De Villiers: We’ve Changed the Status of Air Travel in Nigeria

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Vice-President of Amadeus Africa, Paul de Villiers says the company uses its technology, innovation and skilled manpower to render excellent services in Nigeria and worldwide, thereby delivering unmatched connections between travellers and airlines. He spoke with Chinedu Eze. Excerpts:

How do you rate the performance of Amadeus in the Nigerian market and how has the trend been?

Our technology, innovation and people have led Amadeus to be leaders in Nigeria and worldwide. Amadeus is the world’s leading Global Distribution System (GDS), a platform that connects travel providers and travel sellers all over the globe, offering unmatched search, pricing, booking, ticketing, transaction and servicing capabilities.
In 1987, Amadeus was founded as a GDS for travel agencies. In 2000, it diversified its activity to become the reference technology provider for airlines. In the past few years Amadeus has expanded its IT portfolio to encompass a variety of other applications, including merchandising, revenue management or travel intelligence.
The 26th of May was a momentous day for Amadeus in Africa, and particularly the Nigeria team, with the opening of its news offices in Lagos and the announcement of a partnership with Medview Airline Limited.

Amadeus is a success story, being number one IT provider for the travel industry in Nigeria and worldwide. How did Amadeus achieve that?

Our technology, innovation and people have been the key to our success. We simplify complex processes, bringefficiencies to the travel industry and equip them with the right technology and guidance to succeed in their business and save money.

Amadeus, in its capacity as a GDS, standardised the language and communication processes of the airlines so that they could distribute their seats and fares more efficiently through travel agencies. Today, we have the most robust platform for travel distribution: a system that sends thousands of inventory queries to almost every airline in the world, consulting fares for different days and times and returning the best one available; making bookings and ticketing; and then sending this information to the travel agencies back office and all this in seconds. It is not an exaggeration to say we are the nervous system of the great body that is the travel industry.

But Amadeus has evolved a lot in the last years, from leading the creation of a common travel platform and promoting the adoption of e-commerce, to bringing big data, cloud and mobile technologies to the travel industry, Amadeus remains a consistent innovator.
After over a quarter of a century of service to the travel industry, we believe that innovation is the key to our growth, as is helping our customers and partners not only to adapt, but also to thrive within the rapidly changing world of travel and technology.
And technology and innovation wouldn’t exist without our people. We are a global company, with more than 14,200 employees all over the world, 17 R&D with the best IT developers and a 24/7 approach to excellent customer service.

What are the main objectives of Amadeus in Africa and in Nigeria?

Amadeus has presence in all African markets and is the leading distribution system for travel agencies, not only in Nigeria, but in the whole region.
Nevertheless, we would like to expand our presence in the market and increase adoption of our solutions. We are also launching new services and technology this year that will help travel agencies increase efficiencies and better serve their customers, including Amadeus Selling Connect or Amadeus Ticket Changer. It is also the key for us to offer more content: airlines, hotels, car rental, etc., on our system.
On that note, we are very excited to announce that the Nigerian carrier MedView Airline Limited is available on the Amadeus system for travel agencies.
MedView Airline, one of Nigeria’s fastest growing carriers in our global travel community, has partnered with Amadeus, giving our subscribers worldwide access to the same content and conditions as users who turn to the airline’s ticketing offices, call centres and website. The long term full content agreement provides Amadeus subscribers worldwide with access to MedView Airline’s complete range of fares, schedules and availability.
The airline believes that making its full range of content available across all channels will be instrumental to partnering with the travel agency community to achieve maximum visibility with travellers, which has driven their distribution agreement with Amadeus, along with its leading technology and global presence.

Has Amadeus changed the status quo of the travel industry?

Completely. Keep in mind that we appeared on the scene at a time when the Internet did not exist and each travel agency had a separate communication line with each airline. Amadeus developed a system that for the first time ever allowed competing airlines to “speak” the same language and standardise their processes. The distribution sector has changed a lot since then, but even new operators (online agencies, metasearch engines and aggregators of all kinds) have today benefited from the standardisation process that was evolved by global distribution systems.
As Amadeus, we pioneer in many aspects. We make airline technology available that allows travel consultants to sell Ancillary Services, which are today so critical to maximising revenue and personalising the traveller’s experience. We provide travel agencies with omni-channel technology to serve their customers anywhere and at any time. We are also promoting the benefits of big data and how this information can help travel agents upsell or cross sell their services.

How is the traveller evolving?

The traveller is always connected, more demanding, and has more information than ever at his disposal. Sometimes technology evolves faster than business models do. At Amadeus, we are aware of our key role in the travel industry to help travel agencies embrace these new technologies to respond better to their customer’s needs. Challenges can turn into opportunities if you know how to deal with them.
Being online and having mobile services are starting to be needed in the travel industry as consumers demand it. In Amadeus we can help travel agencies to better serve their customers in these two areas.

What is the impact of Mobile technology in the travel industry?

Today, 95 percent of travellers use digital devices when organising a trip (World Economic Forum source 2015) and the resources available to them through smartphones, tablets, apps and websites are more powerful and sophisticated than ever. Concretely, the emergence of smartphones has changed the ways in which travellers access information. Mobile phones now form an integral part of the travel experience, from the moment of inspiration (for example, discussing initial ideas with friends over social networks) until returning home, when photos and comments are shared. Thus, mobile phones have become permanent log-in screens for travellers, through which they are recommended new content and can obtain critical information and tools to manage, for example, travel disruptions.

Moreover, the smartphone is now the traveller’s 24-hour assistant, functioning as a means of payment, a way to consult maps and search for directions, a translator, etc. All content relating to the traveller’s destination (restaurants, events, museums and so on) is now directly available through smartphones.

With mobile phones, travellers are more connected than ever before, empowered with a vast amount of choice and growing expectations. Faced with these new demands, travel companies feel the pressure to diversify and extend their service offering into the digital mobile world. The challenge is to provide travellers with the right information and the best service at each stage of the journey. Mobile requirements vary among Amadeus’ customers.
As a technology provider for the industry, Amadeus is improving the travel ecosystem with competitive and scalable mobile solutions that are enabling its customers to better serve their own customers.

What are the main Amadeus Mobile solutions?

Our flagship business-to-traveller application is called CheckMyTrip, and it’s used by thousands of travel agencies worldwide, providing their travellers with active itinerary management, including additional services such as tours and hotel recommendations, bookable straight in the app.

Understanding that travel content and feature sets may vary in different parts of the world, we also provide region-specific mobile solutions. For travel agencies in Africa we offer a white label mobile solution called Amadeus Mobile Traveller. It allows our customers, the travel agencies, to have an app where their customers can plan and book trips, check itinerary and flight status, access destination information, share experiences… all while on the go.

How important is big data for the travel industry?

Harnessing data and analytics helps travel companies thrive in today’s marketplace. Amadeus established its Travel Intelligence business unit to take its expertise and use it to help customers enhance the traveller experience while improving the profitability of their business. Amadeus Travel Intelligence focuses on the use of data and deep technical analysis to better understand and shape the future of travel. We offer next-generation business intelligence products, solutions and services designed primarily for the travel industry, transforming raw travel data into meaningful insight for each customer, and facilitating strategic, tactical and operational decisions.

Amadeus has always been in the business of big data. The Amadeus Data Centre processes 2.6 billion transactions a day. The Amadeus Travel Intelligence Engine is the latest pillar in our IT environment.

At the same time, as the travel industry moves away from the traditional business/leisure travel segmentation, customers expect a more personalised experience. This requires a single view of the customer, which can be developed by harnessing data from across the entire travel ecosystem.