Written by Jill Bennett-Howes
A few weeks ago I consciously unplugged from the matrix to join this year’s e-Tourism Summit. It felt great to be unplugged. I actually watched the air hostess mechanically deliver her flight-crash-pitch – which reminded me to quickly sneak in a 5 minute Google to confirm if there would be any life-threatening effects from my kids playing too much Minecraft.
As the wheels picked up, I listened to the guy in front of me tell his across-the-aisle colleague how he planned to single-handedly change the insurance industry, I wondered if he dyed his hair – as I set a reminder to chase my insurance broker for an update on my policies. I heard the crying 6 month-old three rows ahead of me and, as the air filled with the unmistakable smell of a mother’s worst in-flight nightmare, I thought back on my kids and scrolled through my photo gallery.
I was welcomed in Cape Town by her customary light showers and as I enjoyed the friendly banter from my Rwandan taxi driver, I tweeted a photo of table mountain in all it’s glory. In the hotel I readied myself for a long night of presentation-prep. I popped a quick Skype to the office – just to let them know that I was still alive. They told me they’d seen my check-in status on Facebook. Facebook – did they say Facebook? Gosh I had almost forgotten – with three hours of no social contact it felt like a past life. I quickly checked recent friend threads, liked the obligatory posts, and of course I could not ignore my Instagram fan base so I uploaded a shot of the Cape Town ocean front.
As I reached for my laptop and juggled power cables to charge my iPhone, iPad and Mac, it dawned on me that I was delusional to think I could or would unplug. Staring at the cable-maze I realised – I am a child of the technology age. Whether I have 3G, Edge, WiFi or flight-mode – I’m connected. I’m a millennial. I love living in technology nirvana.
With that epiphany I walked enthusiastically into the e-Tourism summit, wanting to learn about the innovation around me and make sure I was plugged into the latest and greatest technology. The summit did not disappoint. As Damian Cook kicked off the event I felt some sort of energy take over. I had to hold myself down when the music started pumping and the dancers started moving. When he said: “please tweet and Facebook throughout the conference”, I felt like I had just been told school was out. I took off my heels, immersed myself in the presentations and I walked away with some great technology trends, social media tips and the intense pleasure of feeling alive. Alive and plugged in.
For those of you who were unable to attend (and you have got to make a plan to change that next year!) e-Tourism published copies of presentations and recorded highlights. I have included some of my personal favourites below along with some study material I enjoyed as I trawled the internet for ideas to apply to our business.