Day two of the Digi.travel EMEA Conference & Expo in Athens marked our third day in the Greek capital. The past two increments of this story paint a near picture-perfect portrait of Athens as a wonderful town for conferences. Today I’ll further illuminate why this is so true. Key speakers and my conference experience will highlight.
Forced to Materialize
The second day of the conference saw a very rusty conference chairperson (me) do his best not to freeze-frame right there in front of the growing audience bent on learning from the industry’s best. A friend told me last night, my partner Mihaela (also rusty from years of office duty) and I had come off okay. I manage to introduce Mihaela without mispronouncing her name, which is more than I can say for all the Greek experts I welcomed that day. Mihaela Lica Butler, Founder, and CEO of Pamil Visions PR offered up a social PR primer for hoteliers and managers in the audience. I think both Mihaela and I felt like digital apparitions which had been forced to materialize in the real world… This is the nature of digital practitioners, though; we are all too often locked into a cycle behind a desk.
Following Mihaela’s “how to” on social networking strategies, Sojern’s Eleonora Francioni gave a superb presentation and Q&A session on messaging and advertising to in-market travelers. For those unaware, Sojern uses key traveler data for SmartTargeting to engage millions of travelers around the world. The platform Eleonora presented in Athens helps hoteliers hit travelers at precisely the right moment in the booking journey.
By far the best technical presentation of the conference came next when HQPlus’ Xenia Nartschick and Philipp Stelzer took the stage to reveal the deep analytics of their company’s offer. Besides the expertise of Stelzer in doing the demonstration, the audience was enthralled with HQPlus’s capability across market segmentation and especially contextually. Having been involved in data startups myself, I appreciated what this company has done. This presentation set the tone for the rest of the day.
Strategy, Strategy, and More Strategy
Digital Ecosystems’ Vasiliki Mavrokefalou breezed past my tongue tied pronunciation of her name to cement the audience’s attention onto the digital and technical strategies and readiness. Her professional presentation transitioned perfectly into Iconik Hospitality’s Athanasios Tzakos’ total revenue management and business intelligence talk. The management consultant accentuated the value of the vast amount of resident data hoteliers already have, for increasing the bottom line. Just before the afternoon break TrustYou’s Marie-Christin Vollmer gave a presentation on creating surveys, and Zoottle’s Gabriel Efstathiou tuned hoteliers in on the potential for monetizing WiFi. Consultant and professor, Dr. Dimitris Koutoulas paved the way for the day’s most anticipated presentation by Plateno Group Europe’s E-Commerce Director with a brilliant TripAdvisor reviews segment.
China and 80 million travelers headed to Greece was the hook Tomasz Janczak of Plateno represented to the biggest crowd of the conference. The co-founder of dotcomhotels conferences and former revenue king of Mamaison Hotels supercharges Plateno Group’s expansion plans across Europe via a massive experience as China’s biggest hotel management company. Janczak had Digi.travel’s audience’s attention from the onset, delivering key intel on how the Chinese traveler sees the Internet booking world. From WeChat “how to” to the unknown channels Gen Y use in the Far East, the Plateno exec made a compelling case. The conference ended on a positive note when Janczak was joined in a brainstorming session by Greece tourism expert Georgios Drakopoulos of Tourism Generis.
From my perspective as an analyst Digi.travel Athens was a resounding success for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, people who attend conferences expect to take away value. In the case of the speakers and sponsors TMA put together, there was a solid base of product efficacy backed up with some Earth shaking potential. Secondly, looking out at the crowd of familiar and new faces, I saw the same inquisitiveness I did when I coached or taught grade-schoolers. While every attendee did not key on each-and-every speaker, each did have at least one “aha!” moment by my estimation.
At the end of the day, we headed back to our home-away at Airotel Stratos Vassilikos satisfied all the old and new friends there in Athens had come to the right place at the right time. Last week, many Greek hotels did converge on the top trends in our business. Tomorrow I will recount our best day in Athens after we bid a fond farewell to some fantastic friends from around the world.