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    New Travelport+ self-service suite unlocks productivity

    Travelport has debuted the latest product feature release for its next-generation travel retailing platform, Travelport+. The new self-servicing suite and automation tools, now available on Travelport+, help travelers, and the travel retailers that support them, to create an efficient, online shopping and servicing experience for travelers. Travelport has also recently expanded the availability of NDC content and NDC servicing capabilities for several of its airline partners.
    “This next phase of our Travelport+ evolution is all about making our next-generation travel marketplace work and feel more like the Internet, with more self-service and automation, so that our customers can activate their own modern digital retailing experiences,” said Jen Catto, Chief Marketing Officer at Travelport. “With so many customers upgrading to Travelport+, we’ve remained agile and focused on providing agents the ability to automate a task quickly and easily, so that agents get more time back in their day to serve and support their travelers. We’re also expanding on NDC capabilities with our partners, to go above and beyond the ability to just book NDC content by really improving how flights are shopped, sold, and serviced, with new add-ons, paid seats and bag opportunities.”
    Better Workflow Automation for Agents
    Travelport’s new self-service tool, Productivity Automator, is designed to help agents work more productively by reducing the amount of manual back-end tasks and calls to suppliers. ​The automation capabilities available with Productivity Automator through Travelport+ ultimately give agents more time to focus on advising their travelers and increased upsell opportunities for suppliers. Travelport+ customers using Productivity Automator have seen they can potentially generate a 14% time ​savings across their ​entire team every day.
    Lisa Henning, Managing Director at Inspire commented: “Productivity Automator has not only eliminated repetitive tasks by streamlining workflows, but it has also helped us to reduce the cost of trip servicing significantly, due to our improved efficiency.”ADVERTISEMENTGreater Self-Service Support for Developers and Agents
    The latest Travelport+ product release also introduces modernized self-service tools for agency customers and developers, including Travelport’s completely redesigned MyTravelport developer portal. The updated portal was designed with modern travel retailers in mind and now offers virtual agent support, a smarter knowledge base search, and an online community.​ These customer service and support updates both speed up and simplify the Travelport+ digital support journey for developers and agencies using Travelport.
    Expanded Content and More Choice for All
    Travelport has continued to evolve its content offering to help agency customers offer more choices with Travelport+, with new add-ons which include paid seats and baggage opportunities with more than 14 new airlines. ​The company has signed NDC deals with 19 airlines worldwide and is continually rolling out more NDC content, making it accessible to Travelport customers in each region. American Airlines NDC content is now available to Travelport+ customers in North America, and Travelport anticipates that NDC content from three additional airlines will go live in NORAM this quarter.
    “New Distribution Capability is a key component to transforming travel retailing,” said Neil Geurin, Managing Director of Digital and Distribution for American Airlines. “Travelport is making significant progress with NDC by providing travel agents with access to better, more relevant offers, which is invaluable to American and our customers.”
    Travelport customers also have fast, easy access to even more robust, enriched content with over 318 branded fare airlines now live in Travelport+, following the addition of 12 new airlines that recently joined Travelport rich content and branding.
    The self-service tools and automation functionalities in this latest Travelport+ release compliment agents’ ability to sell more, by freeing up their time, while also providing them an expanded menu of content.

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    AR set to transform the travel and tourism industry

