Web In Travel (WIT) gathered speakers and participants from its first edition, to discuss,12 years later, what changes they had seen and how they imagine the future business of online travel.
The WIT pioneers spoke alongside new and emerging players from across Asia, to discuss how they are innovating and disrupting the business of travel in their geographies.
WIT 2016 attracted 100 speakers, featuring senior executives from global companies such as AccorHotels Asia Pacific, Expedia, Kayak, Booking.com, Google and TripAdvisor, alongside Asian companies including as Ctrip, MakeMyTrip, Alitrip, Rakuten and Agoda.
“As the online travel industry matures and technology evolves, changes are happening rapidly and we need to adapt,” said Yeoh Siew Hoon, founder of WIT. “With WIT this year, we wanted to bring together people who have participated in WIT for years with mavericks who have fresh ideas and energy, to inspire everyone attending to raise this industry to its next level.”
Building on previous editions of WIT, the conference kicked off with a Bootcamp for travel start-ups. From a record number of entries, the most diverse in terms of geography and business models that WIT has received, seven entrepreneurs competed for the chance to present their ideas at WIT, and three emerged at the conference – Cape, Backstreet Academy and Sports Where I Am. Of the three, Cape won the Start-Up Pitch Competition for their flight-booking platform that focuses specifically on selling standby tickets, generating incremental revenue from last-minute seats sold. Cape won a place in the Travelport Labs Accelerator programme, which comes with seed funding of US$30,000 and US$120,000 worth of cloud credits under the IBM Global Entrepreneurship programme.
“The travel startup ecosystem is maturing in Asia,” said Jason Nash, global vice president of marketing and product incubation, Travelport. “Their thinking is fresh and their ideas very innovative. Cape was outstanding in their presentation and bringing their ideas to fruition. We look forward to mentoring them and seeing their business come to life.”
The conference also awarded best in class in online travel with its annual WITovation Awards, powered by Sojern, which honours visionaries for their excellence in digital marketing and customer experience in travel.
- Backstreet Academy won for Best Inspiration, for their compelling content that inspires travellers to reimagine their destination.
- Rome2Rio was recognised for redefining the comparison experience across multiple device platforms, helping travellers figure out ‘how to get there’.
- CarTrawler secured the award for offering the best booking experience for creating an onmi-channel cross-sales booking tool between airlines and ground transportation, improving car rental bookings by 49% and conversion by 18%.
- Cleartrip was awarded for its revolutionary travel app that combines booking and travel guide features, making it a compelling tool for all travellers.
- Chope won best in destination mobile experience, for helping travellers discover and make online reservations at exclusive restaurants.
- Air Black Box won the Editor’s choice across all categories, for redefining the airline retailing sector with its Air Connection Engine. The multi-carrier booking system provides airlines the tools to connect its products to a partner airline’s brand, allowing airlines to cross-merchandise their products while maintaining their brand value. Air Black Box impressed with their ability to empower the airline retailing sector through strategic collaboration with competitors as well as praised its geographical foresight for launching the tool in Asia.
“For the past 12 years, WIT has sat at the intersection of Asia and the digital revolution; two of the driving forces in global travel,” remarked Yeoh Siew Hoon. “The leaders of the most eminent companies in digital travel, hospitality and tourism attend every year to connect and learn from each other how to tap 4.42 billion enthusiastic consumers across Asia, consumers that are willing to try new things, see new places, feel new experiences. WIT enables that.”
“With this year, a 12-year cycle ends and a new one begins,” she added. “When I consider topics shaping travel today – consolidation, alternative and budget branded accommodation, artificial intelligence, chat bots, mobile, new channels of distribution and low cost airlines – I couldn’t have imagined some of them being applicable 12 years ago. Imagine what we will be discussing in 12 years’ time!”