Being a hotelier is a busy job. Besides running a property, honing a killer conversion strategy and crafting creative marketing campaigns, it can be difficult to make sure you're keeping up with the industry buzz. In this article, we're bringing you the lowdown from Travel Technology Europe 2019, one of the region's leading travel tech events. Read on to get the latest on outbound Chinese travel, Expedia's take on Artificial Intelligence and what the industry has learned post-GDPR.

Breaking into new overseas markets

First up, are hoteliers making the most of the opportunities presented by increasing Chinese outbound travel? "While growth in the travel economy in the West is virtually flat, growth in Asia is huge," explained Joel Brandon-Bravo, VP Travel Solution at TransPerfect during a panel on the topic.

"It's estimated that of the $30 trillion in growth that we are going to see in the next 10 years, only $1 trillion of that is going to be in the West. The Chinese market in 2016 was $160 billion and is going to be $200 billion by 2020."

Joel was joined on the panel by experts from Capela, UKinbound and Dragon Trail. The session covered the challenges that travel companies face when winning over new markets.

"Technology is helping the rise of the Chinese independent traveller," explained Sienna Parulis-Cook, Communications Manager at Dragon Trail Interactive. "It is filling the gap of not having a traditional tour guide or working with a traditional travel agency."

Travellers are now doing their own research and once they are at their destination they use tech to make the most of the places and attractions they visit.

However, much of the technology used by Chinese travellers is completely different from what is used in Europe or North America. When it comes to social media, it's all about WeChat and Weibo rather than Instagram and Facebook.

Here are the five steps a business should take before breaking into a new market, according to TransPerfect's Joel:

  • Do your research. What content and product is high-value for that market?

  • Think about your approach to language. Always use a human translator for your high-value content.

  • Present your content or product using the technology that is available and used in that region.

  • How are you going to market? Make sure you use the right channel!

  • Be data-driven in deciding where to place your investment.

At the end of the panel, we asked Sienna what she thinks about the relationship between growing numbers of Chinese travellers and direct bookings.

"When it comes to Chinese travel, the OTA market is still dominated by Ctrip," she answered. "We monitor WeChat accounts related to travel. Hotels use their accounts to push their members' loyalty programs and I think that right now this is the most successful strategy being implemented in the area. This is however only available to large hotel chains such as Marriott and Starwood."

Find out more about the Chinese outbound travel boom here.

AI: how companies are innovating in travel

An astonishing 50% of work activities within the travel industry are automatable, we learned from a panel on AI run by Sabre, Expedia and Accenture. AI-driven business tools can "improve decision-making and lead to higher customer satisfaction" according to Ben Vinod, SVP and Chief Scientist at Sabre.

Ben pointed to the example of assistive chatbots increasingly seen on hotel and airline websites.

'To augment existing human expertise, an AI can respond to basic requests and hand over to an agent when higher expertise or customization is required' he explained.

Dominik Krimpmann explained one application of AI by Accenture. "We looked into disruption management for the aviation industry, and applied AI to predict disruption using forecast information and historical records," he recounted. "We were then able to learn how we could prevent future disruption from occurring." This research culminated in the Facebook Messenger chat bot assistant Carla, created for Avianca. Carla helps users 'manage their travel at their point of need – on a platform they’re already using.'

Dominik explained that another potential application of this technology was in cancellation prediction for the hotel industry.

Expedia's Helen Maher told the audience how the OTA had invested in creating a personalized voice assistant to improve the customer experience. While the booking process may well be improved by being transformed into a 'conversation', increasing ownership of voice channels by aggregator platforms may be cause for concern to hotels worried about maintaining a one-to-one relationship with their guest.

A curious robot peeks round the corner at TTE

What have we learned post-GDPR?

This time last year our inboxes were filled with emails asking us to reconfirm our subscriptions. With the whole regulation environment now coming into force, we thought it would be useful to take a look back at this first year of GDPR.

We heard from Raoul Lumb, a technology and data protection lawyer who shared what he learned since "GDPR Christmas" - the 25th of May 2018.

One thing we learned was that no organizations in the UK have yet been fined by the ICO (Information Commissioner's Office). We also discovered that France is now the epicentre of GDPR enforcement, headed up by the CNIL (Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés).

Most relevant for hoteliers was what we learned about email marketing.

  • The law on email marketing actually didn't change after the 25th of May. "We thought it might, but GDPR has got nothing specific to say about emails," explained Raoul. "The separate piece of legislation that regulates email marketing is yet to be overhauled by GDPR."

  • The ICO "really hates it" if you market to people using digital assets in an unlawful way.

Next up: ITB

Are you headed to Europe's leading hospitality event in Berlin? Meet Triptease there - or stay tuned to the Content Hub for our coverage!