When more than 1,100 members of the travel industry came together for the Skift Global Forum from September 27—28 in New York City, the conversation included some of the most well-respected names from hotels, airlines, destinations and tech companies. After two full days of advanced-level insights, the audience went home with plenty of new knowledge to help chart the course forward within their own organizations. Here’s a look at five of the most inspiring quotes from the forum that will resonate with professionals in meetings, conventions and business events.
1) “If you do not disrupt yourselves, someone else will disrupt you.”
Sarah Personette, Vice President, Global Business Marketing, Facebook
The most successful businesses aren’t afraid to question everything even when it feels uncomfortable. When Personette discussed Facebook’s shift to a mobile-first strategy, she highlighted that the company had to rethink how each of its products worked. Ads, Messenger, Events, Video and more — the company went through a period that involved restructuring nearly every element of the Facebook user experience to make sure that the tech giant was ready for the mobile revolution. That kind of overhaul isn’t easy, but Personette highlighted that creating internal disruption is essential to a strong future.
For meeting planners and business event organizers, embracing disruption is equally important. Think about your traditional attendee experience. What would happen if you completely changed the way your education sessions are structured? How would your audience react if you condensed the program from four days to two? Consider the hard questions, so you recognize the power of disruption before it overpowers you.
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2) “Incumbents always underestimate the strength and power of disruptors.”
Frits van Paasschen, former CEO, Starwood
Sticking with the theme of disruption, van Paasschen discussed the challenges that established brands face when looking at small start-ups with seemingly crazy ideas. Being big creates a troubling level of comfort; how can a small company with fewer resources ever possibly create a big wave of change? Well, think about some of the names no one knew just a few years ago. How badly have taxi companies underestimated Uber? Which hotel leaders haven’t recognized the power of Airbnb and the sharing economy? What do you think the former leaders of Blockbuster are saying about Netflix? Now, think about potential competitors for your next conference or event. Is someone building a product or experience that could replace your organization?
3) “All innovation happens from forming special teams.”
Paul English, Lola
You might not be familiar with the personalized services of Lola yet, but you definitely know English’s most well-known accomplishment in the travel industry. He co-founded Kayak. The secret to the company’s amazing search engine skills for travelers? Putting the right people in the same room. English highlighted that bringing creativity to life relies on instilling the spirit of collaboration among the right people. He also believes that the process can only happen in companies who are willing to think differently. “Innovation doesn’t happen in big companies,” English told the Skift audience. “The reason innovation happens in startups is because there are no sacred cows.” There are plenty of sacred cows for organizations in the face-to-face industry. So assemble a team of your most creative minds and think about which products or services you should retire.
4) “You can’t manufacture authenticity.”
Chip Conley, Head of Global Hospitality & Strategy, Airbnb
It seems like every brand in the travel industry seems to be aiming to “go local” and “appeal to Millennials.” However, the reality is that the influx of newly created properties that are designed to feel more genuine are still brands, and they’ll struggle to achieve the coveted characteristic of authenticity. Airbnb is a brand, too, but the company recognizes that its offering isn’t about the name on the website; it’s about the experience that individual hosts deliver to their guests. Airbnb isn’t outlining the experience; that’s up to the millions of owners around the world who rent their properties. Meeting professionals and conference organizers must place an equal emphasis on authenticity in their communications with attendees and throughout the on-site environment. Make sure that every member of your team recognizes that they play a pivotal role in creating a one-of-a-kind atmosphere that is distinctly aligned with your organization’s goals and personality.
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5) “I don’t think anyone owns a customer. Every customer is an individual, and that individual has so many tools and
resources to search where to go, what to do and with whom.”
Brett Tollman, CEO, The Travel Corporation
Leisure guests, business travelers and conference attendees all share one commonality: lots of choices. As social media makes comparing experiences easy with trusted word-of-mouth perspectives, every member of the travel and tourism industry must realize that consumers have ultimate control over everything. In the age of eroding loyalty, this means that conference organizers all must commit more energy to engaging, educating and inspiring the members of their audiences.
Interested in more insights from Skift? Check out “Could An Alternative Pricing Structure Apply To Your Registration Fees?”