It's been a little over a week since Future Travel Experience 2023 took place in Ireland at RDS Dublin and we are still energised by the inspiring atmosphere, diverse viewpoints and sheer creativity exhibited by all in attendance.

It's no surprise seeing as there were over 650 representatives from 55 countries, who each brought their own expertise, experience and unique viewpoints on how best to serve 'Tomorrow's Customer'. Our team, comprising of John Moriarty (CEO), Guido Verweij (MD), Niel Koekemoer (Head of Technology) and Jody Stewart (Business Development) set themselves the challenge of meeting as many potential collaborators, customers and existing clients as possible, as well as taking in the multitude of diverse speeches and sessions that the event had lined up.

The event was attended by some of the biggest players in the travel, tourism and hospitality space; with sessions being led by Alaska Airlines, Emirates and Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss to name a few. Not to be outdone, two members of our own team took to the stage to showcase their expertise and reveal some new and exciting projects that are taking shape.

On day one - Niel Koekemoer, our head of technology, took part in the 'Startup Pitch Session' in the Open Category at the FTE Digital, Innovation & Startup Hub event, which took part at the Stripe Headquarters in Dublin. He took the opportunity to introduce his Splott platform concept which aims to improve customer flow, engagement and experience in the airport space through gamification and integration with on-airport ancillaries providers. His concept perfectly marries the application of innovative technologies with a full understanding of, and appreciation for, the lived experience of all travellers.

It was then John Moriarty, our CEO, who stepped up to the podium on day two to deliver the scene-setting presentation 'Rediscover your passenger through the lens of social data insight' at the Lounge Innovation Forum. He was joined onstage by Dr Joe Leader (CEO APEX & IFSA), Guclu Batkin, (CEO TAV Operations Services) and Neil Tolefree (Head of Network Development EMEA, Airport Dimensions, Collinson Group). Where, not only did they discuss how the premium lounge experience will evolve to meet tomorrow's customer expectations, but to unveil the Beyond Report focused on Airport Lounges.

John delivered an overview of how our team of data scientists and researchers are using a combination of natural speech analysis of social data and traditional research methodologies to create a unique viewpoint of the customer experience. He explained how, through this innovative technique, our clients can harness the value of truly listening to their customers. Our reports allow our clients to identify areas of their business which may need improvement, as well as track the performance of global initiatives to ascertain their success much faster than traditional KPIs or customer satisfaction metrics.

Our reporting methodology identifies four key themes that drive customer engagement - Essentials, Food & Beverage, Comfort, and Amenities - all being underpinned by 13 pillars which range from Ambience to Wi-Fi. John rounded out his presentation by reminding the panel, and audience, that though we are a tech company, and innovation, digitalisation and automation are hugely important, we must always ensure we are keeping the attentiveness and care that only humans can bring to a customer's experience.

Outside of the panels and sessions, our team were also on the lookout for the next big trends in avionics, insights and airport services. The team were lucky enough to get time with a diverse group of delegates, and some key themes began to emerge.

Until now, airports have often been seen as conduits which allow third parties, i.e. the airlines, retailers and brands, to drive their own revenues and expand their own brands with airports often serving as landlords or premises managers. The airports of the near future is one looking to build their own identity, establish their own values and create differentiated experiences which draw customers in their own right. In short, making the airport the destination.

Within the airport and lounge spaces we are also seeing a desire to become 'one of a kind' - creating unique features which an airport or lounge can lay claim to as 'best in class' or 'world's first'. Such initiatives we discussed with teams at FTE were self-driving transfer buggies, personalised or targeted ancillaries messaging, platforms which are enabling car parking aggregation across multiple sites, and on-airport concierge services to improve customer journeys.

It is clear from a very busy few days in Dublin that the appetite for innovation isn't dying down and every step of the customer journey is being explored as an opportunity to grow, improve and ultimately impress the customer of tomorrow.

Want to find out more about how we are building products and services to future-proof airports, lounges and airlines? Get in touch now.