Amadeus Aiming to Create ‘Live Travel Space’ to Deliver Better Journeys – Interview with Christian Baillet
GTP Headlines’ pick
“We are moving from being a GDS to becoming an open, dynamic and connected Live Travel Space that brings together all players with more content across more channels…” – Christian Baillet
“With our technology, we can be the partner that our customers need to serve travelers today and in the future,” says Christian Baillet, the Director Airline Account Management Central & Southern Europe of travel technology platform Amadeus.
As Airline Account Management Central, Southern, & Eastern Europe, Baillet and his team are the Amadeus face to the airlines in the region. They work hand in hand with the entire Amadeus organization to deliver innovative technology and customer excellence to its airline customers.
Baillet was recently in Athens to attend a special event for Amadeus’ partners in Greece, aiming to inform on all the developments in the air and travel industry, as well as the trends that are set to transform the travel sector in 2018.
“The rate of change in the travel industry is accelerating,” he told GTP Headlines. “Changes in travel behavior are challenging current business models, and industry players are evolving along with them to keep up with new expectations and technological advancements.”
In his interview to GTP Headlines, Baillet informs on Amadeus’ innovative plans to offer the best possible travel experience to passengers through its technology, underlines the importance of IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) for the travel industry and gives an outlook for 2018.
GTP Headlines’ pick
“We can be the partner that our customers need to serve travelers today and in the future.” – Christian Baillet
GTP: What would you say are the main factors disrupting the travel industry at the moment and how is Amadeus assisting airlines and agents?
Christian Baillet: Today’s travelers are smart, tech-savvy consumers looking for unique experiences. They are more empowered than ever before and demand choice, transparency in pricing, differentiation and personalization. They are always connected, relying on social interaction for travel decision-making. These travelers also want a seamless experience through all their devices and throughout their entire journey.
The rate of change in the travel industry is accelerating. Changes in travel behavior are challenging current business models, and industry players are evolving along with them to keep up with new expectations and technological advancements. New players like the gatekeepers are also emerging, further disrupting the industry with their advertising models and their influence to direct consumers to specific providers.
We are creating a live travel space for players in the industry to collaborate, innovate and deliver better journeys. We believe that with our technology, people’s expertise, investment capabilities and track record, we can be the partner that our customers need to serve travelers today and in the future. We are improving our processes to have a faster time to market and working on solutions that are tailored to our customers’ needs so they can respond to change, adapt their value proposition to today’s travelers and grow their business.
GTP Headlines’ pick
“We continue to invest in our Amadeus Travel Platform, a robust platform built on open systems, harnessing intelligent use of data and integrating new interfaces and architectures.” – Christian Baillet
GTP: This sounds like a very innovative step for a Global Distribution System (GDS).
Christian Baillet: We are moving from being a GDS to becoming an open, dynamic and connected Live Travel Space that brings together all players with more content across more channels and accommodates different business models.
We have invested over five billion euros in R&D since 2004, and we are adapting and evolving our existing IT framework to today’s cloud environment. We continue to invest in our Amadeus Travel Platform, a robust platform built on open systems, harnessing intelligent use of data and integrating new interfaces and architectures.
Travel sellers can access the broadest range of content, all in one place, and enjoy world-class technology, enabling them to personalize their offer and create any travel product for their customers. Our platform can also help travel providers increase their revenue through differentiation and customization, and allows them to distribute their offer to the largest global network of travel sellers.
We are also working to increase our non-air offer, particularly in ground transportation, accommodation and destination services.
GTP: Where are we currently on the roadmap for IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC)? Just how important is the NDC for the travel industry?
Christian Baillet: NDC is a key technology enabler for effective travel merchandising. It is an industry standard for messaging between airline and distribution systems that helps airlines communicate their product offerings in more detail than is possible today using the legacy standards that were set up decades ago.
At Amadeus, we think NDC has the opportunity to deliver new benefits for all players if implemented in a standard manner that truly takes the needs of all players into consideration. This is why Amadeus has created NDC-X, a dedicated program to drive the industrialization of NDC and ensure it is successful for all travel players. It will focus on practical use cases of IATA’s NDC standard, in a test and learn approach, in order to deliver improved capabilities for the industry.
GTP Headlines’ pick
“The entire travel industry will need to work collaboratively if NDC is to deliver…” – Christian Baillet
GTP: What are the main challenges of NDC for airlines and travel agencies?
Christian Baillet: As the industry moves to embrace new approaches to merchandizing and technology standards such as NDC, we must make sure we keep our ultimate customer, the traveler, in mind. They want the additional service levels that rich, personalized offers represent but they also want to compare and shop for those offers in the channel of their choosing.
For NDC to truly take off, we need to create a real standard not only for the protocol itself, but also for the way it’s implemented. We also need to ensure that it responds to travel seller requirements, such as servicing needs. Of course NDC needs to be supported by the right economics to drive investment and adoption. This isn’t something that Amadeus can do on its own. The entire travel industry will need to work collaboratively if NDC is to deliver on the promise.
GTP: What were the key developments in the airline industry in 2017?
Christian Baillet: In 2017, we saw the industry profitability rise across the board, with every region securing profitability, despite expected market uncertainties. Also, the adoption of NDC standards accelerated and the digital transformation is now center stage. Moreover, we’ve seen new business and operating models, with significant developments in the LCC model, as well as seeing airports investing in new technologies to better serve travellers.
GTP Headlines’ pick
“As we move into 2018, we believe airlines will become ‘data-centric organisations’….” – Christian Baillet
GTP: What is Amadeus’ outlook for 2018? Should we expect any innovations that will help transform the travel product?
Christian Baillet: As we move into 2018, we believe airlines will become ‘data-centric organisations’. In this context, the ability of new technologies to aggregate customer data, combined with a constantly connected consumer base, provides incredible potential, as it augments our ability as an industry to get closer to airline customers and understand their values, while the growing sophistication of machine-learning technologies means we will be better able to anticipate their future behaviour. Also, another point to watch in 2018 is the competition in the low-cost long-haul segment, and cooperation among the point-to-point LCCs.
Also, the maturity and stability of the NDC standard has evolved significantly. Airlines are making massive serious investments. The industrialisation of the NDC standard should continue to accelerate in the year.
We also expect the way airlines distribute their products to continue evolving, as carriers seek to service passengers at every stage in their journey based on an understanding of the product, service and convenience combination that individual passenger values. This approach will support upselling and merchandising, with IATA’s NDC standard acting as an enabler of this change.
GTP: How are travelers, new trends and technology reshaping travel?
Christian Baillet: Today there are more methods than ever before for reaching new audiences. At the same time, companies need to have an even stronger idea of what they represent, and how to utilise the digital realm to build emotional connections with travellers, and to stand out among the digital noise. The era of rapid datafication that we live in, with constant connectivity and digital workforces have transformed today’s business, as we need to always be ready to respond with relevant offers that will deliver something of value to them, then and there. As we all work in an IT world, there needs to be an understanding of these influences, so that companies can propose relevant offers that really deliver value to their customers.