Yesterday I reported on day one of our business excursion to Athens for the Digi.travel EMEA Conference & Expo. Day two was, as was expected, all about contributing to an all-star lineup at the event organized by Travel Media Applications. Today I will attempt to recap some of the most informative sessions and speakers at this stellar event held at the National Hellenic Research Foundation (NHRF), in the heart of the cultural centre of Athens.
The previous report shined the brief spotlight on the city of Athens, and on at least one fantastic hospitality entity, our hosts at Airotel Group’s Stratos Vassiliko, a business oriented hotel stay I cannot say enough about. Today I would like to focus on our great friends at TMA, who we worked alongside in presenting some of the hospitality world’s brightest authorities in the hotel and tech space.
The event kicked off with a warm welcome from our super friend Vicky Karantzavelouthe, who is co-founder of Travel Media Applications and TravelDailyNews Media Network Editor-in-Chief. Following her short address, Day 1 Chairperson Dr. Marianna Sigala, Professor of Tourism at the Business School of the University of South Australia, made a brief opening statement. She then introduced the first keynote speaker, TripAdvisor’s Anna Rufo, who got the event off to a great start with one of the conference’s best presentations.
Ms. Rufo, who is the Head of Display Sales – Central & Eastern Europe, gave hoteliers and marketers in the audience new food for business thought in her discussion on using TripAdvisor as an effective sales & marketing tool for their businesses. A very professional opening then saw the day’s most awaited speaker, Thomas Magnuson, CEO and co-founder of Magnuson Hotels. One of the industry’s true modern pioneers, Magnuson and his wife Melissa grew one of the world’s most influential and largest independent hotel brands from meager beginnings at their home. The Magnuson story is an American success tale, and the audience was not disappointed in the Digi.travel presentation that focused mightily on innovating for local value. With rural or lesser known Greece in the picture frame, Magnuson showed how a location and traffic minus can be reversed for huge success.
Next, an expert panel I was privileged to narrate presented Magnuson and other industry legends on the subject of challenges and potential for the coming year. The other panelists were: the Founder and Publisher of HospitalityNet, Henri Roelings; Alexandros Vassilikos, who is President of AIROTEL Group and of the Athens Hotel Association; and the Founder and CEO of Hotelbrain, Panos Paleologos. This group managed to condense the plusses and minuses of today’s industry into a single frame, which is a task I assure you. The geo-political and economic climate in focus, Magnuson and the others hammered out for attendees the brass tacks of revenue management, guest expectations, mobile-tech adaptation, and the necessity for doing what hospitality does best.
Following a break, Google’s Dimitris Kossyfas gave the conference insight into what Google has on the front burner, as well as what hoteliers and managers can expect in the upcoming months. After his interesting presentation, we were treated to Skyscanner’s Head of Marketing Manager, Turkey & Greece Murat Ozkok, who took the audience through his company’s “Future of Travel Report”. Haris Linardakis of IBM introduced new artificial intelligence potential, and Microsoft’s Michalis Moschos elaborated on MS’s digital transformative technologies.
Following another break and a panel discussion on new developments, Edouard Le Lesle of Amadeus discussed digital disruptions like wearable technology and fast forwarding the payment hurdle. The conference chairperson, Dr. Sigala finished off the day with an interesting talk on customer engagement in online social media campaigns.
Tom Magnuson’s discussion on operations distribution and how hotels can profit from economic trends won the day for attendee interest. Networking sessions in between were for me the most interesting, as meeting regional players from the industry’s biggest brands opens windows into niche and local markets. For all the businesses attending in Athens, this seemed to be the case as well. From TripAdviser to the highly provocative innovations coming from IBM and others, Digi.travel day one seemed a resounding success. I’ll bring you day three in Athens tomorrow.