Tnooz conducted its first U.S. event last night, #tcamp1, at the PhoCusWright conference in Orlando, and it began a little raucously.
Big-wigs from #tcamp1 sponsors Amadeus, its sibling TravelTainment, TripCase and Tourabout sat on-stage to review the day's events, competing with the not-so-hushed voices of hob-nobbing attendees armed with alcoholic beverages.
A section of the crowd -- representatives from all over the travel-techosphere -- just wasn't in the mood at first for another panel discussion after sitting through almost three dozen, 12-minute presentations at the Travel Innovation Summit earlier in the day, but Tnooz Editor Kevin May, the low-key, grand-master flash of the evening's town hall-style event, eventually got the throng's attention as he meandered throughout the room, microphone in hand.
One of the most-speculated about questions was how many of the day's innovating presenters -- ranging from 10Best Solutions at 9:15 am to Travelport's Journey Manager around dinner time -- would survive to pitch their stuff next year at this time.
Andy Owens-Jones, the CEO of TravelTainment, definitively answered 11, and naturally included TravelTainment as one of the companies which will live to crunch another day.
When asked how he came up with that precise number of start-up survivors, Owens-Jones quipped something to the effect of: "Because that's what I think."
Hey, we don't hold back on analysis at these events.
A bunch of other #tcamp1 participants were a bit more optimistic -- some would say overly optimistic -- believing perhaps 20 or so would still be around next year.
Tim Hughes, an Orbitz Worldwide exec from Australia, blogger extraordinaire and Tnooz Node, was speaking for himself when he chimed in that the success of a company may hinge not only on its technology, but also on context and timing.
For example, Hughes lamented the passing of Yahoo's GeoCities, which was a pioneer in local/user-generated content but was shuttered because it didn't mesh with Yahoo's corporate priorities.
I mentioned that I was looking forward over the next couple of days to hearing from Priceline and Expedia, now that Priceline, riding on the shoulders of Booking.com, has surpassed Expedia's market cap.
Adam Healey, co-founder and CEO of hotelicopter, said Priceline's market-cap mark was an interesting data point, and he began pointing to the lack of innovation in the travel industry and the paucity of new brand-launches over the last decade, with the exception of Kayak. Healey added that we always seem to be talking about the same, large OTAs at these events.
Healey's former company was based in Prague, but Hughes reminded Healey that there is a whole big world out there outside the U.S. when it comes to launches of major brands over the last 10 years.
So, let's not forget Ctrip, Jalan and Hotel.de, Hughes pointed out. He also mentioned Rakuten Travel as another significant brand launch, but a day after the get-together mentioned to me that Rakuten Travel actually was created in 1996, beyond the 10-year window.
Journalist Edward Hasbrouck isn't a fan of OTAs and OTA focus, and at one juncture challenged the assemblage to disprove his notion that the OTAs really are servants of suppliers with no real loyalty to customers.
No one defended the OTAs on that point.
Hasbrouck, too, bemoaned the fact that there has been little discussion at the PhoCusWright technology conference of the Amazon Kindle, which may one day turn out to be an important distributor of travel and nontravel content.
Some of the most intense audience discussions occurred toward the end of #tcamp1, as people batted around the challenges of destination marketing organizations (DMOs.)
The consensus seemed to be that DMOs, often reluctant to step on suppliers' toes when promoting destinations, must embrace user-generated content or be left in the dust.
When the dust settled at #tcamp1 and the program ended, there were more drinks, informal discussions and gab as camp was over for the day.
Not a bad start for the launch of a new media brand, Tnooz, of which I am not a disinterested party.