All About the Future at Asia Summit

Posted by Kevin Iwamoto on 10/11/2013

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I recently returned from attending the IT&CMAsia and CTW Asia-Pacific annual conference in Bangkok. What a stimulating and educational experience.
The first session was on a travel Industry update & outlook study that was funded by Abacus International.  They just released the results of their 2013 Abacus Corporate Travel Practices Survey on the day of the session so it was hot off the presses.  Rebecca Daniels, who just moved from Texas to Singapore to take up her new role as Director, Global Accounts Asia-Pacific, for Abacus International,shared results that indicated that the take up on using mobile devices for travel programs is lagging in Asia-Pacific. That surprised me, as I always have felt that with the rapid rise of a new middle class in Asia-Pacific, especially in India and China, that mobile usage was pervasive.  So it was fascinating to me that, while many in Asia use mobile devices, the incorporation of those devices and apps into travel and meetings programs was lagging other regions.
Andreas Wellauer, CEO of GALIANT Consulting, who has also spent many years managing travel for European and Australasian companies, provided some great insights into the current state of technology, data and how it's impacting the business travel marketplace.
My next session was "Up the Ante on Best Practice & Benchmarking," featuring UGL, a diversified services company that recently clinched the Travel Programme of the Year award at the 2013 btTB  Travel Management Awards in Australia.  UGL transformed its global travel programme – which now covers 30 countries and 6,000 travelers working with its TMC and other travel suppliers. Premah Krishnan, Category Manager, Group Procurement, UGL Australia, did an excellent and at times humorous job of talking about her lessons learned in globalizing UGL's policy, expense management and travel
program supported closely by her TMC partner, Annie Dal Pozzo, Client General Manager, American Express Business Travel, Australia, and her American Express global teams. It was a fascinating session and I could definitely empathize with Premah's commentary and experiences while globalizing her program — having spent many years doing that myself while at HP. 
At the end of the day, it comes down to stakeholder management, change management, executive support and consistent communication.
Last but not least, was a really futuristic session about technology and how it will impact our lives and the travel experience.  The session was called "Cutting-edge Technology, & the Rise of the Smart Phone & Other Mobile Devices," and the content centered around how technology and travel technology can help companies keep pace with the changing world and your tech-savvy road warriors who use their smart phones and mobile devices for work and play. How can companies leverage mobile technology to reduce T&E cost now and in the future?  It featured Rohit Talwar, CEO, Fast Future Research, from the UK who is really a sharp and forward thinking futurist that often consults with senior executives at large companies about what they need to be focused on.  He shared some interesting things on the horizon that sometimes is scary from a "Big Brother" perspective — but exciting from an intuitive innovation perspective. 
Then Andreas Wellauer, CEO, GALIANT Consulting, brought it back to our industry marketplace and got more specific about how social media and mobile technology can and should be readily incorporated into Asia-Pacific travel programs. It was a great conference and for once, I wasn't in the minority as there were many Asian cultures and faces present and participating in the multitude of activities, education and certification sessions, one-on-one appointments and massive trade show, which really had solid Asian focus and content. 
It was great to spend time with old travel buyer and supplier friends in the region. And it just reinforced that as large as this industry is, what still counts is the people, friendships and relationships developed over the course of time — especially when it's so ingrained in the multiple cultures of Asia Pacific. 
And thank you, my fellow attendees, for voting me as the “Stickiest CTW Speaker Guru.”  The description for the awards reads as follows:  “The annual Sticky Awards applauds the ingenuity and innovative efforts of IT&CMA and CTW Asia-Pacific delegates who have delighted their peers with unforgettably exciting exhibits, booths, functions, promotions, individual personalities and green efforts at the year's event.”  What an, um, sticky honor.

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