2018 Programme

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    Travel Forward Conference 2018: Unlocking a New Era of Technology Powered Travel

    The travel and hospitality industry is coming of age, as digital technologies and cloud-based platforms open the door to whole new ways of deepening and broadening customer engagements, delivering unprecedented experiences and driving business and operational efficiency.

    The Travel Forward Conference Programme unlocks the door to new opportunities in the face of increasing competition. It covers technology-driven business strategy based on the latest trends from big data to blockchain, augmented reality to AI, together with practical case studies and deep-dive sessions so you can learn how to deliver the next generation of experiences, grow loyalty and gain new insights into your customers.

    The programme features opening keynote presentations in the morning and then splits into two tracks: 1. Customer Experience & Personalisation 2. Technology

  • 10:00 - 10:30

    Registration and refreshments

    10:30 - 10:40

    Welcome - Jon Collins, Programme and Content Director, Travel Forward

    10:40 - 11:15

    Keynote opening address

    Travel Forward: Digitally reimagining travel

    Across industries, digital transformation is recognised as about putting the customer first and travel is no exception. The industry has seen huge change at rapid pace, while today’s traveller has more information at their fingertips and more choice than ever before. We kick off this event by looking at how travel providers of all shapes and sizes can embrace digital technologies to engage with travellers and deliver on the needs and expectations of today. Our opening address focuses on how travel is being impacted and how you can ensure you win in this new world by enabling a new travel paradigm, founded on creating a customer-centric experience.

    Mike Croucher, Head of Technical Strategy, Chief Architect, Travelport
    11:20 - 11:55

    Panel discussion: Meeting the demands and expectations of tomorrow’s traveller

    Demands increasing and technology only partly addressing consumer behaviour, this session explores the expectations of tomorrow’s travellers, and the opportunities these present across the travel ecosystem. We bring together representatives from the industry, leading-edge experts and startup founders to ask how well we understand that all-important group – the travelling customer.

    Hari Nair, Global Senior Vice President at Expedia Group Media Solutions

    Simon Powell, CEO & Founder, Transfertravel.com
    Julia Lo Bue-Said, Chief Executive Officer, The Advantage Travel Partnership
    Tom Valentine, Co-Founder & COO, Secret Escapes

    Moderator: Fiona Mulliner, Director of Campaigns, London and Partners

    12:00 - 12:30

    Panel discussion: The road to be travelled – how technology is reinventing the travel experience

    While a wealth of new technologies might be revolutionising the industry, less clear is where to place your bets, and indeed, money. On this panel, we bring together a number of success stories who show how they started out, where the benefits were felt and what they learned along the way.

    Didier Pinson, CIO/ COO, Rail Europe
    Utpal Kaul, Head of New Product Incubation, Carlson Wagonlit Travel
    Gunjan Verma, CTO,The Travel Corporation

    Moderator: Paul Richer, Senior Partner, Genesys

    12:30 - 13:15

    Lunch and networking - the break provides an opportunity to meet with like minds, visit stands and watch the launch of the startup competition.

    Stream One: Customer Experience & Personalisation
    13:15 - 13:45

    Strategy: Do you know who I am? Strategies to understand and connect with your customer

    Today’s travellers expect a seamless and truly omnichannel customer journey. Putting travellers at the heart of both process and decision-making is essential to provide an unrivalled experience, but what does this mean in practice? Speaking to industry experts and travellers, this session explores the most innovative, game-changing customer centric strategies, and how to make them real.

    Francois Mare, VP e-Commerce Luxury, Accor
    Andy Owen-Jones, CEO & Co-Founder, bd4travel
    Virginia Stuart-Taylor, Travel Writer, The Well-Travelled Postcard
    Joost Vermeulen, Regional Director - Northern Europe, Booking.com

    Moderator: Jon Collins, Programme and Content Director, Travel Forward

    13:50 - 14:20

    Understand human behaviour to improve user adoption

    When customers embark on a journey, offline or online, they undergo a set of emotions at each step, from the excitement and anticipation of early planning, to reflecting on the experience. Designing memorable experiences requires plotting customer interactions at every point, creating peak moments such that technology enhances, rather than frustrates, the travel journey. This session will help you identify quick wins and establish a longer-term experience design strategy that enables you to focus resources and effort, with delightful results!

    Damian Rees, Author, Experience UX
    14:25 - 14:55

    Digital vs. Human Factor? What is needed to enhance the customer experience?

