2012 Advisory Forum

What a great conference!

Happily, I heard that many times in the last few weeks, and it was music to our ears. Putting on a conference like our annual Advisory Forum – programming, venue management and the million little details that come with it – takes a tremendous amount of time and energy. It was very much a joint effort between OpenTravel’s staff, board and member leadership, all of whom worked tirelessly to pull the event off.
But events are nothing without the engaged and active participation of its attendees, and we had a lot of engagement! The constant chatter during meals, breaks and receptions was loud (sometimes raucous) and if occasionally the audience hijacked the onstage discussion, no one seemed to mind. The point of the Advisory Forum is to advise, after all, and everyone had an opinion on the direction of OpenTravel.
Thanks to member VFMLeonardo, we had a photographer on-site to document all those conversations.
One of the biggest discussion points at the event was OpenTravel’s pending message structure shift to XML objects (we call this our OpenTravel 2.0 initiative). We held a Lab on Tuesday morning devoted to this topic and had an unexpectedly high turnout out for this pre-conference meeting, indicating the keen interest (and some angst) in the pending change.
Modernizing our message structure is critical for us to stay relevant and useful to the industry, but with thousands of implementations of our schema in travel companies around the world, we are well aware of our responsibility to clearly and forthrightly communicate our intent and its impact on the industry. We are nothing without the support of the travel industry, so we are working very hard indeed to ensure our motives and decisions are transparent and inclusive.
For more information about this initiative, check out the following resources:
Another hot topic at the event was semantic technologies. Dr. Deborah McGuinness from Renassaeler Polytechnic Institute presented a great overview of her work and how she envisions the application of semantic technologies could benefit travel companies and travelers. She gave an excellent case study from the wine industry of a mobile context-aware semantic wine advisor! Following her keynote, she participated in a panel discussion with Avis Budget, Amtrak and Thematix on a discussion of the practicalities and challenges of incorporating semantic technologies in the existing travel technology environment.
Every year, we give out two awards.  The first is a member-nominated award called "Setting the Standard" for the member(s) who have truly set the standard in their impact on the development and enhancement of the OpenTravel specification.  For the first time, we gave this award to every active participant of the OpenTravel 2.0 project team.  Forty individuals from 19 companies contributed time and intellect to help guide OpenTravel as we shift to an XML object-based schema.  Truly, we couldn't have done it without this great group of people.  Thanks, all!
The second award is the Tom Grubbs award, named for a founding father who wan an instrumental participant in OpenTravel.  This award is bestowed by the OpenTravel board of directors on an individual who has shown a dedication to OpenTravel through vision and innovation.  This year's very qualified winner was Bonnie Lowell, OpenTravel's Specification Architect.  Thanks for all your hard work, Bonnie!
So back to the practicalities and challenges of incorporating semantic technologies in the existing travel technology environment. Not an easy thing, but consumers are demanding it, as discussed in a presentation from Datalex on airline retailing, and from Expedia on how to better exchange more data to provide a better user experience online and ultimately a better guest experience when checking into a hotel. Then we took a turn toward the technical for a spirited discussion about the REST (REpresentational State Transfer) architecture style, featuring a panel of experts from Marriott, Homeaway, Sabre, HP and Amtrak.
In addition to traditional speeches and presentations, we always set up some truly interactive sessions, like our Ideas Market, where attendees were free to roam the room and participate in facilitated discussions, offering advice, opinions and comments to the OpenTravel team. And like the New Projects session, where we set up round tables for different proposed work. These sessions always get the creative and technical juices flowing, and provide a lot of great feedback to OpenTravel. This year, the ideas discussed were how to migrate from OpenTravel 1.0 schema to OpenTravel 2.0, if the XML payload message exchange patterns OpenTravel will move to will work for the travel industry, and finally how OpenTravel can better engage the business/commercial community.  Discussion ranged far and wide, and by the time the discussions were over, everyone was ready for a cocktail by the pool!
We ended this year’s conference with a session led by Gene Quinn of Tnooz, covering the biggest challenges and opportunities facing travel distribution today. Experts from SilverRail, Rezgo, Datalex, Avis Budget and Expedia chimed in with their perspectives on the industry, where it is now and what’s coming.  The panel covered topics like mobile, the availability of cash in the travel market to fund innovation, the impact of "big data," personalization, social media and privacy, and lots of other topics.  The audience had their say too, and it was a great way to end the conference. Then everyone went to a very nice buffet lunch in a beautiful room overlooking the ocean. We love Miami!
Thanks to everyone who showed up this year, and keep an eye on your inbox – we’ll announce the remaining OpenTravel events for 2012 and the next Advisory Forum in the coming months.
Thanks to our sponsors for 2012!
 OpenTravel Team

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