Dear friends and partners,

It is cold outside here in Northern Europe and much uncertainty remains. It is easy to see challenges everywhere. But at the start of this year we also see many reasons to be optimistic and we wanted to share some of those with you. With this, we want to wish you a Happy New Year.

Improving pandemic situation

This period has been tough on many people and businesses. But we continue to be amazed by the progress of healthcare and how vaccines have been developed to fight the pandemic. In many countries we have seen that medical and health care workers receive some of the recognition that they are due for keeping us well.

As a company, we are pro-data and therefore pro-vaccine and believe they are the best way to get us through this crisis. They may not be perfect, but we already have achieved so much through vaccinations. Diseases like smallpox are wiped out in the natural world entirely because of vaccines. And the development of vaccines has been enormously enhanced in the last two years. They are a success and will surely be the main reason for the Covid-19 threat to disappear .

We strongly believe that travel will get back on its feet when a high enough proportion of the world’s population is vaccinated.

New ways of thinking are proving themselves out

As we have entered new markets, such as airlines and retailing, we have seen that both we and our clients benefit from new ways of thinking. Too often customers are understood as averages and products or services are seen as undifferentiated. But with intelligent technology we can serve clients as individuals with differentiated products and services in much higher detail and relevancy for everyone.

Higher aspirations are exciting

Why would we think that, for example, flights or hotels are commodities when in our own life we are disappointed if we have to book certain airlines or if a product doesn’t live up to our expectations? As we set higher expectations we can hugely improve the way we approach digital channels.

What is the ideal individual experience that someone is after in interacting with your brand and what is the best way to deliver that? Of course this is too much for any one of us to master manually, but it is the whole point of leveraging AI and machine learning. We have seen how this can work as today we orchestrate experiences instead of trying to force people through a funnel to make them buy a certain product. We do not have to settle for the average any more.

It’s all about the data, really

More than ever the last two years we have understood that while travel selling is aspirational, inspirational and conversational, the sales part is crucially about mastering data. The ones who realised that are looking for the very best data management tools. As a result, there is a new divide in many organisations between the “counting” data that is kept in DMPs and the content data (in CMS), the loyalty data (in CRM) and the audience data (in CDPs).

But data management is more than processing numbers, images, descriptions, reviews, preferences and products. It is rather about understanding your real-time behavioural user data and putting this into relation with all your products and services in order to implement intelligent automation.

Bringing a human touch into ecommerce, at scale

So what is “intelligent” today? We believe that personal conversations, that deliver valuable information and relevant opportunities to each individual, are the way to measure “intelligence”. The more personal a message is, the better its timing and comprehensibility – the higher is the engagement level.

Our vision is to create human touch ecommerce that takes account of all aspects of data and manifests digital empathy to help find the best holiday, flight or achieve whatever mission someone intends to accomplish. Once you realise this, the concept of creating an ideal experience to help a client achieve their goals becomes much richer, more challenging and more exciting.

It is simply too hard to devise rules to manage this. AI is the key to understanding customers at scale and orchestrating their experiences. While not simple, we now do this in earnest with clients, moving forward from simple concepts like personalised recommendations to orchestrating entire shopping experiences.

There is extraordinary goodwill in our industry

Across the industry there is so much goodwill. We have been delighted to partner with companies, talk with potential partners and even with putative competitors. We are all rooting for each other to survive and thrive.

Some of our highlights last year were in person events. Winning the best technology project category at the Travolution Awards together with easyJet holidays marked a fantastic night.

We loved having some in person meetings again – but at the same time we have been fortunate to make some great relationships over video this last year. Still, it feels like a celebration when you can meet someone in person to share a joint experience.

Sustainability will be a lasting necessity

While we have learned to manage our businesses with fewer face to face meetings, how do we truly balance the needs of people depending on tourism for a living, the need to cut down on emissions and the necessity that local communities benefit from travel rather than being ravaged?

We do not have answers on many things yet, but we see a high agreement in the industry – and the willingness to find solutions. We at bd4travel are working hard to see how our tools can help make this better.

So while it is still short days in Northern Europe, while the future is uncertain and there are so many challenging stories, we are both optimistic about the future and excited to work with you, our clients and partners to create some encouragingly successful stories this year.

We wish you and your families a wonderful start to the New Year – with good health and some excitement for what will come in the future.

Andy Owen-Jones & the entire team of bd4travel

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