The fourth WIT-Web In Travel not only set a new record in attendance but blazed the trail with deep speaker insights and significant participation from two leading Japanese online players, and garnered rave customer reviews.
The event, held in partnership with ITB Asia and in association with PhoCusWright Inc, had its biggest ever attendance in 2008, with over 370 delegates, including 67 speakers.
Speakers such as Azran Osman-Rani, chief executive officer of AirAsiaX, Karthik Siva, chairman of the Global Brand Forum, Jim Donnelly, co-founder of IgoUgo and the Pursuit Group, and Martin Symes, chief executive officer of Wego, inspired, enrapt and amused.
"Having WIT partnered with PhoCusWright and positioned alongside ITB Asia this year really worked for us this year," said Yeoh Siew Hoon, WIT's conference producer. "It gave us depth in content and reach in networking. I am thrilled that attendance was up a third from the previous year."
Mainstream web brands Google and Yahoo! were also represented at WIT. People took inspiration from Yahoo! South-east Asia's head of marketing, Bennett Porter, when she said that consumers in South-east Asia were spending twice the time online that they were two years ago. According to Yahoo!'s research, there are 82 million internet users in South-east Asia, with numbers expected to reach 130 million by 2012.
With WIT's focus on what technology will be used to sell travel in the future, the hottest topics across the conference were the issues of search engine marketing, and new applications such as mobile phones, videos and mapping.
Bennett reported that from their research, 43% of young Asians access the web via their mobile phones. She said that the region's 255 million current mobile phone subscriptions and that a mobile-friendly website interface was essential as "the first time many Asian consumers log in will be on their phones."
Nokia's Director of Mobile Software Sales & Marketing, Mahmood Kalantar said that mobile had brought context to Internet services and would open up a whole new world of travel user experiences on the Web.
The second day of WIT generated a lot of buzz about markets, in particular, the three big dynamos of Asia - Japan, China and India.
Two leading online players from Japan, Masabumi Mori, CEO of Ikyu.com and Suguru Tomizuka, President of Recruit Travel Information, shared new insights which showed how advanced the Japanese market was in both online travel buying and mobile phone bookings.
For Ram Badrinathan, Senior Director-Research of PhoCusWright Inc, this was the highlight of WIT. "For the first time in the history of the Asian online travel market, the industry got insights from two Japanese speakers who opened up the minds of everybody who always thought Japan was a difficult market to understand."
Rita Goh, Business Development Director - Asia, Wotif.com, agreed, "The presentation by Recruit Travel Information Company and Ikyu Corp of Japan were very interesting and, despite being done through an interpreter, were engaging, refreshing and gave a rare insight into the Japan market - what makes it tick and how you can work it."
In China, the country's leading online travel player, Ctrip continues to grow in strength. Now commanding up to 54% of the market, Alfred Chang, Director, International Business Development, Ctrip.com International said the site now had per-monthly transactions of one million room nights, one million air reservations and 30,000 passenger trips in packages.
People who attend WIT tend to become faithful followers and there's something in it for everyone.
Bernadette Dennis of BD Concepts stated that she attended WIT for the fourth time because "I love the debates, plus you get feedback on what really works. I also liked that the speakers are put on the spot to say what actually went wrong".
T2 Impact's Timothy O'Neil-Dunne also a fourth-time attendee said, "WIT is more raw and honest than other conferences I have attended. You get the real story both from the speakers and the attendees. There is a great balance and you leave feeling like you have just eaten an Asian feast."
First-time delegate and speaker, Gordon Locke, Vice President, Airline Marketing and Strategy, Sabre Airline Solutions/Sabre Travel Network commented that, "It's been very experiential for me.
"The format of the conference is very unique. I believe that the audience moves together through stories and themes and you don't lose people to shopping and other activities. What I like about WIT is that it is atypical of travel industry events and it felt like everyone had a voice without feeling awkward or too formal."