personalization offers there were also some fascinating niche companies on display including MiniTime which will help build itineraries for family travel and Flights With Friends, which promises a more collaborative experience for group travel.

From a personal point of view, there were two companies I could see having the most immediate impact on my personal travel experiences. First, What Now Travel, which offers an app that enables travelers to simulate “live” location-based services without incurring huge data roaming charges.

And secondly, VerbalizeIt, a New York based company offering instant access to human translators to make sure nothing is ever lost in translation. Having moved to Madrid in January with limited Spanish I have spent much of the year waving my arms around and speaking loudly in a vain attempt to order jamón ibérico or take a taxi to the Plaza Mayor. But help is at hand… and not before time.

The winners of the awards will be announced over the next day of the conference.


North America, Events