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By Alan Young, Co-Founder of Puzzle Partner

The annual Phocuswright Conference has become the epicenter for travel innovation, providing an exceptional forum for global travel executives to discover and discuss the latest trends and opportunities reshaping the travel landscape. This year's event has a line-up of intriguing presentations from top-shelf visionaries, along with some of the most exciting exhibitors from around the world. One of my favorite segments is The Innovation Summit, where companies battle it out on stage to pitch, demonstrate and face off with the Phocuswright Dragons, a panel of the industry’s most informed insiders.

Known for its exhilarating atmosphere, the Phocuswright Conference has proven to be one of the most influential travel technology events for more than 20 years. Here are some of my ‘can’t miss’ picks for the upcoming event.

Learning From Thought Leaders

Airbnb is certainly one of the most disruptive companies out there, and I'm really looking forward to the presentation by Chip Conley, Airbnb's Head of Global Hospitality & Strategy. As a highly respected business leader and author, Conley's attendance promises to offer insights into the future direction for private accommodation and the many challenges that lie ahead in this rapidly evolving landscape.

Philippe Chereque, President, American Express Global Business Travel, is focused on modernizing the company's IT in the direction of cloud computing while capitalizing on analytics. Since joining the company two years ago, he has been working on increasing the proactive care for its customers. The company developed an application that automatically sends an SMS text message to travelers when an incident occurs, to meet the increased importance that its corporate customers place on the duty of care. It will be fascinating to learn about the latest concepts coming from Chereque, who has said that "the traveler is the key."

Booking.com's position as the world's largest seller of accommodations ensures that the executive interview with the company's CEO Gillian Tans will be a fascinating component of this year's conference. Over the past 14 years, Tans has been an instrumental force in expanding the company to become a global leader in the travel space. Titled "It's All About the Booking," the interview promises to provide insights into hotel direct, travel tech, and the future direction of Booking.com.

As the president and CEO of Expedia Inc., Dara Khosrowshahi has led the firm to become one of the largest online travel companies in the world. His executive interview, cheekily titled "Expedia Eats the World," is another must-see event at this year's Phocuswright Conference. Expedia Inc.'s massive footprint includes the operation of more than 150 travel booking sites in over 70 countries around the world. Its extensive portfolio of online travel brands includes Expedia, Hotels.com, Travelocity, trivago, and Egencia. Khosrowshahi's focus on driving innovation and positioning the Expedia brand for future global growth is evident from his success with the company, and I expect his interview to cover a broad range of exciting topics in the travel space.

Industry Innovators And Disruptors

In addition to the opportunity to learn from the top influencers, Phocuswright is an exceptional place to be exposed to highly pioneering brands and technologies that are breaking new ground the market.

Airmule was founded in 2015 in Los Angeles to provide a method for people to earn money with their extra luggage space. Promising "affordable express shipping worldwide with trusted travelers," the company's tagline suggests that its potential customers can "ship with people, not boxes." Using the Airmule app, individuals who want to ship something find others who have listed upcoming trips they're taking, and they connect in the app to discuss package details. The two parties then meet to hand off the item, and the sender can track their packages and receive real-time notifications until the item arrives at its destination.

Luna provides what it calls "a wedding planner for your honeymoon." The company's web application aims to enhance the online travel-planning experience by providing a collaborative environment where ideas can be shared in real time. The platform also offers pre-designed itineraries to make it easier to plan a honeymoon, while allowing couples to customize the trip to make it suit their particular interests. Luna also provides the ability to chat with its experts to receive assistance in coming up with the perfect getaway for two.

Travel Appeal claims to assist hospitality managers with the complex tasks of controlling their reputation and providing exceptional customer service. The company has developed an algorithm that collects, evaluates and calculates the importance of data and subsequently rates each component from zero to one hundred. The platform is intended to save hospitality managers' time by analyzing reviews and posts, monitoring price trends and moves by competitors, and evaluating the quality of web and social media communication, while generating insightful reports to offer methods for improving overall reputation and customer service.

Umapped offers the latest in collaborative itinerary and experience management for the travel industry. Available as a white-label or API solution, the platform delivers interactive, media-rich consolidated mobile itineraries with relevant offers, content, messaging and advice to travelers. Umapped helps travel brands, and advisors engage with their customers throughout their travel journey and maximizes productivity by streamlining business workflow.

These are just a few of the speakers and companies that will be worth checking out at the event and represent only a small sample of the many inspirational presenters and trendsetters that I look forward to learning more about. If you are going to be at the Phocuswright Conference in LA and would like to connect, please reach out to me on LinkedIn.

About Alan E. Young

Alan E. Young is the President of Puzzle Partner Ltd. and Co-founder of Next Big Thing Travel & Hospitality (nbtworld.com). Previously, Alan has held executive level positions with startup companies such as Newtrade Technologies, (acquired by Expedia), Hotel Booking Solutions (acquired by IBS Software) and TrustYou. Alan is past Chair of The Board of Directors of The OpenTravel Alliance and been very involved with other industry associations most notably AHLA, HEDNA, and HTNG. With over two decades of experience in the travel and hospitality technology world, Alan specializes in helping innovative companies achieve winning performance and dramatic growth. You can connect with Alan on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.

Contact: Alan Young

alan@puzzlepartner.ca / 888-978-8455

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