“Twelve years is the end of a cycle and we are taking the opportunity this year to reflect on the past as well as reimagine the future,” said Yeoh Siew Hoon, founder, WIT. “We are gathering the pioneers who were at our first conference in 2005 to talk about the changes they have seen, the ones yet to come and the lessons they have learnt.
“At the same time, we have carefully selected new and emerging players from across Asia, all of whom are innovating and disrupting in their respective markets. By blending wisdom and experience with new vigour and fresh ideas, we want to fire up the imagination of travel professionals to take the industry to the next level because, like it or not, things are changing fast and we have to adapt faster.
“After all, who was it who said, there are three ways we learn – the easiest by imitation, the bitterest by experience and the noblest by reflection.”
Close to 100 speakers will gather for the three-day event, which kicks off on Oct 17 with the Bootcamp, Asia’s largest travel startup event. The annual start-up competition will see up to seven entrepreneurs compete to win a place in the Travelport Labs Accelerator programme, which comes with seed funding of US$30,000.
This year saw the most diverse entries with close to 30 submissions from Poland, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines and Australia, reflecting the growth and interest in Asia’s startup ecosystem, where governments are putting resources in tech startups and investors are looking for the next unicorn. (The full Bootcamp programme is here)
The Main Event, on Oct 18-19, will field top executives from global brands such as Accor Hotels, Expedia, Kayak, Booking.com, Google and TripAdvisor alongside Asian giants such as Ctrip, MakeMyTrip, Alitrip, Rakuten and Agoda.
On the agenda are hot topics shaping travel today – consolidation, alternative and budget branded accommodation, artificial intelligence, chat bots, mobile, new channels of distribution and low cost airlines. (The full programme is here)
The conference will also recognize the best in class in online travel with its annual WITovation Awards.
Said Siew Hoon, “When we started in 2005, it was hard to convince people that online was going to be where it’s at. Still, we managed to get about 130 delegates. Last year, we achieved 550. According to Phocuswright, in 2002, online travel gross bookings in Asia totaled US$4.8b. Today it’s US$137b and by 2018, Asia will be the largest digital travel market in the world.
“Every chief executive I have interviewed tell me Asia and the digital revolution are two global forces driving travel. WIT sits at that intersection.
“Here’s a market size of 4.42b people here, packed with enthusiastic consumers willing to try new things, see new places, feel new experiences – and today they have the means, in technology and monetary terms, to buy travel differently. No one can afford to be left behind.”