We help connect over 1.5 billion people a year to local travel providers in over 190 countries. Our purpose is to shape the future of travel. We are passionate in our pursuit of better technology that makes better journeys.
I think a good event is like a good cocktail: you need the right ingredients, the right tools to shake it up, and of course, the right company to drink it with.
This year’s Airline Executive Summit, celebrated in Prague, was the ideal combination of these elements. With 19 airline speakers on stage, and 9 external speakers, sharing practical insights, successes and challenges from across their businesses, the ingredients were up to scratch. When shaken together with 93 airlines and over 300 executives, top event technology and a varied format, you’ve got the perfect mix.
The customer was at the heart of most presentations. In today’s fast-changing world, travel companies are well aware of the need to be customer-centric, but the challenge lies in truly making that happen.
Both Adobe and Facebook discussed the need to get the touchpoints right, and the importance of meeting customers where they are. Customer expectations are clearly changing, and fast. Facebook’s Head of Travel for the Nordics, Kjetin Bergtun said that with the multitude of touchpoints available, it’s key to interact with travelers where they are, to create the “personalized, convenient, and fast interactions” that travelers are looking for.
This theme links with the research paper Amadeus launched at the event, in conjunction with Skift. The paper looks at the power of customized offers, and how airlines can use these to benefit both their bottom line and customer satisfaction.
Another key topic discussed at the conference was how to enable this change. The industry agrees on the need for it – but putting it into action is not as easy.
The Head of qantas.com & Direct Channels, Nandor Locher, said that it’s about the “how”, not the “what”. He mentioned that sometimes we pay lip service to innovation, but full collaboration across different teams is harder to achieve. This point was reflected by several other speakers, who mentioned that barriers need to be broken down so that digital doesn’t exist solely in pockets within the airline. Other speakers also pointed out that culture can be just as important as technology in order to drive change.
At Amadeus, we are changing the way we work with our airline customers in order to drive innovation. Christophe Bousquet, SVP, Airlines R&D, presented the Amadeus Airline Platform, which will create an open, connected and agile environment, with third parties invited to develop on the platform in order to deliver what airlines need. Following that, Fabrizio Calcabrini, VP Airline Solutions, discussed the new structure of the Amadeus airline portfolio, centered around the Order and the Offer, reflecting changing industry dynamics.
John Lonergan, Head of Digital, Airlines, Amadeus, took attendees through our new Digital Tribe approach: using open solutions, new digital skills, and new ways of working in order to speed up and deliver for customers. John also announced Amadeus’ new partnership with Adobe on stage, together with Julie Hoffmann, Head of Industry Strategy and Marketing – Travel at Adobe, which will leverage the best of both of our capabilities to deliver improved experiences to airlines.
The strength of Amadeus’ partnership approach was also reflected throughout the event by presentations from Finnair and SAS on some of the benefits the airlines are seeing through the Accenture Amadeus Alliance. Finnair’s presentation showed the capabilities of Innovation as a Service, where airlines can go from ideation, to a design sprint, to developing a prototype in a week at the Innovation center in Dublin; while SAS discussed how a new solution was built in 12 weeks to improve merchandizing revenues.
Julia Sattel, SVP, Airlines, wrapped up the conference by highlighting our commitment to our airline customers – to employ the right technology, people and partnerships to drive change and innovate together in a fast-moving marketplace.
What I love about my job is that I think our work at Amadeus is relatable. When I explain to people that we develop technology to help hotels, airlines, airports and travel agencies of all types and sizes to create useful and memorable customer experiences, they get it.
This week, our Hospitality team exhibited at HITEC 2018 – the premier industry event in hospitality technology. Participating companies ranged from behemoths like AT&T to a host of startups like Reply.ai, which develops conversationally acute chatbots and was the winner of this year’s entrepreneur competition, E20X. The diversity of products and offerings at HITEC this year illustrated the vast amount of technology decisions hoteliers have adopted in this constantly evolving industry to uniquely service their guests. Personalization was perhaps the most prevalent topic in the keynote and education sessions and across the show floor – everyone wants to know how to get closer to consumers to provide a relevant, differentiated experience. What was evident is that there are endless paths, some perhaps more cost-effective and scalable than others, to the same holy grail of a distinguishable personal experience.
