BTN at PhoCusWright: Fresh ideas to ease online travel through downturn

Hollywood’s glitz and glamour gave way to hard talk of new ideas, new products and new companies as the decision-makers and thought-leaders from travel technology gathered for the 15th PhoCusWright Conference, 17-20 November 2008, Hollywood, California, USA.

(Above: Rob Torres, Managing Director, Travel, Google Inc.)With no industry, however cutting edge, immune to the economic downturn, the big question preying on the minds of delegates was how slackening demand would influence those breaking new ground in online travel.

Although the online travel industry is old enough to have experienced the ups and downs of economic cycles, the current downturn is regarded as the most challenging yet. The consensus was that the burgeoning online travel industry is equipped to ride the storm, albeit growth could well slow from double to single digit.


(Above: Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi)

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Attendees at what is widely-heralded as THE travel industry event of the year got to hear a who’s who line-up of CEOs and thought-leaders. The likes of Expedia’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Kayak’s CEO Steve Hafner and Tripadvisor’s CEO Steve Kaufer gave their views as to where they think the industry is heading, as well as immersing themselves in hot debate and eyeing up the new ideas.

Expedia’s Khosrowshashi said that those in travel are selling what people want, which will ease the economic chill. “One thing I’ll say about the economic environment - everyone I have talked to is feeling the pain,” he said. “But when I talk to them, we sell the best product in the world. There is no product like the travel product. Although it may not be a need, a lot of consumers consider it a right.”

Bill Carroll, senior lecturer at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University said, “Cyclical trends are highly predictable: recessions are followed by a rebound and then recovery. Emotional cycles accompany these economic ones - pessimism is followed by fear, confidence and then reasonable exuberance. I hope consumers would avoid unreasonable exuberance in the next go round.”


(Above: Interactive MOBILE @dvertising LLC winners of “Best in Show” at the Travel Innovation Summit)

Highlight of this year’s conference was the Travel Innovation Summit - travel technology’s answer to the X-Factor, with entrepreneurs vying to win the votes of the assembled gathering as to why their idea will be the next great travel innovation.

In inimitable PhoCusWright fashion, the vehicle was not the raising of hands or voices but a wireless voting device. The “Best in Show” winner went to Interactive MOBILE @dvertising LLC for its mobile platform providing on-demand access to destination-specific travel information.

However it was depth of competition that was most reassuring - 32 hot, innovative web and mobile-based applications from inventors across the world - proving that online travel technology is still bursting with new ideas and fresh talent that will ensure it emerges from the economic storm stronger than ever.

For more information visit PhoCusWright Conference.
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