Hotels Europe: Challenges and Potential 2017
By Mihaela Lica Butler , Reporter for Hospitality Net
Last week, in Athens, a cast of hospitality and travel tech experts gathered at the Digi.travel EMEA Conference & Expo. The conference was dedicated to online travel trends and developments, and to solutions for the most pressing challenges facing the industry. Here is a synopsis of the meet-up, and the high points from some of the world's most knowledgeable hospitality-tech experts.
Digi.travel EMEA Conference & Expo Day One
From the onset of the conference attendees saw the event kicking off with a highly informative presentation by TripAdvisor's Anna Rufo, who is Head of Display Sales – Central & Eastern Europe. Rufo's detailed talk focused on TripAdvisor as a sales and marketing tool and keyed on markets like Russia where Greece growth is concerned. Rufo's lead off paved the way for one of the world's most successful hoteliers, Tom Magnuson of Magnuson Hotels, who discussed how industry players can profit even in trying economic and an uncertain geopolitical atmosphere.
Magnuson, whose keynote set the tone for the summit, offered several innovative marketing templates. The co-founder of the Magnuson brand engaged the Greece market from within key-point destination hospitality, but more importantly fringe regions where thinking outside the box can optimize room sales. Following Magnuson's in-depth talk, a panel discussion alongside two of Greece's most successful executives, and a hospitality media celebrity helped galvanize the conference's key topics. Alongside Magnuson were Hotelbrain's Founder and President, Panos Paleologos; AEROTEL Group President, Alexandros Vassilikos; and HospitalityNet's very own Henri Roelings, who founded and publishes the world's most read B2B hospitality media.
All four experts' focus was on how best to serve the customer journey and their travel experience by using not only new technologies but traditional hospitality value. Paleologos' focus in particular called to question hotel management reaching too far afield, rather than "doing what each hotel does best." Vassilikos' hotel group's keen focus being on guest satisfaction, the AIROTEL Group also focuses on the "Athens experience," or destination-specific value. On this, both Tom Magnuson and Henri Roelings, elaborated further, telling the audience to innovate through localization.
Day one finished with Dimitris Kossyfas, who's the Head of Travel - Google Greece, Cyprus and Malta; Murat Ozkok, who's Skyscanner's Marketing Manager, Turkey & Greece; IBM's Haris Linardakis; Microsoft's Michalis Moschos; Edouard Le Lesle of Amadeus; and day one conference chairperson, Dr. Marianna, Sigala.
Digi.travel EMEA Conference & Expo Day Two
Conference Chairman for day two was Phil Butler, Senior Partner of Pamil Visions PR, who had led the previous day's panel discussion. Phil introduced me to the attendees, and I discussed social PR trends and strategies. Following my presentation was Sojourn's Eleonora Francioni, who talked about how data has transformed the advertising landscape, and who fielded endless questions from the interested audience.
With data and revenue as the closing sentiment, conference experts like; HQPlus's Philipp Stelzer and Xenia Nartschick captivated the audience with stunningly details data analytics for business intelligence. Stelzer actually surprised many attendees with HQPlus' deep capability for targeting segments. Following the HQPlus presentation, Vasiliki Mavrokefalou of Digital Ecosystems hammered home the critical point of using data-driven approaches. Later in the day Iconik Hospitality's Athanasios Tzakos, TrustYou's Marie-Christin Vollmer, Zoottle's Abriel Efstathiou, and key consultant Dr. Dimitris Koutoulas informed the audience and media about unlocking existing data, the power of feedback, monetizing WiFi, and managing TripAdvisor reviews respectively.
Besides the keynote presentation of Tom Magnuson, the most highly anticipated topic of Digi.travel EMEA Conference & Expo was the fast emerging Chinese traveler market segment. Tomasz Janczak of Plateno Group Europe made a gripping presentation highlighted by an emerging Chinese middle-class tourist market, as well as the luxury component of this burgeoning potential. Janczak also focused on another similar potential from the BRICS, and emergent technologies like Plateno Connect. The audience was again surprised to discover the current situation where Chinese visitors to Europe capitals are concerned. According to the Plateno executive, the already massive Chinese visitor influx is not because of OTAs, as is the case for other segments, travel agents and wholesalers representing the lion's share of this market left the audience with a positive footnote to ponder.
Finally, Digi.travel EMEA Conference & Expo Athens concluded on a highly tense note as a final panel with Plateno's Janczak and Tourism Generis' Georgios Drakopoulos found conflicting views on the scope and strategies for attracting Chinese travelers. Drakopoulos, who's a special adviser to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) was of the opinion that the Greek government would not co-fund pilot projects for creating the China conduit to Greece. For Janczak's part, Plateno Group has connection building tools and traveler supply in place. The rub, as it appears, is the lack of direct flights and other ease of travel elements being in place. In the end, both experts concurred on the need for private initiatives and funding to get these direct flights on the course.
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