Last week’s PhoCusWright Conference in Hollywood, Florida, with its record-breaking attendance, had the theme “Cult of Context.” When prepping for the event I thought to myself, hey, it’s been quite some time since I have joined a cult and most of the scares and horrible nightmares have gone away from my last cult-joining experience, so what the heck, join the “Cult of Context.” How bad can it be? So I joined!
Session after session, innovator after innovator, offered up profound, or at least novel, examples of travel product personalization, content-relevancy generating algorithms, and example after example of delivering the right product to the right person at the right time. I’ll bet I heard that last expression 50 times throughout the Conference. By the way, as an aside, I thought the Conference was one of the better PCW Conferences I have attended. It was also Tony D’s coming out event as PCW’s new ring leader. Well done, circus-master TD, as you and the PCW team once again demonstrated how a thought-leader conference can be super-professionally run, inclusive of opinion and perspective, and even have a few streaks of fun. I suspect Mr. D will bring in a bit more of the latter, in his next PCW appearance.
Back to the “Cult of Context.” I had the wonderful opportunity of participating on a panel titled, “Flights of Fancy” with Kurt Ekert, COO of Travelport, and Bob Kupbens, VP Marketing and Digital Commerce at Delta. Tony D did his usual yeoman’s job of navigating us through thought-provoking questions about airline distribution, personalization, customer engagement, etc. We had a somewhat spirited discussion about the differences between Direct and Indirect airline distribution channels ending with what I thought to be a fairly profound general consensus that the lines need to blur and the gap needs to close between the two channels – even to the point of a suggesting that we (the industry we) lose altogether both the terminology and the notion that there is any difference between the two, at least from an airline’s customer engagement, brand differentiation, and product(s) delivery point of view. With the notable exception that travel agents or corporate booking tools may play a “proxy” role in product display and transaction delivery on behalf of the airline, thus adding their own value in the process but not impacting the actual airline offer for that particular customer or corporation. Read the rest of this entry »