All posts by Martin Kelly

TripAdvisor Backs Animal Rights, Blacklists Elephant Riding, Tiger Petting, Swim With Dolphins & more…

elephant washing thailandTripAdvisor has bowed to pressure from animal rights lobby groups and will no longer take bookings on its site or Viator for "hundreds of animal attractions where tourists come into physical contact with captive wild animals or endangered species including but not limited to elephant rides, petting tigers, and swim with dolphin attractions". More 

Great Program & Speakers @ TRAVELtech 2016

TT15 - overview of ballroom at TRAVELtech 2015

Sydney, Sept 23, 2016:  Fantastic speakers and  a provocative program anchor the latest edition of TRAVELtech – Australia's leading online travel marketing, distribution and technology event – which returns to Sydney on Tuesday, September 27.

There's also excellent networking with 200+ delegates registered and plenty of time built into the day to make new contacts and catch up with old friends.

TRAVELtech is a fast-paced, issues-based event with loads of history (founded 1999) and a reputation for integrity and topicality. This year's theme is Disruptive Influences – The Story Continues and confirmed speakers include:

- Ben Angell, VP Marketing Asia Pacific, Norwegian Cruise Line
- Jon Beros, General Manager,
- Tony Carne, General Manager, Urban Adventures
- Chad Carey, co-Founder, Chimu Adventures
- Katherine Cole, Regional Director Marketing,
- Gerry Comninos, CEO, RMS
- Frederic Chanut, MD, In Marketing We Trust
- Rod Cuthbert, CEO,
- Randall Deer, Managing Director, Ignite Travel Group
- Matt Evans, Analytics Lead Travel, Google Australia
- Brett Jardine, Commercial Director, CLIA Australasia
- Chris Hall, Managing Director, APT Group
- Ross Honeywill, Executive Director, Centre for Social Economics
- Peter Hopgood, General Manager, Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort
- Kurt Knackstedt, CEO, Troovo
- Michele Levine, CEO, Roy Morgan Research
- Bruce Piper, Publisher, Travel Daily/Cruise Weekly
- Nicola Beynon, Head of Campaigns, World Animal Protection
- Chris Reed, Founder & CEO,
- Alexander Robinson, CEO, Airly
- Kelvin Ross, co-Founder, Dreamz AI
- Dan Russell, General Manager,
- Adam Schwab, Managing Director, Lux Group Limited
- Alex Stewart, Chief Operating Officer, SiteMinder
- Sean Sutherland, Head of Digital and E-Commerce, OTA Division at Flight Centre Travel Group
- Justin Wastnage, co-Founder Cine Souk
- Tim Welsh, Director of Social Media, Event Hospitality & Entertainment Limited
- James Woodford, co-Founder, YouCamp

TRAVELtech program highlights this year include:

- Latest travel and web research from Google and Roy Morgan
- Insights into the growing and disruptive world of travel deals from industry leaders
- Focus on the booming cruise industry including online and tech perspective
- Insta-Gratification, sort the wheat from the chaff in this marketing super session
- Learn from Australian based tech and online companies who have made it internationally
- Discover how one Aussie travel website is now getting more than 10m unique visitors a month
- Case studies, including one on Aunt Betty, Flight Centre's new 'startup' website
- Hear 'giving back' strategies progressive travel companies are employing to enrich the communities in which they operate
- Feel the energy from Australian travel startups as they compete in 'Pitch It To Me'

TRAVELtech is being held at Sheraton on the Park in Sydney from 9am to 5pm on September 27. Tickets cost $549 + gst.

For details and bookings please visit

Further Information:
Martin Kelly
Director, TRAVELtech
612 9882 1575

Kurt Knackstedt, CEO, Troovo

Kurt KnackstedtIn early 2015, Kurt was appointed CEO of Troovo, a newly launched technology company focused on virtualising and completely removing manual intervention within transaction-based industries.

As CEO Kurt is responsible for all aspects of Troovo’s global expansion and is helping transform the way companies move to a fully virtual approach to their business operations.

In January 2014, Kurt assumed the role of President of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE).  ACTE is the leading industry body for advocacy, research and education for the global corporate travel industry. As President, Kurt is the senior volunteer leader of ACTE and serves at the order of the Board and the membership. Kurt’s term runs through the end of 2017.


Prior to Troovo, Kurt was with global mining giant Rio Tinto as the Global Category Leader for Travel and Expense Management.  In this role based in Singapore, Kurt led Rio Tinto’s global Travel and Expense strategy with key suppliers focusing on improving the total Rio Tinto travel experience.


Before joining Rio Tinto, Kurt had numerous roles in travel and technology, and also ran his own consulting business. His travel industry career includes leadership positions at American Express Business Travel, Travelport and Rosenbluth International, and has also held product development and technology roles at First USA Bank, Aon/Hewitt and several dot-com start ups.


Kurt holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from Indiana University, USA.


Kurt is based in Sydney, Australia and is a dual citizen of the USA and Australia.

Kelvin Ross, co-Founder,

Kelvin RossFor the past 20 years Kelvin has been an IT entrepreneur.

He founded KJR, a specialist IT consulting firm focusing on technology risk and QA, and has launched several technology startups.

Kelvin has a PhD in Safety Critical Software Engineering.

His career began as a Defence Scientist working on avionics for the FA-18.

He spent several years at the University of Qld Software Verification Research Centre, where he coordinated business development.  He has held a number of national advisory roles in Software Engineering.

Over recent years Kelvin has focused on machine learning and big data.  He is particularly focused on prediction and recommendation systems.

