Callie is a Strategy Manager at Rêve and has a passion for the travel and hospitality industry. We see exciting customer innovations on the horizon for the travel and hospitality industires, and we want to be on the front end of understanding what is next.
The Global Forum is the flagship global conference for the business of travel. Held in New York City, this year’s forum topic was “Connecting in the Age of AI.”
We caught up with Callie after she got back to see what she learned, what inspired her, and what excited her about the future of the travel and hospitality industry.
So much wisdom was shared on stage at this year’s Skift Global Forum; it’s hard to pick just one favorite speaker! Two of the many highlights were:
Lauren Razavi (Executive Director, Plumia) – spoke about what her organization is doing to create equality of opportunity across borders; think increasing global mobility, combatting visa disparities, and passport privileges. Her team at Plumia is pioneering a concept they call Citizenship-as-a-Service, piloting tools in the market (like their Nomad Border Pass) to build a global safety net for digital nomads.
Jason Calacanis (Tech Entrepreneur, Angel Investor) + Brad Gerstner (CEO, Altimeter) – It felt like we were in their studio watching them film an episode of their podcast. The session—titled “Travel’s future as AI reshapes the world”—was supposed to end at 6 pm but ran 45 min long because the audience was so engaged.
Both Jason and Brad believe that generative AI will disrupt travel and the workforce as we know it today. Here’s a quote from Brad.
“I really look forward to the experience when I just say to my general purpose AI who already knows everything about me, knows where I like to stay in New York, knows the restaurant, knows the view, knows the table — I just say, ‘Hey, next Thursday, book me the standard.’ And it happens and it’s automagical.”
Slides from Skift’s State of Travel 2023
Everyone’s eyes are on the rebound of Asia-Pacific travel. The market serves as the fastest growing hotel development pipeline for Hyatt. Many have have identified India as a key growth market – with the fastest-growing middle class in the world. And business transient demand continue to trend upward.
Leaders are focused on building loyalty to avoid what Omer Acar (CEO, Raffles & Orient Express) calls the “Mona Lisa Effect” – I’ve seen it and I’m not coming back.
Expedia is leading the charge with the recent launch of their One Key program, offering a basic currency across all the brands in their universe.
Skift’s 2023 State of Travel Report dives deeper into what’s next and highlights additional opportunities at the forefront of global travel.
Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian mentioned that similar to the cleanliness standards that were established by the American Hotel & Lodging Association during the pandemic, a climate standard is currently under development for hotels.
There was some discussion around SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel), but David Neelman (CEO of Breeze Airways) shared his strong opinion that other carbon offset options are much less costly and more effective.
Overall, I felt like the consensus was that consumers are interested in sustainable travel choices, but sustainability is not impacting their buying decisions just yet.
“I think we are fast getting to a point where a similar standard needs to get applied. It’s under development in different ways now….I think that the standards that we will likely start with are operational and over time, with the application of more and more green building practices, we need to make sure that we’re staying abreast of that and helping our developers find those solutions.”
There is a lot of excitement about group travel and adventure experiences. Gary Morrison (HostelWorld), James Thorton (Intrepid Travel), and Johannes Reck (Get Your Guide) shared that consumers increasingly view travel as a means to meet new people. This trend emerged and has been in the spotlight since the pandemic – the travel experiences market has grown to $320B and is expected to keep growing.
While many organizations in this space have been using AI in the background for a long time. But using generative AI to improve the customer experience and make it profoundly personalized is newer territory. Here are some of the areas I heard are good pilot programs for hospitality organizations dipping their toes into AI integration:
Slides from Dara Khosrowshahi’s (CEO, Uber) Fireside Chat
My biggest “aha” moment was during the Forum’s closing discussion—a fireside chat with Uber’s CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi—I realized just how much power apps like Uber have to shape our behavior due to the sheer amount of data/intel they have on us.
Khosrowshahi shared the following in response to the question, ‘where’s your ambition on the super app front?’:
“Well, I mean, the super app word is a loaded term. We want to be that operating system, because it is not that we’re doing it for great business. We want to be that everyday use case for consumers and we want to surprise and delight them and make their life a little bit easier. You can call it a super app if you want. You can call it George if you want, but our ambition is to be that go-get app and to be that everyday app that you go to.
…The fact is when you’ve got 130-plus million consumers coming to your front door every single month, we essentially now have personalized AI algorithms that are looking at you, looking at your occasion, and determining what to put in front of you based on a personalized basis. In the morning, we’ll know you’re going to work, so you have a work address right there, get your ride, but we might offer you, for example, a cup of coffee at Starbucks on the way. When you come home at night, then we’ll upsell you to Uber Eats, et cetera.
…It’s a pretty extraordinary selection of services that we have. Over a period of time what we’re seeing is that consumers are getting more and more locked into the ecosystem where we know you, we’ve got your payment details, we know where you are, we know where you go, et cetera. We can give you targeted offers more and more. We’ve got a ad business now. It’s about 650 million and growing.”
Noha Abdalla (CMO, Choice Hotels) shared that in this age of AI when things are changing at a rapid pace, we need to reframe our thinking a bit. Instead of becoming distracted by the infinite possibilities and potential of the technology, we should be asking ourselves as leaders, “what customer problem do we need to solve, and how might AI help us do that?”
Although not surprised by this, Noha’s sentiment felt extremely validating and was a good reminder to bring back to our team. At Rêve, we co-create growth strategies, re-imagine, and design net-new products/services/experiences, all of which are rooted in human needs and behavior. Our human-centered approach is more important now than ever, for all industries, especially travel and hospitality.