The annual gathering has been travel tech's prom for years now. But with the departure of its visionary founder and its sale to one of travel's least creative brands can it keep the magic alive?
Travel industry luminaries will grace the center stage at the PhoCusWright conference in Hollywood, Florida, beginning today, and here are some rude questions for them and issues that may, or may not, get openly discussed.
PhoCusWright and attendees: Is this conference going to have any sizzle now that the maestro, Philip Wolf, the PhoCusWright founder, has moved on, and will sit on a few more boards? Will the bean-counters at parent Northstar Travel Media tighten things up to such a degree that the belt-tightening will be readily apparent?
Jeremy Wertheimer, vice president of engineering, Google Travel: What happened? You launched a flight metasearch product at a time when metasearch is one of the hottest things going in travel and you have Google’s deep pockets at your disposal. Shouldn’t Google Flights be a little further along by now?
Stephen Kaufer, TripAdvisor CEO: Given some of the challenges in rolling out your hotel metasearch product that you’ve acknowledged over the last few months, don’t you think this hotel metasearch thing is a lot harder than you imagined? We know that you favor small acquisitions over, well, mega-sized ones. But might it not have been easier to buy a Hipmunk, Room77, Trivago or Kayak, instead of starting your own from scratch?
Facebook: The kids now think you are yesterday’s social media platform, and even BFF TripAdvisor recently let on that some of its marketing through Facebook has fallen short. When it comes to travel marketing, is there trouble in your social paradise?
Dara Khosrowshahi, Expedia Inc. CEO: You’ve all but admitted that Priceline and, in particular, its Booking.com unit has been eating your lunch. Are you optimistic or even hopeful that the leadership change at the Priceline Group will lead to some big stumbles? Meanwhile, your shareholders are laughing all the way to the bank about your spinoff of TripAdvisor, but wouldn’t it have been real nice to hang onto the thing? Any TripAdvisor remorse?
Barney Harford, Orbitz Worldwide CEO: You’ve done some innovative things in your tenure, including Orbitz Price Assurance, and the revamping of your rewards program looks interesting. But do you sometimes feel like you’ve been dealt some bad cards in that being the number 3 or number 4 player in a market is just too heavy a slog? Can you make a solid argument that the Orbitz brand is on the rise?
Steve Singh, CEO, Concur: The company employee who came up with the term “open booking” should be given a paid, four-week vacation. But, admit it, the open booking you have in mind is still all about corporate travel policy, and really isn’t that open, right?
Darren Huston, incoming Priceline Group CEO: You have a tough act to follow and the pressure is on. Can you do it?
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Photo credit: PhoCusWright's founder Philip Wolf at the 2010 event. Elliotng / Flickr