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The first day of the Skift Global Forum wrapped up Tuesday after a day packed full of travel industry leaders talking trends, challenges, and the future of travel. We’ve rounded up four big moments from the the conference’s first day:
1) Airbnb Loyalty Program?! – Airbnb’s co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer Nathan Blecharczyk talked about what’s on everyone’s mind — a future Airbnb loyalty program. Good news first: Blecharczyk said that the company has “certainly thought about” a loyalty program and that he personally was surprised that it still didn’t have one — adding that there are users who have spent hundred of thousands on the platform and still haven’t received any recognition. How the program will look, and if it will ever materialize, is still TBD. Fun fact: Blecharczyk is an Airbnb host too.
2) Lufthansa is Still Trying to Harness Digital – Lufthansa Group’s Chief Digital Officer Christian Langer spoke about how the company is trying to harness digital to be more responsive to its customers. The airline group has had a tough time, he said, trying to use data collected from digital platforms and manifest that into quick physical change. For example, Langer said that Lufthansa might find out through customer data that a large group of Chinese businessmen will be on an upcoming flight — but if the airline didn’t know this at least five months in advance, then it would be impossible for them to get any Mandarin-speaking flight attendants aboard the airplane.
Lufthansa and its subsidiaries need to use digital to predict customer behavior and then lower the physical reaction time that’s needed to implement the changes to respond to customer actions, Langer said. And it’s difficult to embrace risk and change, he added, because the core of the airline business is designed to be risk-averse: Its main objective is to get passengers safely from A to B.
3) Hilton to Introduce a Hostel on Steroids? – Hilton may be focused on luxury and upscale brands, but it may soon find itself competing in a very different space. Christopher Nassetta, CEO of Hilton Worldwide, said the hotel group is working on an urban micro-brand that will be like a “hostel on steroids.” Nassetta said that Hilton hasn’t entered yet the growing market for customers who want to stay in urban environments but have small budgets. This urban micro-brand, as yet unnamed, will offer cheaper rates, micro-rooms of about 125 to 150 square feet, great connectivity, open public spaces, “trendy” environments and local food.
Nassetta added later that Hilton continues to work on “smart rooms,” already launched in some hotels. Rooms will know guests preferences, and everything will be preloaded when one arrives — for example your favorite Netflix show ready to stream, with the room’s thermostat set at your ideal temperature.
4) Where JetBlue Sees Potential Disruption – Although she didn’t talk about if for long, Bonny Simi of JetBlue Technology Ventures, JetBlue’s very own venture capital firm, spoke about the potential disruption air travel may see. Simi said that she’s seeing short-haul and ultra short-haul flights as something that could potentially be disrupted by more start-ups, and other carriers. As for international long-haul, change in that space may be less drastic, but Simi thanks we should be watching smaller airports like New York’s Stewart International (SWF), where Norwegian now flies.
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