    Companies in the tourism sector are investing in emerging technologies such as augmented reality (AR) to improve traveller experience after the industry was severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical tensions, says GlobalData. The leading data and analytics company notes that AR is set to bring the tourism industry closer to the metaverse, which could provide a venue for people to meet, plan trips together, and learn about different historic sites in a virtual environment before they travel.
    According to GlobalData’s latest report, ‘Augmented Reality in Travel & Tourism (2022)’, the industry is using AR to adapt to challenges such as last-minute cancellations by improving the booking experience. Guests looking to book hotel stays can visualise hotel rooms before they travel using AR, making it easier to pick the most suitable rooms, reducing cancellation frequency.
    Rachel Foster Jones, Analyst for the Thematic Research team at GlobalData, comments: “As well as improving the booking experience, AR can also enhance the travel experience for tourists, from translating signs and menus to guiding tourists through popular attractions. The technology will play an exciting role in the industry as it is facilitating a stress-reduced and more informative journey, which is important for hesitant travellers who have faced various imposed travel restrictions.”
    GlobalData estimates that the AR market will reach $152 billion by 2030, up from $7 billion in 2020. The number of jobs related to this theme in the travel and tourism industry has also increased, rising from 106 active jobs in November 2021 to 161 in February 2022. The US has the highest percentage of AR and VR roles, with over half (54%) of the number of positions tracked by GlobalData based in this country.
    The Walt Disney Company recently outlined plans to prepare for the metaverse and as a result of this, was the most active in job posting for AR. Disney has also been granted a patent to create a real-world theme park ride where users could experience a 3D virtual world without requiring wearable hardware. It will achieve this using a simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) technique to map the visitor’s surroundings as they move through the real world while creating 3D imagery.ADVERTISEMENTJones adds: “By creating a highly immersive simulated world, Disney is one step closer to creating its take on the metaverse by bringing the virtual world with AR capabilities to real-world sites. Disney’s new patent indicates that it wants to stay ahead and compete with other theme parks such as Mario Karts: Koopa’s Challenge ride, which already uses AR but without the clunky headsets usually associated with it.
    “Disney has seen where it fits when it comes to the metaverse and through this patent, it has the ability to take its storytelling capabilities to the next level. A highly immersive but personalised experience for individual guests will be created as they move through the park. Projections of Disney characters will appear which can interact with guests without requiring guests to wear headsets, creating a more realistic experience than Disney’s current approach of hiring actors.”

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    DIFC launches global venture studio launchpad in technology drive

    The Gate building at the Dubai International Financial Centre
    Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the leading global financial centre in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, has launched the world’s first venture studio platform to focus exclusively on ubiquitous finance and digital asset technologies.
    The initiative is a key part of DIFC’s efforts to achieve the goals of its 2030 strategy by attracting the best minds and companies from around the world to Dubai by providing them with all the necessary support to develop, test, and launch new start-ups, scale-ups and corporate ventures on an unprecedented scale, time to market and quality.
    To power this vision, DIFC is launching a dedicated unit called the Studio Launchpad, which is supported by an international group of venture building experts, digital asset pioneers, and emerging technology strategists.
    Studio Launchpad is designed to attract and engage a consortium of leading start-ups and corporate venture studios.
    The effort builds upon DIFC’s unique ecosystem to enable collaboration and co-creation between venture studios, corporations, entrepreneurs, investors, and academic partners from around the world.ADVERTISEMENTWith this initiative, Dubai will become the leading hub for venture building in MEASA and join cities like San Francisco, New York, Berlin and Paris.
    Over the next five years, over 20 studios will set up in the DIFC and are expected to launch over 200 new ventures of which over 100 will be scale-ups and 10 will gain unicorn status. Together, they will create over 8,000 innovation jobs in Dubai and attract over Dh. 2 billion in venture capital.
    Essa Kazim, Governor of DIFC said: “DIFC is already home to the largest financial and FinTech ecosystems in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. Launching the first global Venture Studio Launchpad is a core pillar of our vision to put DIFC at the center of the digital transformation of the financial sector in the UAE and globally, reflecting the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.”
    “We see great potential to leverage the venture studio model to accelerate creation of scale-ups and unicorns from Dubai that will contribute over-proportionally to new job creation and economic development. DIFC is building an ecosystem from the ground-up that will support studios and founders with everything they need to be successful and reimagine virtually every aspect of the financial services value chain to help realise Dubai’s ambitions for the digital era,” he said.Venture studios
    Venture studios are innovative organizations that proactively build and invest in start-ups and help them actively achieve success with their own internal capabilities. There are over 730 active venture studios around the world. Over 50 per cent of them launched in the past five years. The rate of growth among corporate venture studios is even higher.
    New ventures that launch from studios experience 30 per cent higher company success rates and about 5 per cent make it to unicorn status, according to research published by the Global Startup Studio Network.
    Part of the Launchpad offering will be a first-of-its-kind Research Living Lab which will drive thought leadership and hands-on research in this fast-evolving space with the aim to open new opportunities and produce data and insights that can inform how to shape existing and future business models, laws, and regulations.
    DIFC has broken ground on a new 150,000+ sq. ft. purpose-built facility that will house the Studio Launchpad team who will work alongside corporate sponsors, investors, and the new ventures they co-create. Every aspect of the design encourages the kind of spontaneous interactions that build community, create partnerships, and drive innovation.

