Travelport e-volve(ing)

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Travelport Africa hosted another successful e-volve Summit in March, with the African Pride Crystal Towers Hotel & Spa in Cape Town the venue for an event that appears to be growing in popularity and interest, with a host of senior South African travel trade members in attendance.

If you pop on to the Travelport website, you’ll find reference to their “commerce platform (that) enables travel providers, travel agencies, corporations and developers to connect.” Travelport’s e-volve Summit appears to be an extension of that premise, and the African region’s 2015 version was actually over-subscribed, such is the growing interest in this annual event.

The first afternoon kicked off with the platform laid by inspirational 26-year-old South African rocket scientist Siya Xuza and his fascinating story, followed by the entertaining and irreverent JP Landman, who provided a snapshot of South Africa’s political and economic landscape.

The onstage Travelport representation was in the form of Rabih Saab, VP and MD for the Middle East and Africa region, and George Harb, Regional Director for Southern Africa, with Saab providing an update on where Travelport is, and Harb building on that with a look at various current travel trends. 

All that laid the groundwork for what proved a fascinating and insightful second morning, as Travelport’s senior representatives drilled down and further explored the summit’s theme of ‘Redefining Travel Commerce’.

Matt Powell, Travelport’s Senior Director of Agency Commerce Solutions for Middle East and Africa, looked at ‘Redefining Selling: The Next Generation Travel Agent’, before facilitating a discussion that also featured Brian Staunton of eNett, the Insider Group’s Edd McArdle, and Otto de Vries, the CEO of ASATA.

Some interesting issues were raised, including concerns regarding card fraud in the travel agency space, and of course Big Data, one of the travel industry’s hottest topics. No surprise that Staunton had plenty to offer in the fraud space, with eNett a global provider of payment solutions for the travel industry. Staunton built on that later in the morning with a dedicated presentation looking at the issues of risk, reward and reconciliation, as well as the role that eNett’s Virtual Account Numbers (VANs) play in this space.

Sandwiched between Staunton and the discussion was a look at ‘Redefining Air Commerce’ by Will Owen-Hughes, Travelport’s Senior Director of Air Commerce for the Middle East and Africa region. Owen-Hughes played an interesting video featuring Emirates President & CEO Tim Clark and Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary, using it as a discussion point. Both were less than complimentary about the role that the GDS companies play in the travel industry, whilst grudgingly admitting their need for them.

The morning, and the summit itself, wrapped up with Travelport VP & Head of Commercial Strategy Fergal Kelly looking at ‘Redefining Beyond Air’, before he too facilitated a discussion that also included Gary van der Walt of Avis, City Lodge’s Peter Schoeman, and Bryan Mulliner of Marriott. The panel touched on a number of issues and topical subjects, including brand marketing and the big news out of the South African car rental industry – the Avis acquisition of the Budget brand from Bidvest.

That wrapped up an intensive, yet incredibly interesting and valuable day or so, with a number of topics and themes, such as the rapid growth of the international airline ancillary market, no doubt keeping delegates engaged for some time after the event.