November 20, 2012
Several thoughts came to me as I wandered around the Westin Kierland in Scottsdale.
The usual buzz was there but also a sense that this was the last version of the event that Philip (Wolf) created. Next year’s event in Florida will be a different affair as the lock down on the team will be up. I suspect many of the PCW staffers will be off seeking pastures new. I am sure that Philip will be back to run his monologue and stoke the audience. He certainly does it well.
As for this year’s presentation – there was a lot of worship at the alter of Hafner. Congrats to the team that sold the deal and the team that bought it. I have a sense that the price was a bit too rich for my thinking. It could be justified but its a bit of a stretch. I don’t doubt that the sellers were very happy. (Despite the usual lawsuit to muddy the waters). Hafner’s irreverence after what was probably a tough night before, allowed him to openly dish some of his competitors. He was not charming about Hipmunk.
The Google team – now unencumbered by conflicting agendas – were out in force trying to make sure that the Travel Industry thinks of them as warm nice and cuddly. Google makes Microsoft look like a 90 pound weakling in the bigger is better stakes. Jeremy Wertheimer mentioned GFS – Google Flight Search almost en passant. His baby got one mention during the entire presentation. On the other hand Google Now got a centre stage billing but the one that probably should strike fear in every person trying to crack Social Travel is WDYL.com or What Do You Love? If that doesn’t scare you nothing will!
The GDSs put on a brave face as usual struggling to remain relevant seems to be part of the challenge they face. Perhaps the biggest threat doesn’t come from the usual places. But there on stage in the Innovation Summit – Concur’s Open Booking should send chills down the spines of folks in Madrid, Langley and Southlake. The first time that someone is aiming an arrow right at the heart of the GDS – the TMC players. Belt tightening next year in corporate travel will have an impact with more and more people demanding to take control of their budget and making their Travel dollars go further.
Very few seem to have paid much attention to something that will have a major impact on Travel in the years ahead. IE IATA’s NDC – New Distribution Capability. Arguably with the potential to be a true gamechanger for the whole Travel market. Perhaps most people are dismissing IATA’s efforts as slow and ineffective as previous outings of distribution change. I am keeping a close eye on it because this is a game changing moment IF the powers that be don’t mess up.
The investment community was definitely abuzz with where the next Kayak or great idea would come from. The $250K award to Tourwrist in the form of a note from General Catalyst was interesting. In the traditional world there is now clear water between the top two OTA players – Expedia and Priceline and the second players – Travelocity and Orbitz. In the smokey back rooms suites and hallways, general concern about the diminished supply of air doesn’t seem to have concerned too many people. However the hotel market is just starting to wake up and wonder where those AirBnB et al room nights are coming from. Yup they are coming from somewhere.
Perhaps one of the most telling statistics I heard was that corporate policy compliance was continuing to decline. The cost of the heavy overhead from TMCs, GDSs and the GBTA is starting to weigh on real Travel budgets. The new generation of corporate travelers are not standing for the obstacles put in their way. At next year’s TIS – I predict that there will be some true innovation occuring in Corporate Travel. And about time too.
So till next year chaps. Enjoy the discussion and the intrigue, the fun and games. I almost got the impression that the Travel Industry has matured and is ripe for a big change.