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    Abu Dhabi DCT creates unique NFT

    Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) has become one of the first UAE government entities to create its own Non-Fungible Token (NFT).
    During a series of innovative workshops, more than 220 employees collaborated to create the unique NFT digital art, which aimed to reflect DCT Abu Dhabi’s corporate values of being welcoming, pioneering, agile, and collaborative.
    Jasim Al Hebsi, Acting Director of the People and Performance Department at DCT Abu Dhabi, said: “In creating our NFT collage, we have proven that the spirit of innovation is thriving within our organisation. At DCT Abu Dhabi, our vision is to cultivate knowledge and understanding for our cultural heritage, while also initiating creativity to embrace the future of technology. So, as well as highlighting our corporate values and encouraging teamwork, this project has enabled us to gain a firm understanding of how art and culture are evolving in the digital age.”
    NFTs are digital assets that represent real-world objects, such as artwork, music, video game, or film clip. The created arts can be purchased or sold online using cryptocurrencies only, and are often encoded and stored on the same cryptocurrency blockchain software.
    The two-day workshop event consisted of eight sessions where 20 teams worked on creating their designs using a photo library containing more than 1,000 images. The unique designs were fused to create a collage which was later transferred into DCT Abu Dhabi’s exclusive NFT.  ADVERTISEMENTSince DCT Abu Dhabi’s NFT workshop, other UAE government entities have shown interest in recreating the sessions to make their own unique digital assets.
    NFTs were first invented in 2014, but they have recently gained recognition as an increasingly popular means to buy and sell digital art. In 2021, NFT sales volumes were estimated at US $24.9 billion, compared to US $94.9 million the year before.
    Abu Dhabi was crowned World’s Leading Sports Destination and World’s Leading Business Travel Destination at World Travel Awards 2021.

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    Travel companies tackling energy price hike dilemma

    Holiday surcharges are a real possibility in the travel and tourism industry as companies grapple with the rising energy prices. Segments such as lodging, transportation and tourist attraction etc., will certainly be impacted. Therefore, travel and tourism businesses will be in dilemma whether to pass these additional costs on to the consumers or absorb the charges themselves, observes GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
    Unfortunately, this has come at what was expected to be a pivotal year in the travel and tourism industry. Traveler confidence is returning, but low-cost travel options remain highly sought after, especially after the economic hardship due to the pandemic. According to a GlobalData Q3 2021 Global Consumer Survey, *58% of respondents said that ‘cost’ was the most influential reason to purchase a holiday, making it the leading motivator for travel consumption.
    Craig Bradley, Associate Travel & Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “As energy and fuel prices have soared, transportation companies such as airlines and rail companies are facing higher overhead costs in 2022 than in previous years. Companies that choose to absorb these charges could struggle to turn a reasonable profit, forcing many to pass these charges on to travelers.
    “Lodging, and other hospitality services face a similar dilemma. Energy and fuel costs impact entire supply chains, so the cost of imported goods such as food and beverage will increase. These companies have already been under significant strain during the pandemic, with hotels reporting low room occupancy levels or closing down indefinitely due to COVID-19 restrictions.”
    Rising operational costs could also be problematic for pre-booked holidays in 2022 and 2023 through travel intermediaries. Some companies may be forced into levying a surcharge to existing reservations to cover rising costs. In that case, travel agencies and tour operators have a predicament whether to pass the charge on to paying customers or not. This could force the customers to cancel itineraries altogether either due to lack of affordability or service dissatisfaction.ADVERTISEMENTBradley concludes: “Additional surcharges present travel and tourism businesses with a highly challenging situation. Adding extra costs or taxes could damage the customer relationships. As a result, companies may look at alternative measures to cut costs by stripping back services or streamlining operational processes which could potentially impact customer service but allow them to navigate through this unfolding situation.”
    *Data taken from GlobalData Q3 2021 Global Consumer Survey – 22,499 respondents

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    Caribbean Tourism Organisation to launch online training campus

