Spent a couple of days earlier this week at a work retreat with various colleagues at a place called Aldea Santillana about an hour north of Madrid. I can’t speak highly enough of the location, the level of service, the food and generally their overall attention to detail. The pity with going to places like this is that you often think they have such character that you’d like to be there with your own family for a short break rather than for work; and they did make me work for my stay there –  presented twice plus participated in a lot of Q&A and various other activities.

When I turned on the PC in my room, the first reaction was mild shock – no wifi signal at all. I managed to get online for a few minutes one day in a conference room to post on Korean Air, but other than that I actually enjoyed being semi-disconnected. Impossible to be fully disconnected when you are carrying a BlackBerry, but the real benefit in these types of events is working on building personal relationships, so the less technology the better. But it seems 47% of AA frequent fliers might disagree with me on that point.

My main presentation was explaining how to position the product I manage, Airline Robotics. Some of the people listening were sitting through back to back presentations over multiple days, so the goal was to keep the message simple and clear, yet very compelling. Hopefully they walked away with these three themes:

  1. Cost savings from increased automation in the direct channel back office (see here for one example)
  2. Increased ancillary revenue from optimizing conversion rates ( I used the Air Pacific case study)
  3. Increased efficiency by measuring average handling time for staff working queues

I’ve never posted on the last point, nor discussed it in detail outside private customer meetings, but it is a very interesting area and one that really rounds out the full picture for end to end continuous cost reduction in the airline direct channel that this product facilitates.

But enough of the sales pitch, time to give someone else a plug. I was surprised to come back home and look at the the news from the countless press sources including about 20 industry blogs that I monitor, primarily via RSS; surprised because it seemed like in the few days I was offline I hadn’t really missed that much at all. Most blogs I read have really reduced their frequency of updates recently, so the only real standout post I saw was from Dennis Schaal titled Taking You Inside Expedia’s Hotel Merchant Model. Of course, the news about Southwest delaying implementation of codeshare with WestJet and the guessing as to why was kind of interesting, as was an article on Kayak discussing what looks like becoming the next big over-hyped buzzword in online travel innovation circles, the semantic web, but generally there didn’t seem to be anything too earth shattering that I missed by taking a few days away from the PC screen. Maybe I should do it more often.