Just imagine the power of being able to securely create digital profiles, with customer permission, that are built by learning our behavior and preferences through our shopping habits (my weekly trip to Whole Foods might suggest I’m willing to pay a little more for services that support my well-being); the types of restaurants we enjoy (so hoteliers will know what room service items to recommend to me upon my arrival); whether we request extra pillows during every hotel stay (indicating that the extra comforts of home are a must); or our frequency of business versus personal travel in a year (I’ve had six business trips in four months – I need quality time with my family and can use loyalty points to make it happen).
With imagination and technology, the possibilities are limitless.
The fast pace of change in consumer expectations, particularly among millennials who’ve grown up in a digital world, can be addressed only with open and flexible platforms that will allow hotels to quickly adapt to change, which the 30 to 50-year-old legacy systems at many hotels today simply cannot accommodate. Open was perhaps the second most popular buzzword this week in the context of building technology platforms that allow potential partners of all sizes to easily plug and play with the goal of constantly evolving the customer experience, something that we demonstrate to the industry with over 200 partner integrations.
As one panelist at the Millennials Reshaping the Industry education session suggested, we can no longer continue on the path we’re on simply because this is the way we’ve always done it.
I couldn’t agree more. We’re all hungry for change. Our opportunity is in determining what level of disruption our industry is ready for, and what we need to do to stay ahead of the pace of change.
What do we mean by customized offers? They enable airlines to intelligently price, position, and promote their products and services so that those offers are more likely to meet individualized customer needs. This trend matters. More than half of the airline executives surveyed by Skift expected this evolution to increase passenger revenue by 15% or more.
Customized offers can be beneficial for both customers and airlines, as customers can benefit from pricing that more closely fits how they value goods and services. They have more choice and can see and understand those choices more easily, while airlines can benefit from increased revenue and a move away from a decades-long push to commoditization.
In this report, we also aim to make it clear how the work on customized offer creation draws on an interdisciplinary approach across airline departments and technical disciplines. It brings a layman’s overview of some of the foundational theories, and covers some of the data science techniques available to airlines to apply those theories practically — from grouping customers based on similarities to optimizing prices. The question of understanding how customers make choices so that airlines can help guide customers to make the best decisions for both themselves and the airline is also explored. Additionally, the report looks at some of the challenges of distributing customized offers through many different channels.
Customized offers are possible today. The technology and knowledge is there for airlines to keep moving forward in this field. At Amadeus, we have a clear vision for the future of offer management that enables an airline to increase customer satisfaction, competitiveness, and revenue — all at the same time.
As the travel industry evolves, so does Amadeus. And things are evolving fast. The travel and tourism industry continues to grow faster than global GDP. In fact, it contributed USD 7.6 trillion in 2016 to the global economy. To put that into context, if the industry was a state, only the US and China would have larger economies. To stay at the forefront of this dynamic industry, Amadeus systematically seeks to identify trends that will impact us so as to be able to adapt to them in a timely manner. We recently released our global report where we outlined some trends we’re currently watching.
Here are a few in more detail:
Growth in Asia-Pacific
Growth in the travel industry is particularly strong in Asia-Pacific. Due to the absolute size of the industry there, this region will be the major catalyst of growth. This is driven by, among other factors, China’s massive travel investments, both domestic and via mergers and acquisitions, as well as the huge growth of domestic and outbound travel in India. Within air travel, Asia-Pacific will contribute to more than half the new air travel passengers expected to be added between 2017 and 2036.
Cloud computing has a number of features that makes it particularly relevant to the travel industry. Amadeus has responded to this with Amadeus Cloud Services (ACS), which can be deployed on multiple cloud environments, either on public cloud providers and/or on our private infrastructure. One of the solutions deployed on ACS is our next-generation Central Reservations System for the Hospitality industry. ACS is also available for airlines through Amadeus Airline Cloud Availability BoX.
