I’m pondering something right now.

In any industry, when your head is firmly tucked in a verticalit is easy to exist in a bubble or ‘silo mentality’ and think that your industry is the ‘only one’. It’s so important (I think so anyway) to occasionally jump out of your comfort zone and see where you fit in the bigger picture.

Travel Forward conference

I’ve just done exactly that.

I’m just returning home from the very first Travel Forward conference. The conference and event dedicated to travel technology and part of London’s World Travel Market (WTM). The strapline for Travel Forward was, “Unleashing Technology into Travel” and 150 travel tech exhibitors were represented, with 50 industry speakers on the stage. To give you an idea of the scale of the entire WTM – over 5,000 exhibiting companies attend from 182 countries and vie for the attention of more than 51,000 participants.

It’s huge.

World Travel Market is the second largest travel fair in the annual travel trade calendar and has a long history of bringing buyers and suppliers together for, of course buying and selling (according to a press announcement, WTM generates around £2.8 billion of travel industry contracts from almost one million on-stand business meetings), for relationship building and education. Everyone who is anyone in travel is there. Or are they?

During the 2-day conference, I sat in on some excellent interviews, panel discussions and presentations represented by speakers from aviation, hotels, tour operators, travel agents, tours and activities, information technology, distribution and venture capital. I learnt a lot about AI, blockchain, distribution, investment, delivering a connected experience and more.

However, not one speaker out of the 50 represented the private or alternative accommodation sector. If there was any indication that the vacation and short-term rental industry is not yet mainstream, then this was it. Not only that, but out of 150 tech company vendors with booths – I counted only 3 that operate in the vacation rental space.

Was this just an oversight or does it say something poignant about the vacation and short-term rental industry and where this vertical sits within the wider travel industry?

(Don’t fret – of course I brought this observation up with the conference organiser and so expect to see the speaker line-up changed next year and for private accommodations to be represented)

My belief is that the lack of speaker representation was in part an oversight. Baring the exception of Airbnb, the vacation and short-term rental industry is really only just starting to ‘PR’ itself and perhaps develop the confidence to put its head above the parapet and step out beyond the bubble of its peers and onto the wider travel industry stage.

However, perhaps closer to the truth is that the vacation rental industry was significantly under-represented at World Travel Market and Travel Forward because of the fragmentation of the industry.

Everyone, from property managers to tech solution suppliers are perhaps still too small to benefit from exposure at such a large scale. Maybe. Maybe not. Perhaps this is more of an industry perception of itself rather than a reality.

It will be interesting to see how things change over the coming months. Perhaps WTM and Travel Forward attendance can act as the temperature gauge for the vacation rental industry and where it positions itself within the wider international travel industry?

About Jessica Gillingham

Jessica is the Director & Owner of Abode PR, a specialist PR and content marketing agency partnering with clients operating in the international vacation and short-term rental space. Abode PR helps both ‘guest facing’ and B2B brands connect with new audiences through telling their story in the most compelling way and distributing that story through the most effective channels.

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