For the first time in its six-year history, the PLUs Forum on travel was held in Asia this year, with two days of discussions, presentations and networking in Shanghai from September 14-15, 2017. Held immediately following the Travel Daily Conference, the largest travel distribution conference in China, ShanghaiPLUs was sponsored by Dragon Trail Interactive and brought together 18 travel professionals from Asia, Europe and North America, representing a diverse range of companies including iGola, Travel Daily and Varitrip.
“Chinese tourists and the internationalization of China’s travel industry are shaping the future of the travel industry. Bringing together local and international leaders is important to both forge long-lasting relationships, as well as to come up with innovative solutions to best achieve cross-border adaptation,” said Dragon Trail CEO George Cao, who opened the event. The two-day forum also featured presentations on the current state and future developments of the global travel industry by PLUs Forum moderator and founder, and former Abacus CEO, Don Birch, and on cross-cultural hotel distribution by Ted Zhang, CEO of Derby Soft.
Two different discussion sessions also got participants involved in debating key questions pertaining to the travel industry’s digital offerings in China: UX localization vs. consistency, and direct vs. indirect distribution.
On the first question, regarding UX customization, the group came up with a hierarchy of needs depending on the sophistication of the user. At the base are elementary, consistent needs and expectations of reliability and safety, but as one moves up the pyramid to exploration through travel, and the needs of ‘world citizens’, increased customization is needed. At the moment, this kind of personalization is still in its early days, but is likely to increase in importance.
In terms of distribution, participants looked at the favorability of distributing travel products directly versus going through large online travel agencies (OTAs). Here, too, the preferred distribution model depends largely on the product, as well as the target user. Indirect distribution is dominant at present, but industry experts expect future disruption to travel distribution, and there are currently many ideas being financed and tested.
Other topics that came up at the event were the primary importance of safety in the minds of Chinese travelers, as well as the comparative high use of mobile in the Chinese travel market compared to the rest of the world. Still, not all travelers are technically savvy, which represents an important market opportunity.The interactive nature of ShanghaiPLUs’ discussion modules and opportunities to converse outside of the structured activities allowed senior professionals from varied sectors in the travel trade – including distribution, technology, marketing and ground services – to freely share ideas and provide each other with deeper insights into the needs of specific markets and subsectors. This kind of interaction is at the heart of the Forum, which aims to bring together “People Like Us” (PLUs) industry leaders.
“The high level of energy and engagement generated from a wide range of experience and travel segments was gratifying. The Forum was able to establish in a genuine group conversation to the benefit of all attendees. The special circumstances of China have evolved a unique and enquiring set of talented travel professionals who are confident to share their knowledge and experience,” said Birch, following the event.
For more information on the PLUs Forum and ShanghaiPLUs, please visit: www.the-plus-forum.org