Future Digital Thinking – part of the Travel Tech Show at WTM

A session on Future Digital Thinking in Hospitality at WTM saw Expedia Affiliate Network talk up “chatbots”. Nuno Castro, Director of Data Science for EAN, said chatbots should be exploited for the next evolution in hotel discovery: “For hotel search you put in your dates and a destination and get a set of results. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s worth $7 trillion in the US alone but the formula has not changed in 10 years. Chatbots could provide a warmer approach to hotel search.”


Tips from the coalface for the startup community made for a mix of highs and lows during the Travel Tech Show. Newbies including Eco Companion, Sujester and Hotel Bonanza featured in the Genesys “Meet the Innovators” session, where they shared their journeys so far, as well as some milestones along the way.

Max Sinclair, Founder of ecotourism business Eco Companion, gave the audience his five key takeaways for starting a travel business. His advice includes filling the team with “Rockstars and Rising Stars” – which means people with huge experience to help you make decisions and people who will do the “grunt work”.

Sinclair stressed the importance of starting with the “why” when setting up a business to help focus on what you’re trying to achieve. He also described Instagram as the “hot new channel” saying it was tipped to hit a billion users by the end of the year and, as part of the Facebook family, not likely to go anywhere: “People think you can’t convert from it but stories on Instagram are hugely powerful to drive traf c and you can get conversion.”

During his session, he also described highs and lows in Eco Companion’s journey such as getting funding but then over-investing it: “It’s one of the most common things startups do. You believe with every pound you invest you are going to get more back.”

Other sessions were devoted to travel influencers, with Traverse sessions providing tips on how to diversify. South African Tourism Hub Head UK & Ireland Tolene van Der Merwe introduced the Diversify or Die session stressing how hard it now is to cut through the noise and get a message to target audiences.

“The need to diversify in how you use your social media channels is absolutely vital. We’re increasingly seeing people want to live in the now, so channels such as Facebook Live and Periscope are as much a part of the strategy of in uencing now.” Travel blogger Macca Sheri of An Adventurous World also urged influencers to think about what would happen if their biggest channel went bust: “It could happen. Could you survive?”.

Photo: Nuno Castro, Director of Data Science, Expedia Affiliate Network