    Digital transformation will continue to lead how the future of travel will be shaped. In recent years, three conditions have converged to make technologies like AI and robotics more commercially viable, raising new questions about the implications for workers. In this session we explore where is digital redefining human factors in hospitality and what we can learn from other industries about how customer experience expectations are evolving.

    Olaf Slater, Senior Director International Strategy & Innovation, Sabre Hospitality

    14:55 - 15:20


    - the break provides an opportunity to meet with like minds, visit stands and watch the launch of the startup competition.

    15:20 - 15:50

    Augmenting the resort experience: How AR and VR extend physical across digital and back

    Augmented and virtual reality hold a great deal of potential both to help people “prepare before they are there,” and bring experiences to life. In this session we look at the role of experiential technologies in resorts, enabling faster on-boarding and immersive experiences.

    Dr Ashok Maharaj, XR Lab, Tata Consultancy Services

    15:55 - 16:25

    Harnessing the opportunities of the influencer economy

    The explosion in influencer channels has taken many consumer-facing industries by surprise. In this session we look at influencers’ role on travel buying decisions, particularly among younger travellers. We cover what makes "influence" possible - how social media has created a new form of engagement; how to measure the effectiveness of influence; and how the nature of influence continues to change as its channels become better geared up.

    Anneka Roberts, Associate Vice President, Finn Partners
    Stream Two: Enabling Infrastructure and Platforms
    13:15 - 13:45

    Tech Trend: Practical vs magic? The vision and reality of Artificial Intelligence

    AI and machine learning are presented like they solve all travel industry ills, but in reality they offer specific responses to genuine issues such as assistive interfaces, traveller recommendations, chat bots and yield strategy. This session separates myth from reality, looks at how to apply machine learning to data and explores how to start the AI journey in a way that delivers value to customers and the business.

    Finnbar Cornwall, Industry Head - Travel, Google

    13:50 - 14:20

    Tech Trend: Will Blockchain save your travel company?

    Travel organisations are expressing a great deal of interest in Blockchain as a truly disruptive technology across bookings, fraud management and even luggage handling. In this session we explore the potential of blockchain, then hear about experiences to date.

    Dave Montali, CIO, Winding Tree
    14:25 - 14:55

    Case Study: Unlocking the power of data standardisation

    The travel industry is already highly data-centric, but challenges of capture, integration, synchronisation and aggregation are getting in the way of service delivery and innovation. In this session we explore the current challenges and opportunities, and look to the near-future in terms of how an object-based open data strategy can be used as a foundation for mixing and matching travel-related objects, making bookings more comprehensive and driving the long tail of travel.

    Walter Toscano, Senior Advisor, Travel and Telecom Ltd

    14:55 - 15:20


    15:20 - 15:50

    Strategy: Frictionless interactions, payment and retention strategies

    In this session we explore the kinds of infrastructure that need to be in place to remove technology friction from customer interactions, considering new payment and customer care models, automated reservation guarantees and what they mean for retention. And what of crypto currencies – will they have an impact?

    Brian Quarrie, CEO, Monami Tech

    15:55 - 16:25

    Standing on the shoulders of giants: how platforms are changing the nature of travel

    In this session we go under the bonnet of platform architectures, using the example of property management systems to explore how forward-thinking operators are using platforms, as a foundation for better automated operations and seamless customer experiences.

    Matthijs Welle, CEO, Mews Systems
    16:25 - 16:50

    Taking group bookings beyond the transaction

    In this plenary session, we look at the opportunities opened up as online travel agents move beyond individual bookings, towards more value-added services and experiences for groups. Are you looking to adopt a Robocop or a Terminator approach? Join this session to find out.

    Tim Hentschel, CEO, Hotelplanner
    16:50 - 17:15

    Fireside chat: Disruptive ways to reach travellers of the future

    Today's media savvy millennials are seeking inspiration and authentic cultural experiences which resonate with them. In this fireside chat, we hear from Culture Trip founder and CEO Dr Kris Naudts about why creative, diversified content is the key to reaching a new generation of travellers.

