March 12, 2024

Why the travel industry shouldn’t fear change

ITB Berlin News sat down with Charuta Fadnis, SVP Research at Phocuswright, to discuss her impressions of the show and the industry’s reception to innovation

Charuta Fadnis brought her expertise to various platforms at ITB Berlin this year. From delivering insights at the Opening Press Conference to participating in a conference discussing the state of the travel industry, she also engaged in a fireside chat alongside Glenn Fogel, CEO and President of Booking Holdings. Reflecting on the event, she shared insight into several key areas impacting the industry.

What was the response to your conferences at ITB Berlin this year?
The response has been very positive. It is nice to see that people want to engage in conversations around topics that are going to impact the future of the industry over the course of the next few years. Phocuswright’s projections show that the travel industry will continue on its growth path over the next few years but it will also be transforming as new technologies like Generative AI take hold. Of course, issues like sustainability and diversity which have surfaced more prominently in the last few years continue to be front and centre. The industry is taking action on these issues, but a lot more needs to be done.

How is sustainability seen differently through a consumer lens? How is the industry adapting to this?
Consumers are very aware of the challenges around sustainability but most associate it only with environmental factors or climate change. They, often, don’t understand that sustainable travel encompasses other aspects like cultural and economic sustainability. Second, travellers don’t necessarily see sustainability as their problem. They think that solutions and actions to tackle the issues need to come from governments or destination organisations. That accountability gap poses a big challenge.

Generative AI is definitely the top technology trend this year

The industry has taken a lot of steps towards environmental stewardship, but they cannot do it on their own. Working towards a sustainable future for travel is going to require all stakeholders – from travel companies to governments, tourism organisations and travellers – to come together. As a first step, the industry has to educate travelers on all the different ways that they can contribute towards being sustainable when they travel. That means creating awareness at every step and reinforcing it at every touchpoint of the traveller journey.

What are some of the main travel technology trends in your opinion? Did you see these trends reflected at ITB Berlin this year?
Generative AI is definitely the top technology trend this year. It has been the main topic of conversation on all the convention stages across many different sessions. Since it is still new, there is a lot of curiosity among the attendees and everyone is eager to learn more about what it is, the different use cases and how different segments and companies are incorporating it into their businesses.

What do you hope will be the main message that attendees to your conferences will take away with them?
The main message is that travel is back on its growth trajectory and while it is changing, there is no reason to fear change. Generative AI will be transformative, but we are still in the early days of discovering its capabilities. Companies must start paying attention to the technology and experimenting with potential use cases now to avoid getting left behind. But that should not be to the detriment of investing in a sustainable future.

ITB Berlin Convention on the cutting-edge of innovation

The ITB Berlin Convention reaffirmed its status as a forward-thinking hub for industry innovation, with a particular spotlight on the transformative potential of artificial intelligence (AI) this year. Attracting 24,000 attendees, the ITB Berlin Convention reaffirmed its status as a forward-thinking hub for industry innovation. Leaders like Glenn Fogel of Booking Holdings emphasised the role of generative AI in innovating customer service, while Charuta Fadnis of Phocuswright highlighted its impact on personalised travel experiences. Combining AI with blockchain emerged as a strategy for ensuring security and trust in the digital landscape. Amidst discussions on climate justice and skill shortages, Jeremy Sampson, CEO of the Travel Foundation, urged the industry to commit to net-zero emissions by 2030. Sampson’s roadmap, “Envisioning Tourism in 2030 and Beyond”, proposes concrete measures to steer the sector towards sustainable practices, emphasising collaboration and regulatory frameworks for a resilient future.