There was no shortage of ideas – or opinions – at The Beat Live, an annual business travel conference held this year in Miami.
The conference tends to be more interactive than most industry conferences, with the audience jumping in frequently. Here are a few highlights of the conversation.
Not everyone hates airline fees.
“Ancillaries are good,” Mike Cameron, chief executive officer of Christopherson Business Travel in Salt Lake City, said.
“They are the reason the airlines are profitable, and they are the backbone of our mutual industry. This seems to be the silver bullet.”
GDSs are often criticized as “legacy technology” that holds the industry back, but the airlines aren’t always ahead of the game, either.
“The airlines have never made enough money to invest the way they should,” airline analyst Holly Hegeman said, “and IT seems to be the stepchild.”
“Remember that the largest domestic carrier in the U.S. cannot charge for bags. Their IT structure doesn’t allow them to charge for bags,” she said.
That would be Southwest Airlines.
One of the few people in the travel agency community to openly support IATA’s New Distribution Capability is David LeCompte, CEO of Short’s Travel Management.
“I want to emulate the airlines” – and sell everything they are able to sell on their websites, he said. “It’s easier for us to use a new standard to do that.”
Liz Mandarino, president of World Travel in Douglassville, Pa., said she is “neutral” on NDC, “but I do agree with standardization.”
David Moran, executive vice president marketing and enterprise strategy at Carlson Wagonlit Travel, said he is “supportive with caveats: Corporate clients need transparency.”
“Everybody fears direct connect, but the GDSs are going to evolve to deal with [NDC],” he said.
For their part, TMCs need to pay more attention to what’s going on, LeCompte said.
“I don’t think there is a lot of innovation, but then again, when TMCs do something innovative, they don’t put out press releases,” LeCompte said.
LeCompte observed that only two TMCs at The Beat Live were planning to send representatives to the PhoCusWright Conference next month, where entrepreneurs demonstrate their new inventions. “If you don’t have your eyes open to consumer products, you’re stupid,” he said.
In what may have been the understatement of the conference, if not the year, Scott Alvis, chief marketing officer of Amadeus North America, observed: “There’s a lot of drama surrounding NDC.”