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Looking forward to digital: we preview Digital Travel Summit APAC with John Sinke, conference chairman

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The third edition of Digital Travel Summit APAC, being held at Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore, is set to be bigger than ever with 400 heads of ecommerce and digital confirmed to be attending. With the event now just a month away (17 -19 April), I caught up with John Sinke, chairman of the conference to learn more about the event:

Tell me a little bit about your background and your involvement in Digital Travel Summit?

I’ve been working in the industry for many years.  I was the London marketing director at Easycar.com and then lastminute.com before I joined Resorts World Sentosa as AVP digital marketing & ecommerce. I left last year to join Hong Kong Disney where I’m now based, working as the marketing director.

In this role, I regularly work in digital, social media and CRM and through these connections I was chosen as event chairman. The inaugural Digital Travel Summit APAC, two years ago, was held at a competitor venue but the event outgrew the space. The organisers got in touch and I ‘invited them to my place’ and so the event moved to Resorts World Sentosa.

For that event, I helped behind scenes and with the logistics and ran some of the board room sessions. I developed a relationship with the sponsor and they later invited me to become chairman.

What are you looking forward to for the 2018 edition of Digital Travel Summit APAC?

Last year’s event

I always look forward to hearing about China, because of where I’m based. When I was based in Singapore I saw their influence, and now I’m in Hong Kong I see it even stronger. The Chinese outbound market is 130 million people per year – and this is for a country of which only 5% of the population have passports! This volume of this desire to travel outbound is simply mindblowing.

With the advent of social media and smart phones, I hope and expect to hear a lot about China – particularly from, for example, Jane Jie Sun of Ctrip.com, one of the keynote speakers. They are producing some amazing technological transformation, particularly with AI (artificial intelligence). The idea that we can give consumers what they want, before they know it themselves, is very much becoming a reality.

Ctrip have been at the forefront of big data for a while, especially for customers in the research and booking phases of travel and even during travel. For example, in the case of a terrorist attack, the company can pinpoint every CTrip passenger in the world in realtime.

“The Galapagos Islands of technology”

From personalisation to research to sharing, the Chinese seem to not worry much about privacy – everyone puts their entire life on WeChat! – so this offers opportunities to provide great recommendations to potential customers.

In the western world we tend to have separate apps for messaging, payments, etc. In China, these mega-apps take care of everything from payment to hospital bookings: Baidu, TenCent, Alibaba; all these companies exist independently of so many others in the app space.

It’s like the Galapagos Islands of technology, all living behind ‘the great Chinese firewall’! I’m fascinated to see what the event holds in store.

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