    Dr. Kris Naudts, Founder & CEO, Culture Trip

    Moderator: Lee Hayhurst, Editor, Travolution


    Close of day one - networking

    08:45 - 09:00

    Registration and refreshments

    09:05 - 09:10

    Welcome - Jon Collins, Programme and Content Director, Travel Forward

    09:10 - 09:55

    Impact of Technology on the Guest Experience

    Artificial intelligence. Biometrics. Robotics. Virtual Reality. These are just a handful of the disruptive technologies that are engulfing the hotel industry today, and some undoubtedly will transform it. For hotel leaders, it’s essential to understand how these innovations align with guests’ changing needs – as well as allay the fears, real and imagined, associated with them. Join Greg Webb, Oracle Hospitality’s senior vice president and general manager, as he shares insights about the path forward and the impact technology will have in making hotels smarter, accelerating service and, most importantly, personalizing experiences for every guest.

    Greg Webb, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Oracle Hospitality

    10:00 - 10:30

    Panel – The future of distribution - are we seeing the death of the brand?

    Distribution channels offer a dichotomy, between offering the opportunity from brand to reach millions and disabling a brand’s ability to connect with the customer. How can brands work successfully with distribution partners whilst maintaining ownership of the relationship with the customers? In this session we hear from brands fighting back against the monopoly, working better with partners or going it alone to generate additional revenue.

    Moderator: Puni Rajah, Partner, Governance Reviews

    Nayan Peshkar, SVP Digital, Distribution & Revenue Strategy, Millennium Hotels & Resorts
    Francesca Benati, Executive VP Online Western Europe, Middle East & Africa & Managing Director Italy, Amadeus
    Neil Armorgie, CEO, WIN Global Travel Network
    10:35 - 11:05

    Keynote: The informed traveller

    If I can do it, so can you. Sue is one of the leading tech personalities in the UK today with over 20 years’ experience, over 40 publications and a PhD in software engineering. Sue’s presentation will bring together her own experiences of technology, and the ways in which tech is helping level the playing field for travellers of all backgrounds, worldwide.

    Dr Sue Black OBE, Technology Evangelist, UK Government Strategic Advisor, Professional Speaker, Author

    11:05 - 11:20


    Stream One: Customer Experience and Personalisation
    11:20 - 11:50

    Strategy: Distribution of ancillaries in the B2B environment: challenges and expectations

    Traditionally, tours and activities were contracted at destination, but little by little, online distribution and commercialisation of ancillary products is increasing. While ancillaries are of growing value, the tourism industry has just started its journey to professionalise this product. On this basis, this session looks at the value proposition of B2B ancillary solutions, both from the point of view of the supplier (channel managers/ tech platforms) and the client (OTAs, tour operators and TA). Alongside the opportunities, it covers difficulties and technological challenges, and looks ahead to possible future scenarios.

    Javier Arévalo, Director of Ancillary Bank, Hotelbeds Group

    Gert-Jan Ruiter, CEO, Prioticket

    Olan O'Sullivan, CEO, TrekkSoft

    Abbas Datoo, Interim Head - Commercial Strategy, Major Travel

    Hotel Urbano, TBC, Hotel Urbano

    11:55 - 12:25

    6 steps to drive engagement and experience through analytics.

    Harnessing the potential of data delivering insights and experiences to travellers, increasing business value. This session explores how to drive personalisation and grow sales by integrating and segmenting data sources, driving analytics and delivering insights. What is currently possible, and where is analytics going next?

    James Thornton, Industry Head (Travel), Google Cloud
    12:30 - 13:00

    Case Study: Heightening customer experiences through dynamic ancillary packaging

    Customers are putting experience ahead of destination when booking travel. In response, companies can deepen experiences through effective use of data and technology. This case study explores the use of technology and data to drive ancillaries, increasing revenue as well as delighting the customer.

    Roberto Abbondio, Managing Director, New Digital Business, Eurostar International
    13:05 - 14:00

    Lunch and networking

    - the break provides an opportunity to meet with like minds, visit stands and watch the launch of the startup competition.

    14:00 - 14:30

    Panel: Thinking Outside The Box

    This session explores the white space around existing travel provision, speaking to startups, partners, investors and others about the opportunities that exist and how to address them. Each presenter has five minutes to answer the question: what is the most exciting technology-driven opportunity facing travel today? Following which there will be an audience Q&A.

    Mark Prethero, Business Development Director, London Theatre Direct

    Chad Cribbins, CEO, Firefly

    Clement Wong, Founder & CEO, BeMyGuest

    14:35 - 15:05

    Maintaining your brand position with product content management.

