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Personalisation tops the agenda at the Economist Events Future of Travel conference

More than 150 senior business leaders, policy makers, and travel industry experts, gathered in Madrid yesterday to discuss the future of the travel industry. The sessions of the conference, titled ‘The Future of Travel’, explored issues such as the future of seamless travel; investment in travel and hospitality; social media and the traveller of the future; and leveraging the advantages of technology.

As Taleb Rifai, Secretary General of the UNWTO, commented in his opening keynote at the event: “Travel has become a modern-day cultural habit; 1 in 7 people in the world travel internationally today. Despite great challenges such as economic and security issues, travel continues to grow, with over 1.1 billion international travellers in 2014. In 1960, this number was 25 million”.  

A key theme throughout the event was the need for greater personalisation of the travel experience. Speaking during the event’s keynote panel discussion, Luis Maroto, Chief Executive Officer, Amadeus, said: “When it comes to personalisation, it’s not just Information that’s important – it must be actionable information that enables the right offer at the right time, on the right device. We are investing in travel intelligence, mobile, payments, hotels and more to deliver a totally integrated travel experience”.  

On a similar theme, Michael O’Leary, Chief Executive Officer, Ryanair, said: “We will be developing packages tailored to each individual passenger, as a person, not simply as a customer. There’s an enormous opportunity for us to provide a more tailored service to our customers. Technology and our commitment to change will allow us to do this over the next few years”.  

Simon Vincent, President, EMEA, Hilton Worldwide, added: “We’ve really got to personalise brands to consumer groups – and use technology to give them choice and control”.  

The preferences and expectations of millennial travellers, and the importance of social media, was another key theme at the event. Lee McCabe, Global Head of Travel, Education and Consumer Services, Facebook, commented: “Social media is changing everything: more messages are now sent via Whatsapp than global SMS every day, and people are shifting devices quickly, adopting smartphones and tablets at very fast rate. Travel bookings are following this”.

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