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Innovation and Technology: A Conversation with Jose Maria Pestana Sartorius, Chief Innovation Officer of HBX Group

In a candid conversation, Jose Maria Pestana Sartorius, Chief Innovation Officer of HBX Group, unveils how external innovation is shaping travel’s future.

The travel and hospitality industry is no stranger to the winds of change brought about by technology and innovation. In a dynamic industry like this, staying ahead of the curve is essential. We had the privilege of sitting down with Jose Maria Pestana Sartorius, Chief Innovation Officer of HBX Group, during the MarketHub Asia conference in Bangkok, Thailand, to discuss the role of innovation in the sector and how it’s shaping the future.

Opening Up to External Innovation

Mr. Sartorius revealed that his role as Chief Innovation Officer involves spearheading an open innovation approach at HBX Group. This approach recognizes the importance of tapping into external innovation sources, such as startups, universities, and industry partnerships. It’s a strategy that acknowledges the rapid pace of innovation in the market, with over 150 million startups launching annually.

Key Partnerships

HBX Group has strategically partnered with Telefonica, NYU (University of New York), and MasterCard to gain insights from startups, students, and governments. These partnerships are aimed at fostering innovation, learning from the brightest minds, and expanding the company’s footprint in the innovation ecosystem.

Challenges and Startups

One of the innovative initiatives undertaken by HBX Group is launching challenges to the market. These challenges invite startups to propose solutions for specific industry needs. The response has been overwhelming, with over 100 startups from around the world answering the call. This approach allows HBX Group to identify promising startups and work closely with them, ultimately creating products and solutions that benefit the travel and hospitality industry.

Defining Innovation

Mr. Sartorius shared a clear and concise definition of innovation: “a process of creativity with the purpose of inventing or reinventing something new or making something better, sustainable, implementable, and beneficial.” It’s not just about creating something entirely new but also about enhancing existing products, processes, or needs.

Innovations Shaping the Industry

The conversation then shifted to the specific innovations currently shaping the industry. Mr. Sartorius highlighted the increasing interconnectedness of sectors, with technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics transcending industry boundaries. Additionally, post-pandemic travel priorities include health and safety, leading to advancements in contactless travel experiences and frictionless border crossings.

Balancing Technology and Human Touch

The discussion touched on concerns about technology replacing jobs in the travel and hospitality sector. Mr. Sartorius emphasized that technology won’t eliminate jobs but may replace those who lack technology skills. He also highlighted the enduring value of the personal touch in the industry, an element that technology can enhance but not replace.

AI in Booking and Beyond

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in travel booking systems was a topic of interest. HBX Group is actively researching how AI can improve the booking experience for travelers. They’ve opened challenges to startups to explore AI-driven solutions, with results expected to be revealed in the coming months.

Future Technologies

As we looked to the future, Mr. Sartorius emphasized the ever-increasing role of technology in our lives, with connectivity and instant access to information driving change. He stressed the need for the industry to adapt to consumer expectations, much like other sectors have embraced e-commerce and digital transformations.

Innovation and technology are pivotal to the future of the travel and hospitality industry. Through open innovation, partnerships, and a commitment to staying abreast of emerging trends, companies like HBX Group are poised to lead the way in delivering exceptional and technologically-enhanced experiences for travelers and hospitality professionals alike.

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