Bailly is in the midst of leading Accor's digital transformation, focusing on streamlining and personalizing the entire guest experience, from booking through on-property and post-stay. She's got big ambitions and she's not afraid to move quickly, testing constantly and scrapping ideas quickly that aren't improving the guest experience. Her challenges are making everything simpler yet at the same time creating experiences that speak to travelers across the globe, when sometimes Western travelers prefer a different experience than Eastern travelers, for instance.
Richard Holden, VP of product management at Google, discussed the search giant's continued and strengthened mission of providing users with the knowledge and answers that will best help them make decisions. Pressed on whether those answers should come from Google, which has inserted many of its own products at the top of search results, Holden said the company is confident they are striking the right balance between providing organic information and results that deliver traffic to the company's biggest advertising partners. Holden discussed the evolution of Book on Google, a product that allows travelers to reserve airfare and hotel rooms without leaving Google's site, admitting the product name could be misleading and hinting its name may soon change.
Jeff Ma, who joined Duetto in October, is best known for his role on the MIT blackjack team, where he and his colleagues used data-driven decisions to play blackjack more effectively and often beat the casinos at their own game. He talked about how data-driven decision are the best decisions, and that there are analytics out there can help entire industries be more successful. Hotels, he said, are just on the cusp of taking all the available data they have - which is now stored in the cloud and easily accessible - and analyzing it to make the most profitable pricing decisions.
Everything about Oyo is unique, particularly the facts that their founder and CEO is 24 years old and that their business model has evolved from an asset-light marketing and distribution company to a business that is providing capital and tools to renovate poor-performing assets. Agarwal described that evolution by saying his company went out offering distribution strategies to many struggling economy hotel owners, but when they saw the opportunity to help those owners improve their businesses (while generating some returns in the process), it became a no-brainer.
Hafner is never one to beat around the bush or mince words, so his appearance on stage is always a crowd-pleaser. He tells it how it is, even if that means throwing his own company under the bus by pointing out their challenges and failures. Regarding Kayak, it's clear that Hafner is bullish on the metasearch space, suggesting there's no real advantage for a traveler to bypass metasearch sites and go directly to on OTA. That said, he also readily admitted that Google has the largest advantage in the meta space and could spell trouble for everyone else.