Where Travel, Digital and Innovation meet

Debbie Iannaci

Director, Corporate Communications, North America, Amadeus IT Group

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If there are many flavors of innovation in the travel industry, then the annual Phocuswright Conference is the ultimate buffet.

Amadeus power travel


This week’s U.S.-based event attracted 1,600 attendees from 40+ countries to Hollywood, Florida, and represented a diverse cross-section of the industry, from established companies who continue to transform to startups looking to be “the next big thing.” Attendees saw and heard about the latest innovations and networked with travel companies from around the world including Amadeus.

"Travel is an amazing industry, especially in the way it reinvents itself year after year," said Lorraine Sileo, Phocuswright's Senior Vice President of Research and Business Operations, in opening remarks. "You are the risk takers and we thrive on your ideas. You are here because you are the ones creating our industry's future.”
And create they did.

Foreseeing the future

If the event had a crystal ball, the Summit and Launch sessions would be it. The innovations being presented onstage provided an early glimpse into what might be coming next in travel.

While most people run from the hot seat, startups run to it. The Summit session featured 24 startups vying Shark Tank-style with only six minutes onstage to best present their company’s mission and offerings. Then came three minutes of Q&A where they were questioned -- and winners ultimately selected -- by the “Dragons,” a panel of thought leaders in travel technology, among them Amadeus’ Katherine Grass, head of Innovation and Ventures.

katherine grass


But innovation isn’t just for startups. The Launch session brought 9 established companies to the stage to unveil their groundbreaking travel technology products or services. Ten minutes in the spotlight was all each company had to impress the Phocuswright voting audience.

So which companies came out on top? Among the winners was Redeam, which connects resellers and suppliers of tours & activities electronically, who won two innovation awards in the Startup category and the General Catalyst Award. Uplift, which offers travel providers flexible payment options to boost their marketing metrics, took home the innovation award in the Emerging Category. Sift Science, wooed the crowd and clinched the People’s Choice Award with their platform that brings live machine learning to fraud protection.  You can check out the full list of Innovation winners here.

Innovation takes center stage

scott gutz


The conference culminated with the Center Stage session. Phocuswright kicked it off with a deep dive into the state of digital travel and the key themes driving global travel, tourism, hospitality and innovation.

The program that followed ran the gamut from topics such as blockchain, digital assistants and distribution disruption to industry roundtable discussions about “where the money, the market and the movers will go next.” Executive 1:1 interviews featured insight and opinions from the industry’s heavy-hitters including KAYAK, Ctrip, Priceline and Google.  Scott Gutz, President and CEO, Amadeus North America, was among the “talkbackers” engaging in provocative post-keynote banter onstage with Google’s Vice President of Travel and Shopping.

Amadeus on the scene

alix arguelles


Amadeus’ insight and expertise was tapped again, with Alix Arguelles, head of Amadeus’ Online Travel Group in North America, joining a panel of industry insiders for the PundIT Show.  Filmed onsite as part of Phocuswright’s newly launched Phocuswirechannel, the show features livestreaming interviews offering commentary, context -- and frequently challenging – the topics of the day.

Amadeus showed its ongoing support of innovation and travel technology as a full sponsor of the event.  Open house sessions and workshops were held including Amadeus for Startups,Amadeus Travel Payments,Search and Shopping, and Amadeus Travel Media and Advertising. Amadeus also hosted a closing night party -- a celebration of traditional Key West culture, music and giving back to rebuild the Florida Keys after Hurricane Irma. The “party with a purpose” featured the presentation of a major Amadeus donation to support the initiatives of Tourism Cares, the non-profit, philanthropic arm of the travel and tourism industry.

Couldn’t make the conference this year? You can still catch the conference action on-demand here.


Travel Platform, Events