Tony D’Astolfo, MD, Phocuswright talks about the first Phocuswright event in India

By on February 20, 2016 | Interviews

Phocuswright is the leader in travel industry research and their events bring together industry luminaries to deliberate over trends and innovations. The events also offer an opportunity for promising travel startups to showcase at the highly acclaimed Travel Innovation Summit. For the very first time, Phocuswright is bringing the event to India. We spoke with Tony D’Astolfo, Managing Director, Phocuswright, to learn more about one of the biggest travel industry events this year. Here is an edited excerpt from the conversation:

Tony D'Astolfo

What was the driving factor behind bringing the event here?

We have been active in the Asia Pacific region on the research side for many years. To enhance what we bring to the market, the live event comes next on the list. Phocuswright set out on a strategy to bring our live events to other regions around the world where we have been providing research and covering the market for many years. We started with Europe and this will be our third year there. As we got more comfortable with the market in Asia, we decided it was time to bring an event with focus on that market. We selected India because it’s very dynamic. Phocuswright has staff on the ground in the region doing a great job getting Phocuswright research in the hands of professionals there and developing the brand with a strong following. Through the event, we are offering an extension of our research to the region.

Following the India event, should we expect more events in this region?

I think the answer is yes. We don’t have any concrete plans in place yet but we have done some activities already. Last year we created a product called Phocuswright Fast Track. We get asked all the time to speak at conferences, so we created this product to answer these requests and bring our content to different audiences. Last year our inaugural Phocuswright Fast Track was in Bangalore in association with PATA. Then we did second Fast Track at Sichuan, China, in conjunction with GTEC. So yes, you should expect to see more. It might a full-fledged Phocuswright event spread over several days or it might be couple of hours via Phocuswright Fast Track. In fact, we have already renewed our contract with PATA – this time in Jakarta. Asia is a big, fast growing market with lot of opportunities and Phocuswright will definitely expand in the region.

What changes have you observed in the APAC market over the past few years?

Many of the trends are following similar patterns to the market in other regions. There is a shift from traditional to online models and the tremendous influence travellers’ behaviour has over the development of technology. The younger generation is more inclined to leverage social media and mobile phones to seek out multiple sources before making a decision to buy. On top of that they are more interested in exploring and often look for more in destination activities.

APAC is a fascinating and diverse market. You will see that the Indian market is very different from the Chinese market, which again is different from the Southeast Asian market. There are so many different opportunities. Phocuswright helps the companies in the travel space understand the market, travellers’ behaviour, technology trends and how they should be reacting to that particular market. Big markets like this are perfect place for us to be as that is what people expect us to do, get in, understand the market and help them grow.

How would you contrast the travel startup ecosystem in the Americas to that in APAC?

Many of the innovations in the travel industry are being defined by millennial travellers. There is still a lot more traditional activity going on in the East but that is just a difference in pace. I don’t think there is anything surprising. The trends are similar, so it is just a matter of understanding the pace. If you look at China as an example, you will see that the travellers there are using mobile more than anywhere else in the world. Things like that are important to understand as they define where we will see the innovations. With the fast growing middle class, the market in Asia will open up more opportunities. New options are being adopted by travellers in the region and the key to success is understanding their needs and how they experience the destination.

What message would you like to give to the travel community in India?

The travel industry is fast paced and dynamic. Almost all industry sectors are changing rapidly. The airline sector has seen the rise of low cost carriers, the alternative accommodation industry is challenging traditional hotel players, and the ground transportation industry is being challenged by the sharing community with startups that have changed the traditional way of getting around. When I look at that, I always challenge people in the industry, “how are you being informed about these changes?”

Obviously as a research firm we try to dig into how people travel and how technology has an impact on everything. Our goal is to provide information to help people make better decisions and events are a very important part of the whole process. At the events, we take the research classroom and bring it to the people live along with the added component of networking, the opportunity to engage with your peers, meet your next partners, meet your next customers or maybe meet your next investors. Travel brands of any scale stand to gain a lot with Phocuswright events.

Phocuswright India will be held in April this year in Gurgaon, India. Like any other Phocuswright event, it will feature interactive workshops, speakers from top travel brands and the Travel Innovation Summit. You can find more details about the event on www.phocuswrightindia.com.

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