The technology-focused event for the travel and hospitality industry, co-located with WTM London, attracted more than 120 exhibitors from around the globe, operating across the entire travel and hospitality ecosystem.
Singapore-based Zumata uses artificial intelligence, natural language processing and image recognition to power a hotel booking API and chatbots. It exhibited at the Travel Tech Show @ WTM last year and Arabian Travel Market this spring. Its CEO and cofounder Josh Ziegler said that Travel Forward and the WTM portfolio was important for raising brand awareness.
However, he added that the team had had “promising and detailed discussions” with retailers interesting in consuming its API. “Interestingly, we’ve engaged with some non-obvious, under the radar businesses which do significant volumes, and quite a few were traditional offline businesses looking to establish an online presence.”
One of the many new exhibitors at Travel Forward is Criton, an Edinburgh-based tech firm which provides the technology template for individual properties and small chains to build their own app. Its founder and CEO Julie Grieve visited WTM last year and said “the repositioning of technology as a more prominent part of WTM convinced me to exhibit.”
She said that the team was coming away “with more than 100 good quality leads, which has exceeded my expectations.”
In contrast, Romanian travel software business Wbe.travel was celebrating its tenth consecutive year of exhibiting. It has a wide range of products serving travel agents, tour operators, wholesalers, travel management companies and destination marketing organisations.
Marketing manager Claudia Oniscu said that all its target segments were at the event, and that she had been so busy on the first two days that she had lost her voice!
Its primary reason for exhibiting is to talk to potential new customers and to meet existing ones, but she also noted that the Wbe.travel was using on-stand interactions to help develop its product development roadmap.
“We have a wide portfolio but on occasion we are asked for something we do not have. Often this alerts us to a gap in the market, we feed this back to our developers and see if we can add this to our offer,” she said.
Dubai-based lifestyle, loyalty and travel app business The Entertainer is using Travel Forward and the WTM portfolio to drive ambitious growth plans. It uses a mix of direct contracts and aggregators to source travel and dining inventory. Its marketing manager Oscar Motto said that the team had met with a number of properties and chains interested in taking part in its soon-to-be-launched two-nights-for-the-price-of-one hotel offering.
“The WTM portfolio is instrumental to our growth in the markets we are focussed on,” he said.
The global nature of the WTM/Travel Forward audience resonated strongly with Avvio, an Irish hotel tech provider focussed on helping individual hotels and small chains attract more direct bookings. Its chief commercial officer Micheal De Jongh said that it had been talking to prospects ‘which are not from our UK, Ireland and North America strongholds so we’re confident that we will be entering new markets as a result of the leads we picked up at Travel Forward.
Jon Collins, Programme and Content Director, Travel Forward said: “The positive vibe around the stands on the last day of the event is a clear sign that Travel Forward has identified a gap in the events market, implemented a strategy to fill that that gap and executed on that strategy.
“Validation from exhibitors is vitally important and we are looking forward to putting the hours in to make sure that Travel Forward 2019 is an even greater success.”