On October 3, about 40 industry leaders gathered for the first Global Travel Tech Think Tank, held by WiT, Phocuswright and PhocusWire and hosted by Accor Asia.
The event’s purpose was to brainstorm the way forward for travel under the umbrella theme of “How To Future Proof Travel By Creating More Resilience and Acting Responsibly and Respectfully.”
Participants included Keith Tan, CEO of the Singapore Tourism Board; James Marshall, vice president of global transport
services at Expedia Group; Timothy O’ Neil-Dunne, principal at T2Impact;
Kerry Healy, chief commercial officer for Southeast Asia, Japan and South Korea
at Accor; and Chris Hemmeter, co-founder and managing director of Thayer
This is the summary report from the two-hour think tank - something worth digging into as we end the year and look forward to rebuilding back, stronger, better and kinder, in 2023 and beyond.
Download the full Global Travel Tech Thinktank report here
It cannot be business as usual
If there was one key takeaway from the think tank, it was that it cannot be business as usual for the industry. The robust travel recovery being seen across the world, as well as beginning in Asia, cannot be used as a reason for things to go back to normal.
Subscribe to our newsletter below
It was a sentiment expressed by Tan in his opening statement to the think tank. He said that even though Singapore would achieve between four and six million visitors in 2022, putting it back on track, “we cannot go back to life as it was, as though it hasn’t changed. That would be a dangerous perception.”
He outlined three pillars on which Singapore was rebuilding its future – sustainability, wellness and technology. Its mission is to “change perceptions and blaze the trail in a destination reset.”
Following his opening, the group identified key themes that would meet the three objectives of Resilience, Responsibility and Respect.
The seven themes
Policy Making/Government Regulation: How to have a more credible and heard voice in policy making
- Challenge: Resource allocation and government policies
- Call To Action: Collaborate
Resource allocation: That a portion of incentives offered by governments go towards human capital and talent development in the industry.
Building resilience: A post-pandemic audit be done to make data-informed decisions and recommendations with current crisis dynamics.
Standardized processes and procedures across travel: Create mandated and trusted governance mechanisms that fully engage the private sector, local communities and promote an “industry-wide + government” approach.
Talent: How to attract new, smart talent and re-skill
- Challenge: How do we rebuild trust in the industry to make it attractive again
- Call To Action: Rebuild the brand of travel – “a cross industry public relations campaign to support why of the industry, and to talk to the depth of the opportunity that exists”
Promote mobility/transferability: Frictionless talent mobility creates more opportunities to explore full potential.
Align employee, organizational and industry purpose: Authentic purpose enables employees to appreciate the connection between their work and the broader impact of their organizations within the industry.
Cross-industry external communication: A collective industry communication on the potential opportunity and exciting career pathways that travel provides.
Industry perks and benefits: Fix employee perks and benefits and emphasize flexibility, wellbeing and sustainable working norms.
- Challenge: Admit there’s a problem. Business model (hospitality) has not changed since the 1950s, while customer behavior has – accelerated by more young travelers, fully adopted computing platforms, degree of automation.
- Call To Action: Flip the model
Think about product development from the customer’s point of view – business and leisure blending, living as a service, how are customers thinking about automation and are willing to accept?
Reinvent the value chain of accommodation.
Engage with startups – the voices agitating for solutions.
- Challenge: Technology is seen more as a means to reduce cost rather than improve customer experience, and the big problem is democratic access to data on demand trends, which affects several areas.
- Call To Action: Build an open, decentralized network where travel can be bought and sold and rules of what is bought/sold and at what commission levels are decided by the buyer and seller.
Build a global, open, decentralized travel commerce platform for suppliers to come onto the internet globally, like an app store, in order to sell travel products and services to buyers across the world.
Make it extremely simple for any travel supplier to upload supply, availability, rates, business logic, etc. onto the platform and to make the rules of sale visible to any entity who wants to sell it through open APIs provided by the network – OTA, metas, GDSs, airlines, corporates, third parties, marketplaces, super-apps, etc.
Make the supply data content and demand trends data accessible to everyone (with supplier consent) on the platform in a transparent and trusted manner, with pre-defined commercial rules for distribution with a small marginal cost per transaction to the extent it supports the platform’s cost of operations. Provide for a low-cost cross-border payment/settlement process for processing transactions and their refunds.
Has to be run by a non-profit body with a governing body representing diverse entities so that we keep it neutral and free of commercial interests – “commercial models’ interests will kill the whole reason for doing this which is to democratize distribution of long-tail travel suppliers.”
Save the planet
- Challenge: No clear standards around what good looks like in the travel industry.
- Call To Action: Create objective measurements of what good looks like and educate consumers of what good looks like.
Agree on fair and transparent, minimum attributes for suppliers.
Make sure public understands it – what does it mean to have carbon offsets, where’s my money going, what’s the transparency?
With metrics in place, we can give consumers additional value/discounts for choosing sustainable options
For longtail, big companies could subsidize their investments in for e.g. solar panels.
Flatten the peaks and not have travelers visit at the same time.
Involve children in the education process and making good choices at an early age.
Make more efficient business trips – longer, combine with leisure, volunteer for local projects tied to sustainability.
- Challenge: Rising costs and deflationary pressure
- Call To Action: Engage with governments and develop a co-op model
Tax incentives for SMEs to help them sustain the volatility and rising costs.
Working capital initiated by government to help businesses get through the initial period of rising costs – after that, it’s law of attrition.
Outcome-driven government grants that reward companies for improving efficiencies, for example.
Improve talent mobility – bringing in talent from other markets to defray the high cost of talent in some markets.
Develop co-op models to get economies of scale.
Empowering the long tail & local communities
- Challenge: Critical need to protect and nurture this vital, but fragile part of travel
- Call To Action: Get the big boys (governments, tourism boards, tech, OTAs) behind this
Develop a holistic strategy across tourism boards, governments, tech, bigger OTAs to educate and empower SMEs around digitization (gamification/badging)
Empower operators to take on education and integrative activity in their local communities
Recruit champions among the SMEs to drive home the message
Develop an open network platform to bring long-tail players onboard
The pandemic forced a reckoning upon the industry. It exposed our weaknesses but also amplified our strengths. We are macro and micro. We matter to humanity at large and communities at the local level. We create jobs. It’s a golden opportunity to rethink and reset. We need to collaborate to future-proof our industry and build back stronger, better and kinder.
* This article originally appeared on WebInTravel.