Travel business leaders warned not to fall behind on technology

Travel and tourism business leaders must embrace the challenge of constantly changing technology or fail, according to a leading technology consultant.

Jerry Noonan, global consumer practice leader at Spencer Stuart, told the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit:

“The change in strategic importance of technology to business is a challenge for business leaders.

“It is a rapidly changing dynamic and there are countless examples of businesses that have been slow to change.”

He said: “It requires business leaders to remain curious and continuously learning.”

Noonan insisted: “It is something everyone who leads in travel needs to think about.”

“The primary purchase pattern that defined the travel industry has fundamentally changed. This is not a static moment. This is an accelerating set of forces.”

Value Retail chief executive Desiree Bollier said: “Technology is disruptive but if we don’t make it part of our business we will fall behind.”

However, Henrik Kjellberg, president of travel website Hotwire and chairman of Chinese online travel agent eLong, argued: “The consumer is just in a much better position than 15 years ago and who would want to go back?”

He added: “I sit on the board at eLong. At the start we were saying ‘This is what you should think about.’ Now I just steal everything and take it back to the US. In China they are just way ahead of everyone.”

Kjellberg also suggested: “The sharing economy will have a profound impact on the industry. It is a bandwagon and will grow. It is something technology does really well.”

Jami Timmons, president of nSight, argued: “There needs to be ongoing investment. It is no good to invest in technology and then never look at it again.”

She argued: “There is a ton of ways to use the massive amount of data in hospitality.”

Kjellberg was less impressed, arguing: “Big data does not necessarily give you big insight. It can be very costly from a time perspective. It is easy to get distracted by Big Data.”

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