WTTC Global Summit 2012 Interview: Gordon Wilson, president of Travelport
Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia Travelport is one of the world’s largest travel content aggregators and distributors with approximately 3,500 employees worldwide, operating in 170 countries. This leading travel company is predominently a global distribution system (GDS) business and it currently owns Worldspan, Galileo and a 48 percent stake in Orbitz Worldwide.
Ahead of the WTTC Summit in Japan next week, Breaking Travel News caught up with Gordon Wilson, president & chief executive of Travelport, to find out what this leading travel technology company has planned for the forum.
Breaking Travel News: What’s on the agenda for Travelport at WTTC this year?
Gordon Wilson: WTTC is a fantastic opportunity to connect with leaders across the travel industry spectrum, most of whom are Travelport customers or business partners. It is also a great opportunity to learn about what is going on, both on a global basis but also with a specific lens on our host country Japan and its region. WTTC continues to reinforce the message that travel and tourism is a major global industry and an extremely significant contributor to GDP growth through the jobs it creates directly and indirectly, not to mention the positive impact it has on trade and mutual understanding. Holding the 2012 meeting in Japan has a special significance given the terrible tsunami in the region last year; but it clearly demonstrates the strong recovery that Japan has made and the fact that it is once again open for corporate and leisure travel.
BTN: What has been your most significant development / announcement so far in 2012?
GW: In addition to our performance and roll out of four new products, we are pretty excited about our unprecedented partnership with TravelSky of China which covers both joint development work and also the sharing of our respective hotel products and content.
BTN: Having commenced operations in 1971, can you comment on some of the key milestones for Travelport over the past 41 years?
GW: There are so many - first GDS provider to offer electronic ticketing, first to offer automated boarding passes, first airline IT partner to offer a self-service kiosk – and of course, first GDS to have a Scottish CEO! What is really important however is the next forty years and we have already notched up some leading capabilities including our Travelport Universal API aggregating content from multiple sources in addition to our GDS through a single interface and code set, our Travelport Rooms and More Product now providing over 650,000 hotel offers to our travel agency customers not to mention our state of the art Travelport Universal Desktop for multi-sourced content display, customized workflow automation and a truly graphical output. There will be no resting on any laurels at Travelport
BTN: What is your main priority for the next 12 months?
GW: We are focused on rolling out our suite of products and services such as Travelport Smartpoint App and Travelport Universal Desktop, further enhancing our travel content both in the GDS and through Travelport Rooms and More and continuing to provide a superlative user experience for our customers however they chose to access our services, through our desktops or our uAPI.
BTN: What are the main challenges presenting in the online travel space? How can these be tackled?
GW: Enabling travel suppliers to sell their products the way they want to – this has required a major re-think from both a commercial and technology perspective. The good news is that new products such as those I have mentioned from Travelport with a different approach are now available and beginning deployment – only this week we announced the activation of merchandised services with KLM with EMD payment as but one example and there is much more to come
BTN: Is the travel industry effectively adopting online tools to streamline their operations and enhance the end user experience as much as they could?
GW: From our perspective, yes. There are a range of on-line tools and particularly mobile applications which the travelling customer wants and agencies are able to provide. Travelport recently made its ViewTrip itineraries available through both Android and Apple applications in addition to Blackberry and our strategy through our developer community and the Uinversal application programming interface (API) is to enable all of these really smart on-line and mobile developers to gain access to the widest range of travel content possible through a well supported and single source to write to. Our Rooms and More content will be available through the uAPI in the summer. We don’t know which on-line and mobile apps will be the most adopted and preferred by the end consumer but we are aiming to be as ubiquitous as possible in the background.
BTN: What advice would you offer to travel buyers or sellers who are unsure of which platforms to adopt or technologies to implement?
GW: Talk to Travelport – we are here to help and our offerings are fundamentally different to even a year ago
BTN: What key online trends are currently emerging? In what ways is consumer behaviour online evolving?
GW: More smartphones will be shipped this year than PCs. In the US, almost a quarter of people don’t access the internet through a PC. Social media and the wisdom of friends is replacing the wisdom of crowds. Immediacy of purchase enabled by mobile commerce means even shorter buying cycles. Always on, ever connected and highly informed consumers require a different servicing proposition. The world is changing and if you are not planning ahead you are not planning to survive. Travelport is planning to more than just survive.
BTN: What are your key growth markets for 2012?
GW: We are in over 170 countries, or around 87% of the world. They are all key for us, but it would be wrong not to identify the fast growing BRICs economies where with the one exception there are open markets for GDS companies. We are pleased with our performance in “mature” markets as well such as the US where our position strengthened to the best it has been since 2008 and other key markets such as the UK and Australia.
BTN: What are your top travel tech predictions for the next five years?
GW: More content, more refined search parameters, more mobile, more customer profiling through the effective use of Big Data and an even faster pace of change