When I first started thinking about creating a different type of conference in the travel industry, in March 2014, this is what I wrote out as rough notes (and emailed to myself, as I always do when thinking through new ideas):
“Skift’s Global Forum is the first conference focused on the top strategists, marketers, technologists and creatives in travel, the people defining the Future of Travel in 2014 and beyond. Skift is changing how the travel industry looks at itself and how it projects itself to the world. Our Global Forum will take that mission to a live event, and help you understand the changing megatrends in travel across sectors, across geographies, and across functional silos in travel industry. Carefully curated program and speakers to inspire you about the world’s largest industry and its creative promise.”
“We believe the business Future of Travel is at the intersection of technology and marketing. We believe the creative Future of Travel is at the intersection of user experience and design.”
“We are the world’s largest industry, high time we have a Global Forum that starts acting like it.”
Those few key phrases above that were meant for the Forum ended up changing our company positioning since then. It crystallized Skift’s audience: marketers, strategists, and technologists. It gave us the intersections at which Skift covers the future of travel: tech, marketing, user experience, and design. It gave us marching orders: show the larger world the creative promise of the world’s largest industry. And it gave us our biggest clarion call: “Travel is the world’s largest industry. Lets start acting like it!”
The Forum isn’t a just a line of business for us. It is the distillation of everything we work for.
As we’re in the home stretch for our third annual Skift Global Forum this year, we’ve come a long way. More than 900 of the smartest people in travel will gather at the beautiful Alice Tully Hall in the marquee venue of Lincoln Center, in New York City, exactly two weeks from now. 25 of the biggest CEOs in travel and leaders from the biggest tech companies are speaking on stage about their vision for the future of travel.
And as I wrote in last year, “Take a day or two out, come, sit back, and listen, and we will promise you the best creative brainfood for the year.” This is what we promise this year, with some additional elements we have learned from our last two years.
This year’s Forum will also mix up formats on stage to bring more variety and audience participation. The first two years we focused exclusively on creative short talks and one-to-one Q&As by CEOs, CMOs and creatives on stage, and this year we’re adding other innovative elements on and off stage:
- More one-to-one Q&As after feedback that grilling from our journalists-as-moderators is something our attendees liked last year.
- Larger panels built around different big fault lines in the global travel industry. These panels, on the big business model clashes happening in the travel industry, will animate these changes through the speakers, on stage.
- Adding Q&A time for ALL sessions at the Forum, a frequent request we have heard from previous attendees.
This isn’t a freakin’ trade conference, as we gently say it.
We have lined up one of the biggest gatherings of CEOs and founders in the travel industry, ever. CEOs of Marriott, Carnival, Expedia, TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Etihad, ClubMed, Travel Corporation, Commune Hotels, Standard International, Generator, Mexico Tourism Board, Wolff Olins, Student.com, SilverRail, Lola, Altimeter Capital, Upside, Peek, Superfly, APEX, MMGY Global, CB Insights, Zillow, and top executives from Google, Facebook, Airbnb, Hilton, and others are all coming to New York City.
The CEOs and industry thought leaders from across the industry and outside who are stepping onto the stage are not there to make a sales pitch for their company; they are coming to share their visions of the future of travel. These are the leaders who understand the larger context in which travel operates and who don’t suffer from the myopia that afflicts much of the industry.
Over the past four years of running Skift, I’ve seen clearly that the largest consumer and tech changes converge in travel, and what’s happening here — from artificial intelligence to mobile booking to local discovery to on-demand services — has lessons for the world beyond the industry. The speakers and the people attending the Forum understand this, and are best prepared for what’s happening next in travel.
Skift Global Forum 2016 is underwritten by the generosity of our amazing sponsors: 500px, Adobe, Allianz, Amadeus, Boxever, Cendyn, CityPass, Chase, Criteo, Distil Networks, Epsilon, Etihad Airways, Fareportal, Fathom, HYP3R, LivePerson, Local Measure, Mastercard, Momondo Group, MovableInk, Olapic, One Night, SapientNitro, Simulmedia, Smartling, Student.com, The Points Guy, Twitter, Upside and Voyager HQ.