    The Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) has reached agreement with the Canada-based e-learning courseware development company, Velsoft, to further advance its virtual training and development programme.
    As part of the agreement, Velsoft will host the Caribbean Tourism Institute, an online campus developed by the Canadian firm.
    The new portal is an open online educational, training and development learning centre designed to provide affordable access to training opportunities for everyone who works, or aspires to work, in the Caribbean tourism and hospitality sector.
    “Velsoft has been working closely with us to help us realise one of our key human resources development objectives of increasing the access of Caribbean nationals to high quality training and educational opportunities,” said Neil Walters, CTO acting secretary general.
    “This partnership has allowed us to develop and offer this virtual training hub and will continue to help us in our mission to develop and design relevant e-learning content, which will benefit our tourism and hospitality sector.”ADVERTISEMENTFrom its inception, the CTO has been a strong proponent of human resources development in the tourism industry and has as one of its strategic objectives, to assist its member countries in developing and strengthening their human capital to better enable them to offer high levels of professional service.
    The launch of the online training platform and courses is an important step in achieving this objective and to support ongoing training and build regional and institutional capacity.

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    FCM signs partnership to enter Japan

    FCM is growing its presence across Asia through a joint venture with NSF Engagement in Japan.
    The investment will enhance the presence of the travel management company in Asia to support existing customers in the region while boosting its global footprint.
    A robust business travel market, a strong increase in demand from customers across Asia and an opportunity to provide a differentiated service offering were among the decisive factors for FCM to expand its operations in Japan.
    Feedback from FCM customers across all markets revealed a lack of adequate end-to-end business travel solutions in Japan that can deliver consistently and is simple to use at the same time.
    Additionally, Japan’s excellent digital infrastructure provides a strong foundation for FCM to integrate the new technology that the leading travel management company has been developing into the market. ADVERTISEMENTIn the coming months, the full suite of FCM products and services will be introduced into Japan to support consistency and improved customer experience.
    This includes FCM’s proprietary FCM Platform which had its debut launch in China last month.
    Bertrand Saillet, managing director of FCM Travel Asia, said: “Choosing to expand FCM’s presence in Asia at this critical time speaks volume of the tremendous potential Japan has towards FCM’s global strategy.
    “As the world’s fourth largest business travel market, Japan will undoubtedly provide exciting growth opportunities for FCM in the region.
    “FCM and NSF Engagement both recognised that the Japanese travel market is ripe for disruption and our partnership presents an alternative for clients who are currently being underserved.
    “NSF Engagement’s deep local knowledge complemented by FCM’s evolving technology and global expertise will allow us to provide global coverage for existing and new Japanese clients.
    “We are thrilled to work with a partner who shares our vision to continue our expansion in Asia.”

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    UNWTO partners with Google to drive tourism recovery

    The United Nation World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and Google have signed a new agreement to work together and lead global recovery of tourism through innovation, education and market intelligence.
    The new memorandum of understanding builds on past cooperation between the UN agency for tourism and Google.
    Notably, the pair will host trainings for destination management organisations, using a new capacity building curriculum developed by Google.
    These sessions will empower destinations to switch to digital, with the training adapted to reflect their specific circumstances and the unique challenges every destination currently faces.
    The new curriculum will also complement existing joint initiatives, and a data sharing agreement for Google’s Travel Insights to power a portion of the UNWTO’s tourism recovery tracker.ADVERTISEMENTAlongside this, the Tourism Accelerator Program, designed by Google in partnership with UNWTO, will also be scaled up globally.
    A pilot program launched across Europe, Middle East and Africa in 2020 showed the value of working with policymakers to put digital at the heart of their tourism recovery plans and the benefits of upskilling destination management companies so they can make effective use of data and market intelligence.
    The partnership will go beyond empowering destinations and businesses during the immediate recovery phase.
    Under the agreement, Google will provide ongoing support for a number of UNWTO’s leading initiatives, including Start-up Competitions designed to promote and support innovation across the sector.
    UNWTO secretary general, Zurab Pololikashvili, said: “The strong partnership between UNWTO and Google will help put innovation and digital at the centre of tourism’s recovery.
    “By working together, UNWTO and Google will empower destinations, businesses and tourism workers to realise the power of data and market intelligence, both increasingly important as global tourism looks to restart and recover.”
    Looking ahead, UNWTO and Google will also collaborate on joint research projects related to tourism.
    The results will further establish both parties as thought leaders and provide governments, destinations and businesses with the trusted data and insights they need to guide tourism towards recovery.
    Google managing director for travel partnerships, Gianni Marostica, said: “We’re honoured to be working alongside UNWTO in this vital effort to support the global tourism sector on its path toward broader economic recovery.
    “It’s critical that both policymakers and businesses have the tools and insights they need to reconnect with travellers in a digital environment.”

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