Tech meet calls for Caribbean innovation

The World Travel Internet Conference (WTIC), held in conjunction with the World Travel Awards, has met with critical acclaim from industry insiders, who took home the message that in today’s travel tech environment, “Content is King.“The event, sponsored by Cable & Wireless and Amadeus e-Travel, took place on September 18th in Turks & Caicos.

A welcome address by Deputy Premier, Floyd Hall highlighted the importance of technology and “the Internet as a great equaliser for the little guys” in the travel industry and the urgent need for Caribbean destinations to embrace the Internet.

“We must be willing to learn and adapt and realign our organisations and that is what is needed.” He revealed: “The Internet did not reach the Turks & Caicos until the mid 1990s, nevertheless we can all attest to the benefits that it has brought.”

Referring to the forthcoming launch of Turksandcaicostourism.com, he added: “It is my government’s intention to bring about an Internet product that is second to none”. The new site, which will offer rich media, maps, guides, photos, foreign language sub-sites, was just one of the many innovations that captured the attention of delegates.

Speakers included: keynote - John Davis, CEO, Pegasus Solutions, Laura Veglia, Regional Director, Caribbean, Expedia, Glenn Fogel, Senior Managing Director, Corporate Development, Priceline.com, Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, Secretary General, Caribbean Tourism Organisation and David Soskin, CEO, Cheapflights.

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The aim of the WTIC was to increase awareness of emerging innovative tech within the travel industry, as well as to tackle some of the key issues that many businesses are facing and some of the vital questions that both market leaders and consumers are asking in this rapidly growing industry.

The program allowed top industry insiders to share their information whilst checking out the competition, as well as determine which technologies need more focus and how to implement them.

Timely, interactive sessions focused on: the future of aviation, hotel distribution, online travel trends, online destination marketing and wireless in the travel industry.

Online bookings, search engine marketing, e-ticketing, travel podcasts, online communities and wireless access when travelling were just some of the topics that were discussed during the one-day conference.

Some of the major themes that emerged included: more consumers are booking direct, the GDS is not dead, new distribution channels are emerging, user generated content will continue to gain momentum, it is important to have a good multi-dimensional strategy and to offer personalised, customised experiences - and “the consumer controls the message.”

Aviation panelists discussed the rapid evolution of the airline distribution landscape, at a time when the industry is witnessing a healthy ten percent growth rate. According to panelists, one of the main challenges that the industry will face moving forwards will be moving from supplier-driven to consumer-driven model.

Gordon Locke, Vice President, Sabre Airlines Solutions, who participated in the aviation panel which looked at the evolution of aviation distribution, said of the conference: “Sabre enjoys being a part of the World Travel Internet Conference because it is a relevant, but intimate event. The speakers learn form each other, as they represent diverse opinions, networking with peers, partners and competitors is unusually productive and educational, and the event will grow, so participation is encouraged.”

Glenn Fogel, who was speaking at the WTIC for the second time,  commented: “The conference again met my goals of meeting with the right people to deepen my firm’s business relationships.  Also, the speaker presentations enabled me to obtain valuable insights in a number of areas that I normally don’t have time to examine in depth. This is the second time I have been to the conference and as good as the last one was in Barbados, this one was even better.”

David Doucette, Director Internet Strategy, Fairmont, who spoke to delegates on the forthcoming launch of a revamped Fairmont.com, commented: “The World Travel Internet Conference had a great line-up of speakers. Each expert provided some very useful insights into some of the current opportunities that can be leveraged through the Internet. The content was thought provoking and I believe all participants left with actionable takeaways, whether they’re in the early stages of the web strategies or in a more mature phase.” 

Headline sponsor, Cable & Wirelesses Drexwell Seymour, Chief Executive, Turks and Caicos said: “We are pleased to be a part of this historic event. We recognise the importance and take pride in connecting the Turks and Caicos to the world. It is a prestigious and timely honour for the country to have been chosen to host an event of this magnitude. Cable and Wireless is the provider of choice for Internet services and we are privileged to be the headline sponsor for the World Travel Internet Conference.”

The Turks and Caicos is one of the fastest growing destinations in the Caribbean with 161,000 arrivals as of August 2006, and $2 billion in tourism development initiatives underway to accommodate a continued boom.
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