The pace of technological change is set to quicken and even the largest online firms in the travel sector are struggling to keep up, the WTTC Travel and Tourism Summit was told this week.
Speaking on the second day of the annual summit, held in China for the first time, Dara Khosrowshahi, president and chief executive of Expedia, warned about the sheer pace of change.
He claimed this was intensifying, and that it was sensible to expect changes in mobile technology to produce “another Expedia” as the take-up of apps exponentially increases.
“You can’t avoid technology. The rate of technological change will accelerate” said Khosrowshahi.
“Mobile and social technologies are hitting us in the face at the same time,” he warned, adding that even Expedia did not always know how to react.
In particular he pointed to one project which involved users placing a pin on a visited location through Facebook.
In a short time Expedia already had 1 billion ‘pins’ – tiny packets of information the company did not “know what to do with”.
Charles Petruccelli, President of American Express travel echoed Khosrowshahi’s views suggesting that business travel was in the throws of a third revolution.
The move to mobile was just as important as the emergence of zero commission and of the internet, he said.
“Mobile technology brings to the traveller the ability to have information immediately, to decide on that information and to act on it – it gives the user the ability to navigate through to flexible decisions while they travel.”
Enthusiasm for new technologies was tempered by Cathay Pacific’s boss Antony Tyler who asked “Who’s going to make any money out of it?”.
Tyler also raised the thorny question of who owns customer data: “Whose customer is it, and how can value be extracted out of it?”