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Takeaways from January Conferences in London: Insights from Travel Experts at Skift, SmartFlyer, and More!

It was a busy January for travel industry peeps in London! We share top takeaways from three conferences held in the UK capital.

london travel conferences skift smart flyer

Skift Megatrends London

Skift's predictions conference happened in New York and London earlier this month, we hit the London event.


  • Lonely planet for Gen Z –– young people in particular have come out of the pandemic really lonely and with social anxiety. While travel is a great way to connect with others IRL, young people in particular are struggling, making travel more challenging. Adam Armstrong CEO of Contiki, which specialises in group trips for people aged 18 - 35 shared interesting insights:

    • Social struggles. Contiki tour leaders are now spending the majority of their time dealing with 'pastoral care' (aka getting kids comfortable) versus trip logistics, which was how they used to spend their time. This has required new, different training programs for tour leaders.

    • Group lag. Taking longer to adjust. It used to be a day before travellers made friends and got into the group dynamic, now it takes 2 - 3 days.

    • Booze bust. Contiki used to be known for the alcohol-fuelled parties, now 78% of their clients would take a sober holiday.  

  • Livestream travel sales!?! Andy Washington, General Manager, EMEA of shared that China-based co-founder and executive chairman James Liang regularly hosts livestreams which garner millions of viewers. The company's "BOSS Live Travel On" campaigns, which features deals and brings "travel content to life," can earn $50 million in sales in an hour. 🤯   

AMAN Chief Commercial Officer Anna Nash
AMAN Chief Commercial Officer Anna Nash
  • Extreme wellness and bio-hacking Anna Nash , AMAN CCO, spoke about the inclusion of bio-hacking and "medical-style" amenities (using an IV) becoming quite normalised across the spas in the luxury hotel brand's properties.  

SmartFlyer CORE Conference

High-end travel agency, SmartFlyer, brought travel advisors from around the world to London for their seventh annual CORE conference, 160 in total with 40 from Australia. Ninety hotel partners across 64 brands, including owners and C-suite executives from brands like Four Seasons, Rosewood Hotels, Dorchester Collection, Maybourne Hotels, Peninsula, Singita, to name a few. It was the first time SmartFlyer picked an international destination.

Erina Pindar, COO and Managing Partner at SmartFlyer
Erina Pindar, COO and Managing Partner at SmartFlyer

The multi-day trip was filled with hotel inspections, partner meetings, excursions, and educational events to inspire and celebrate top performers. Key takeaways: 

  • Continuous learning is essential for high-end advisors to stay ahead of their savvy and well-traveled base. As information is becoming more ubiquitous, the role of the advisor as a curator is key. Topics included: social media, AI (see below), sustainability, a special session for mothers on work-life balance (this class was so over-subscribed they had to add an extra!), and an amazing motivational speech by two-time Olympic gold medalist, Dame Kelly Holmes!  Plus lots and lots of meetings with hoteliers to learn more about their latest offerings. As hotel partners, the smartest way to work with advisors is to keep them informed of your news and unique selling points.

  • Embrace AI as a tool and level-up your prompt skills! Impressive presentation by former hotelier, Tim Brooks, who leads the travel practice at World Wide Technologies. He demonstrated how AI can be used for research and more. Tip I loved most: create different "personas" in ChatGPT –– he sited examples of SEO expert, skeptical investor, etc. and how these "experts" save time when researching topics and build upon their own expertise based on your queries.  

  • Work-life balance better with Amy Brann, founder of Synaptic Potential, spoke about well-being research, genetics and changing behaviour. She uses the LENS system, an acronym:

    • L - loneliness (science shows is worse for your health than smoking)

    • E - exercise

    • N - nutrition

    • S - sleep

  • Sustainability and the influential role of luxury travel Journalist and sustainability expert Juliet Kinsman spoke about the essential role of luxury travel in helping money flow to local communities, the importance of questioning of suppliers, requesting data on ESG, and looking at ROE (Return on Emissions). This session got spicy 🔥 as climate change can be viewed through a lens of racial inequality. She ended with a quote from the (fictional) soccer coach, Ted Lasso, "Every choice is a chance," to make a difference for people and the planet.

A Fresh Take on Change, Adaptability, and Goal Setting From Leading Herteliers!

We hosted our own event this month, in partnership with Women in Travel Thrive and HSMAI Europe, themed around change and adaptability. Panelists Mazilli Restrepo, Director, Luxury Sales, UK, Spain and Scandinavia, Accor, Joanne Taylor-Stagg, General Manager, The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences, Neetu Mistry, Chief Commercial Officer, Cycas Hospitality, and Kalindi Juneja, CEO of PoB Hotels, spoke openly about their careers and how they have faced change.

hertelier women in travel event

Three Takeaways on Change

  • Change builds resilience. All the women shared pivotal moments in their careers or personal lives, where change made them stronger.

  • Change brings opportunity. Whether taking on a new role or moving to a new country, change is a catalyst.

  • Change helps you learn about yourself. While our natural instincts may be to go for the promotion or opportunity, once there you might realise you don't actually like it. That's OK. You learned what's important to you.

Change + Decision Making

Ambitious women often feel pressure to take on new responsibilities or opportunities, so it is important to have a decision-making framework based on your values. Each opportunity presents choice, and Kalindi shared her own filter for decision-making.

  • How will it benefit the organisation?

  • Does this offer personal development?

  • Can I add value?

  • What is my headspace right now?

  • How will this impact my travel / ability to be at home with my family?

Read the full article here.

Not sure when January became such a busy month, dare we say...bring on February?!?


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