Key Takeaways from Skift Europe Forum

On 29 April, the Skift Europe Forum took place in London where the mood was upbeat, with a renewed sense of purpose on delivering innovation and sustainable growth.

Embracing new business models

IHG is moving to an “attribute selling model”, moving away from pure rate-driven operations to consumer reviews, in an attempt to take back control of its distribution.

Travelsify is qualifying the hotel brand experience applying AI to 400 million user reviews, converting these into different attribute descriptors – using natural language search to narrow the expectation gap between what consumers want and the product.

All about the experience

Experience, as at every travel conference, was the word of the day. Nordic Choice Hotels has developed its eBerry digital platform for the “world’s best guest journey” for check-in, choosing your room and generally making everything seamless. It has also extended its brand of hospitality into restaurants, gyms and parties at home.

Joseph Zadeh, VP Experiences at Airbnb, echoed the importance of looking at the end to end trip to capture a slice of the experience economy that Euromonitor International values at USD8 trillion by 2030. There is potential for Airbnb Experiences to be available through DMOs and hotels in future.

Personalisation key

TripAdvisor knows that if it is to build longer-lasting customer relationships, it needs to be delivering information that is contextually relevant, according to Lindsay Nelson, Core Experience president, TripAdvisor. The company’s new social media feed delivers on personalisation, filtering curated content from friends, family and tribes.

For Hoxton Hotels, it is about listening to its guests – why not check in at 7am, if that is what they want, building its business model on the Netflix template. Selina chipped in that data helps understand the guest where hotel rooms are no longer defined by wallet but by interest.

Empathy elevates service to greatness

Stephen Cluskey of Mobility Mojo spoke movingly about the one billion people affected by accessibility, who represent one of the fastest growing segments in the market but are massively under-served. There is a silver tsunami coming, with 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day. It comes down to the simplest of things, such as providing certainty, where 50% will not travel due to lack of information.

Sustainability – finally the new normal

The Travel Foundation laid out the challenges of irrepressible growth, where travel and tourism is outperforming in terms of global arrivals, but destinations around the world are struggling with over-crowding and resident fatigue, where tourism is eroding destinations when badly managed. Portugal has established 33 sustainability indicators and involved start-ups to find new solutions.

IHG revealed that it is going to emulate the sustainability approach of recently acquired Six Senses brand and go plastic free across its supply chain by 2021 for all its brands.

Airlines like easyJet are testing electric aircraft and deploying predictive analytics on their flights to ensure that they can optimise their food and beverage offering, whilst removing waste.

Uber clearly wants to replace your car as there is “no reason to own a private car” with plans for Uber Elevate – people drone-air taxis.

However, with consumers admitting to not recycling whilst on holiday, according to Thomas Cook, the travel industry faces an uphill battle to change behaviour.