The Centre of Tourism & Leisure Management (CTLM) of the University of South Australia continues the delivery of the award winning IFITTTalk industry events by organising another great workshop on “New Technologies and Innovation in Tourism” on the 23rd September 2019. The IFITTTalk featured a line-up of seven brilliant speakers all experts on their field, and it was very well attended by more than 100 industry and academic participants. In opening the event, Professor Marianna Sigala (Director of the CTLM, University of South Australia, UniSA) stressed the role and the impact of technologies in creating but also driving change within the tourism sector. Tourism education and research are at the heart of the University of South Australia; it is the aim of the CTLM to produce graduates and cutting edge research that address technological challenges while also innovate in the tourism industry. The IFITTTalk featured two sessions with speeches providing a solid understanding of the current technological trends as well as many practical tips that participants could take and transfer to their daily business practices.
The first session focused on topics related to innovation in tourism marketing and distribution. The session started with a presentation by Allyvia Oberman (Market Manager – Expedia Group). In her presentation titled “The Future of Travel: Innovating beyond distribution”, Allyvia provided insights into the latest research about travellers’ online booking behaviour. Mobile first seems to insist, since more than one third of hotel bookings take place on mobile devices. Allyvia also discussed the continuous innovation and investments of Expedia on the latest technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence in order to stay at the cutting edge of the online booking practices. Bev Bury (Senior Manager, Domestic Marketing, SA Tourism Commission) provided an excellent talk on the use and role of personalisation in online distribution and marketing. In her talk titled “The future of personalisation”, Bev explained the importance of collecting and using big data for personalising online customer service, communication and promotion. To that end, Bev emphasised the need of tourism firms to invest not only on data analytics technologies but also on human skills in analysing and interpreting big data as well as on paying attention to legislation related to privacy and security data issues. Bev provided numerous examples showing how the SA Tourism Commission is using big data and programmatic marketing for personalising online marketing and achieving high ROI of online marketing practices. The session closed with a talk by Katharine Crane (Founder, Crane Creative). In her talk titled “How Social Media is the heart of your Marketing body”, Katharine stressed the importance for tourism firms to remain human when communicating and serving customers online despite the increasing need to also invest on artificial intelligence, chat boxes and other new technologies anthropomorphising computer – human interaction.
The second section focused on the use and impact of the latest technologies in tourism such as robotics, blockchains, virtual / augmented / extended reality. The session started with a presentation by Sonya Weiser (Principle Consultant, Wiser Technology Advice), who focused on “Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and data analysis: applications and implication in Tourism”. Sonya provided several examples on how these new technologies have already been applied and/or being tested in tourism and highlighted their tremendous impacts on tourism labour and skills, the structure of the industry and the implications on service quality levels. Martin Anderson (CEO and Founder, Gulliver) followed by giving a presentation on “Opt in: Tourist tracking while respecting individuals right to privacy”. Martin emphasized the need to better understand the travellers’ consumption and mobility behavior within destinations in order to support sustainable tourism impacts by dispersing tourists within wider geographical areas and more tourism firms. To achieve that, Martin provided several examples on how Gulliver’s technology application can track and visualize tourists’ itineraries within destinations and help destination and tourism managers to take better decisions. Neil McNish (Principle Consultant, REMPLAN) gave a presentation that also highlighted the need to collect and use online (big) data for improving decision-making in the tourism industry. In his talk titled “Regional Tourism Analysis and Impact Modelling”, Neil explained how REMPLAN has developed a powerful software to aggregate and analyse mass data for assessing the impact of events on tourism destinations. The session finished with a presentation delivered by Dr Darren Oemcke (Chair of the Foment Accelerator (a partnership between the New Venture Institute, WISA and Hydra Consulting). In his presentation titled “The future of the tourism tech revolution”, Dr Oemcke gave an overview of the latest technologies creating the tourism 4.0 revolution. However, Dr Oemcke noted that although technologies seem to be driving change in tourism, tourism firms need to realise that the tourism experience needs to be at the heart of any technology application in order to provide appropriate solutions to customer needs and profiles.
The event finished with a very positive vibe and fruitful discussion son the future of technologies in tourism. Professor Marianna Sigala (School of Management, University of South Australia) closed the event by thanking all presenters and participants and announcing the date of the next IFITTTalk on the 25th November 2019.