This is reflected in founding Dreamz.AI, an online travel platform using AI.

Dr Ross Honeywill, Executive Director, Centre for Social Economics

Ross HoneywillRoss Honeywill is a social scientist and internationally published author.

Working predominantly in North America and Australia he has spent 15 years measuring and mapping the evolution of consumer demand and the impact of disruptive innovation on the future of business and management.

Through his leadership role at KPMG (Asia/Pacific) and his current work at the Centre for Social Economics, Dr Honeywill has consulted to global and national brands.

His books have been published on 3 continents with the most recent an Amazon Top-100 bestseller in the business/consumer category. Based in Melbourne, Dr Honeywill is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Tasmania’s School of Business & Economics.

TripAdvisor Commits $5m to Refugee Organisations

TripAdvisor says it will donate "at least US$5 million  from its charitable foundation over the next three years to aid the humanitarian refugee crisis." The TripAdvisor Charitable Foundation has donated US$20 million to international charities over the past five years. Such actions are a growing trend among travel companies and will be covered in TRAVELtech session called Community – The Triple Bottom Line.

Randall Deer, Managing Director, Ignite Travel Group

Randall Deer, Ignite TravelRandall Deer – Managing Director of Ignite Travel Group – is a multiple award-winning entrepreneur who has yielded exceptional success and growth for his innovative travel and tourism marketing company as he continues to challenge traditional travel practices.

After completing a Bachelor of Commerce (Finance & Accounting) at the University of Adelaide at the age of 23, Randall assumed the position of Body Corporate Manager with Ernest Body Corp Management where he managed over 2000 strata titled dwellings.

From there, Randall became General Manager of Australia’s largest privately owned management rights entity Strand Resorts, while at the same time representing the Australian Management Rights Industry to the Australian Taxation Office to secure the correct taxation treatment for serviced and strata titled apartments when the new GST system came into effect.

This successful lobbying subsequently saved consumers and strata title unit stakeholders millions of dollars.

At 27, Randall progressed to the coveted position of Chief Financial Officer of Breakfree Resorts where, among other accomplishments, successfully led a bid to raise $60million in IPO (debit and equity) to purchase 23 initial resorts which became the core of Stella Hospitality Group, now known as Mantra Group (a subsidiary of MFS and a $2 billion ASX entity).  Randall’s key responsibilities included IPO management and financial compliance.

In 2005, Randall established what is today Ignite Travel Group (formerly RewardsCorp Group), and in eight years since its inception, has grown the lucrative company into a $85million business. Ignite Travel Group is a multi-channelled travel-marketing corporation that comprises two business divisions: RewardsCorp and The Holiday Centre (now renamed Ignite Holidays), who is also the parent company of the awarded My Holiday Centre and Group Buying Escapes.

Testament to the company’s upwardly mobile philosophy, which is inspired by innovation, The Holiday Centre, was named as BRW’s Fastest Growing Travel Business in 2011, 2012 and 2013 plus ranked highly amongst the Top 100 across all industries nationally for these years.

In 2011, Randall recognised the rapidly evolving online buying phenomenon driven by social networking sites and launched a new concept brand, Group Buying Escapes now re-branded to Holiday Exclusives.

Ignite Travel Group employs over 100 staff and continues to progress into a global player in the travel-marketing sphere. Its head office is located on the Gold Coast, Queensland; a satellite office in Sydney and logistics support office operated in the Philippines.

Randall’s vision is to continue to leverage the business’ core competencies into incremental vertical channels and expand its national and international presence; transforming both existing and original travel and tourism ideas into working models with vast consumer appeal.

James & Prue Woodford, Co-Founders, YouCamp

James and Prue Woodford

James and Prue Woodford are the founders of YouCamp.

James is an author of seven books and a journalist with over twenty years experience in both newspapers and radio, including Radio National's Background Briefing program and as an environment and science writer for the Sydney Morning Herald.

Prue has twenty years experience as a park ranger and natural resource manager.

She has extensive experience liaising with landholders including rehabilitating mine sites and negotiating private land conservation agreements. In 2015 she completed a masters degree in Environmental Science.

Jon Beros, General Manager, Scoopon

Jon is the General Manager of Scoopon, part of Australian owned e-commerce leader – Catch Group.

Scoopon launched in 2010 where Jon has led the company from start-up, through a period of immense growth while pioneering this disruptive industry.

With a customer first mantra his focus is on connecting people to a lifetime of discovery and experiences.

A builder and leader of high performance teams, he’s passionate about start-ups, innovative business models and is an expert in cultivating environments which fosters rapid growth.

Jon has over 15 years’ experience in Loyalty Marketing, working in the Travel, Leisure and Hospitality sectors.

He has designed, built and implemented customer acquisition and retention campaigns for corporates across the UK and Australia.

Agoda Launches Loyalty Program – PointsMAX

Asian hotel website Agoda has teamed with some of the world's leading airlines to launch PointsMAX. Bookings on its site now earn points with loyalty programs including Velocity Frequent Flyer, Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Cathay Asia Miles, United Mileage Plus and American Airlines AAdvantage.

Chris Reed, Founder, SafeTravels

Chris SafeTravelsChris is the Founder of SafeTravels.  After starting his career as a management consultant, gaining a vast amount of experience across various industries, and later as a Product Development Manager in the smart utilities space Chris decided to try his luck at his own start-up.

SafeTravels initially started as a small project based on an idea he had after several travel (mis)adventures but has rapidly evolved into a fully fledged mobile app platform for travel companies.