Conference programme revealed! Blue chips and startups to share Travel Forward stage at WTM London

TD Editor

Travel Forward, the global event for travel technology co-located with WTM London, has revealed the line-up for this year’s conference programme which features one of the travel industry’s most exciting start-up competitions. This year’s physical event is taking place at ExCeL London from 1-3 November 2021 and will be followed by WTM & TF Virtual taking place on 8-9 November.

The conference programme comprises multiple tracks, offering a mix of panel discussions, Q&As, fireside chats, keynotes, sponsored sessions and competition. All speakers will inspire and educate their peers, sharing best practices for the wider good.

For 2021, Travel Forward has linked up with World Tourism Foundation Lucerne (WTFL) for the Front Runners Travel Tech Competition and Summit, taking place on the Tuesday afternoon from 14:00. The mini-conference includes a start-up pitch competition. Some 350 early-stage businesses from 80 countries pitched their plans, virtually, to a panel of judges which came up with a short-list of three for each of the categories – smart mobility, hospitality and experiences.  The overall winner will be picked from the category winners.

As well as startups, Travel Forward is welcoming some of travel technology’s established players. Sabre, the leading software and technology provider that powers the global travel industry and one of the Travel Forward Stage partners, will explain how personalisation and retailing will shape the future of the hospitality industry. Charlotte Lamp Davies from consultancy A Bright Approach will interview Scott Wilson, EVP & president, Sabre Hospitality Solutions, from 14:00 on Monday 1 November.

Payments are an area of increasing interest and importance for Travel Forward’s audience. Mastercard will be on stage, with its executive vice president Kevin While explaining how advances in payment technology can make life easier for agents and suppliers.

The travel industry’s relationship with sustainability has always been a focus for WTM London and Travel Forward. This year, airline and airport technology supplier SITA will be talking about the specific ways technology is helping the aerospace industry to not only reduce its greenhouse gas emissions but also become a more sustainable industry and a greater force for good. Yann Cabaret from SITA will be interviewed on the Travel Forward Stage by John Strickland from JLS Consulting.

Elsewhere, Harold Goodwin, WTM’s responsible tourism advisor, is also addressing responsible technology. A session will concentrate on case studies around how technology can encourage behavioural change in travellers.

Marketing is another area where travel companies are seeing the beneficial potential of technology. A three-hour mini-conference hosted by The Five Percent, an online learning community for early-stage and transitional entrepreneurs, talks place on the Wednesday afternoon. Sessions are moderated by CEO and co-founder Marcus Murphy.

The three-day summit kicks off at 10:30 on the Monday, setting the tone with a session on artificial intelligence, hosted by Charlotte Lamp Davies from consultancy A Bright Approach and featuring speakers including Andy Owen-Jones, CEO and co-founder of bd4travel and Sundar Narasimhan, President Product Labs and Product Strategy at Sabre

The opening morning also includes a discussion based on Travolution’s latest Innovation Report and a look at how technology can help hotels manage staff during the fragmented return to travel.

Cybersecurity was a concern for the industry before COVID and should be an area of intense focus for firms as travel restarts. A session hosted by James Cocker from InfoSecurity Group. Simon Press, Exhibition Director, Travel Forward, said: “We believe there will be a post-COVID travel event bounce back – it’s already happening – and we are determined that Travel Forward, in a crowded field, will be on every technology company’s priority list. We set the bar very high with our previous conferences, and 2021 will be as strong as its predecessors. We’re particularly excited about Front Runners. Travel Forward is committed to supporting travel tech start-ups and the tie-up with WTFL strengthens our appeal to the ecosystem and takes Travel Forward to the next level.”
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