Virtuoso Symposium: The Rise of Collaborative Commerce

Virtuoso’s annual overseas Symposium officially kicked off this evening with a warm reception at the beautiful Intercontinental Hotel in Madrid.  This spectacular hotel will be the hub for what will surely be three days’ worth of intense networking and sharing of ideas amongst the 400 travel professionals in attendance. 

Spain is the only country that has hosted the Virtuoso Symposium twice, noted Matthew Upchurch, CEO of Virtuoso.  Matthew Upchurch began the conference by stating “Exponential change happens as the result of three things: Technology, Information, and Culture.” Following Matthew’s speech was energetic Nancy Giordano, founder of Big Ideas and one of the most prominent Futurists in the industry. 

Giordano gave a fascinating and insightful presentation on the Rise of Collaborative Commerce, which was the overall theme of this year’s Symposium.  The focus was what is in store for the travel industry.  Listening to how the changing demographics and the affect it is having on our industry was warmly received by the audience. 

The speed of change is exponential.  “Change is also inevitable and faster, so embrace it and lead it,” said Nancy. Nancy also stressed that new technology is changing the way consumers behave and it’s important that our industry realizes these changes and finds ways to adapt, as well as find ways to reach out to the next generation of travelers; both the Gen X group, as well as the Millennials, which are those who were born between the 1970’s to the early 2000’s.   

The purchasing patterns of Millennials, Generation X and Boomers vary so greatly that to try and establish a common marketing theme for all three groups will certainly lead to failure.  Even within those groups are various subgroups that must be treated differently.  Gender, race and socio-economic factors all play major roles in how consumers spend.  What was facsinating about Giordino’s presentation was her ability to understand how all these specific roles come into play and how, as an industry, we must find ways to truly understand our customers in ways that were unheard of only a decade ago. 

Some notable and interesting facts Giordano shared with the audience was the rise of Social Media and its impact on buying patterns.  For instance, every month, over 1 million new internet domains are created while there are over 17 billion electronic devices connected to the internet.  Considering that represents more than double the earth’s population, it’s simply mind boggling, to say the least.   And, this growth continues with no end in sight as again, growth is exponential.

Another interesting fact shared by Giordano is that there are over 31 billion (yes, billion) Google searches each month, as well as 195 million Twitter users on the planet.  Considering Twitter was founded by Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams less than four years ago, the growth of the social networking site is astonishing.  And, there are those who believe Facebook will surpass Amazon as the largest online store in the world.   Currently, there are 20 million Facebook apps installed every day.  What is even more astonishing is that many of these purchases are originating from smart phones, not PC’s.  EBay stated that they sold 2 billion worth of merchandise that originated from smart phones and not PC’s. 

Another changing demographic that will certainly be a factor for the travel industry is the number of singles living in the US.  In the year 2000, approximately 32 percent of the population was living alone.    Now, that number has swelled to almost 50 percent, which is now higher than the number of married couples in the US.    This is a staggering percentage and will certainly play a role in how travel is marketed to consumers. 

Along with the emerging millennial group, the change in diversity; notably the enormous growth of the Hispanic market throughout the US, and the rise of women population; each of these will be playing a role in how we market to consumers.  The number of women in the US that hold prominent positions in Fortune 500 companies has grown tenfold over the past decade.   

Following the presentation, the attendees were spoiled with a lavish lunch at Cibeles, where many of the members commented they were unaware of the wide variety and superb quality of food in Spain.  Like Virtuoso, there will be a sizable number of returnees to Spain.

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