    Today’s customer needs more information than ever before and keeping content up to date plays a pivotal role in customer decision-making. This session explores tools and techniques that will enable you to automate and optimise your meta search and product content, supporting your campaigns and increasing online engagement.

    Matthias Koch, Global Client Partner - Travel, Productsup GmbH

    Adam Miller, SEO & Marketing Technology Manager, Hostelworld

    Stream Two: Enabling Infrastructure and Platforms
    11:20 - 11:50

    “Be where the customer is” — a mobility strategy fit for the consumer

    Last year mobile accounted for 40% of US travel sales with the expectation that it will surpass 50% by 2021. Ensuring that your strategy is mobile-led opens huge opportunities for loyalty and personalisation, however there is more to mobile strategy than creating an app, as it needs to be integrated with business models and processes. In this session we look at how to bring business and mobile together, targeting the broadest range of customers wherever they are.

    Vincent Fillon, Director, Mobile Strategy & Development, Air France

    11:55 - 12:25

    Tech trends: Internationalising the digital travel experience: an Asian perspective

    Understanding the differences, the opportunities and challenges created by technology in different geographies are crucial to setting a truly international digital business strategy for travel. In this session, we look at how technology is influencing the Asian travel sector, in terms of where it aligns with, and where it diverges from other regions. We cover the role of mobile and social, the distributed nature of business and what these factors mean to both travel platforms and the travelling public.

    Eric Gnock Fah, Co-founder & COO, Klook
    12:30 - 13:00

    Case Study: How AI is the key to delivering a first-class customer experience (and why the travel industry should be embracing it)

    Sophisticated AI models hold the key to saving customers time, money, hassle - and providing them with an experience that keeps them coming back time and time again. Trainline is a leader in creating cutting-edge technology and in this session Mark will explore how to make machine-learning and AI central to your offering, the benefits and the biggest challenges, as well as how to stay ahead of the curve.

    Mark Holt, CTO, Trainline

    13:05 - 14:00

    Lunch and networking

    14:00 - 14:30

    Unlocking internal communications with digital technologies

    Technology has a great deal to offer behind the scenes, helping workers at the front lines of travel communicate with each other. In this session Matt Ring, Growth Manager for Facebook’s Workplace solution, speaks to Steve Clark, Senior Manager of Communication Channels at Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays, to understand the challenges faced by essential but disparate staff such as engineers, pilots and cabin crew, as they look to keep in touch with each other and the wider business. How did Workplace help, what challenges had to be resolved along the way and what lessons can be passed on?

    Steve Clarke, Senior Manager, Communication Channels, Virgin Atlantic

    Interviewer: Regina Croda, Client Success Manager, Workplace by Facebook

    14:35 - 15:05

    Simplifying the future through NDC

    The travel industry is becoming increasingly complex. Airlines are experimenting with their distribution strategies, leading to increased, fragmented content, and more booking channels. At the heart of these changes is a need from travel suppliers to display their products in new and exciting ways, offering more choice and control to consumers. As the industry undergoes a major transformation, removing complexity will be crucial. Sabre has spent the last 18 months in redevelopment, in order to guide the entire travel industry through a complete transformation. At the heart of our redevelopment is our Beyond NDC campaign, a major initiative that will bring NDC to life in a simple yet effective way, enabling travel suppliers to become true retailers.

    Erol Arkan, Director - Product Solutions, Sabre Travel Solutions EMEA
    15:30 - 16:00

    Keynote fireside chat: what makes a successful travel startup?

    In this session, we speak to a venture capitalist about the harder-nosed aspects of innovation in travel, and how funding deals have evolved in line with a transforming industry. It isn't just VCs that need to justify where they invest, so we learn how to engage the investor part of the brain, to separate the wheat from the chaff and identify the opportunities that will deliver the most value. .

    Interviewer: Lee Hayhurst, Editor, Travolution
    Susie Stanford, Associate Director, Livingbridge
    16:00 - 16:40

    Start Up Showcase

    Finalists in the startup pitching competition get their chance to present to the movers and shakers of the travel industry – that is, you.

    16:40 - 17:10

    Final panel: Rethinking digital transformation

    In this session, we review what we have learned across the two days, , incorporating learned insights, survey data and audience Q&A, bringing together speakers and panellists to ask what the findings mean to digital transformation strategy.

    Jon Collins, Programme and Content Director, Travel Forward

    Close of day two

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