There are two main components in making advanced AI systems: the fuel and the engine. The data is the “gas” and machine learning is the “engine.” Within Amadeus, we are using the latest big data technologies and applying machine learning in a number of areas, including revenue management, fraud detection, recommender systems for travel products (e.g. hotels, flights and ancillary services), and advertising.
This emerging technology holds tremendous promise in terms of changing the way in which we “exchange value”. We have identified four potential use cases: (1) simplified and more secure passenger identification; (2) improved baggage tracking; (3) more user-friendly loyalty schemes; and (4) simplified payments between travel agencies and airlines. Our teams have developed live prototypes, and we are cultivating a network of specialist partners to experiment with this new technology, respecting the data security and privacy implications blockchain presents.
The travel and tourism sector is already challenged by issues like overcrowded destinations, income inequalities or human-induced climate variability. Being aware of these challenges and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations World Tourism Organization celebrated in 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, an event in which Amadeus actively participated and sponsored.
Save for the Summer Olympics – the FIFA World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world. It’s not surprising that the travel industry experiences a big boost during this worldwide event. The connections that travel creates make it all possible. With the travel industry working together, millions of people can follow their national teams to another continent, almost as easy as taking a suburban bus.
It’s a great honor and privilege to be the host nation. Amadeus has been in the Russian market since 1994. Our agency network covers the entire territory of Russia, from Kaliningrad to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. We have four offices (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk) with 60 employees in total.
We are warmly welcoming football fans from all over the world to cheer on the 32 teams from five continents. It’s the first global football event to come to Russia and the games will range over 11 cities. In fact, as a courtesy, VISA free entry has been granted for all foreign visitors holding a valid passport, match ticket and fan ID.
For the Russian travel industry, the World Cup is a big opportunity to boost travel infrastructure development across the country. Massive work has been done to receive over a million guests. Several stadiums and many new hotels have been built and a huge share of the existing hotel room supply has been renovated. The transportation infrastructure also underwent refinement with train lines connected directly, or via Moscow rail hub, between all 11 host cities. Russian railway operator RZD is planning to run extra trains between the cities. And for the first time ever RZD is offering a free ride on their trains for football fans with match tickets and a fan ID card.
Russia’s air hubs are also meeting travelers with the highest possible standards of service. Gateway hubs include 14 international airports, with Moscow as a main entry point. Some of these airports were renovated during the last few years and others like Rostov Plakhov Airport were built from scratch. Taking into consideration the logistics of 64 games, the structure of tournaments, playoffs and final games, we believe that Russian domestic airlines will increase the number of scheduled flights dramatically. There’s no doubt flights will be in high demand.
Being a part of the Amadeus team, I am proud to help connect travelers to the World Cup as a travel technology provider. We are an essential link in the modern travel chain, helping millions of people follow their World Cup dreams while enjoying the travel experience.
Tech giants around the world are competing with a few ambitious start-ups to build the world’s next super computers. What are they, how do they work, and why should you care? Here’s a crash course on quantum computing, the next big thing that could change the world of computing as we know it.
Before we start talking about them, we have to start with what we’re all using today. Contemporary computing is based on binary digits – or bits. Everything you see, type, do, on the computer you’re using right now is decided on by a combination of two digits, either 0 or 1. Binary code is at the heart of everything that goes on inside our computers – it is a system of representing numbers, letters, commands, images and sounds.
If the basic building blocks of traditional computing are bits, for quantum computing they are qubits (quantum bits). And this is precisely what’s unique about quantum computers: they don’t use binary code. They use qubits.
What is a qubit? Zeros and Ones in the quantum universe
Traditional computing is based on laws of classical physics. Similarly, quantum computers are based on the laws of quantum physics, which says that qubits do not have the exact state of 0 or 1. Qubits are built on the so-called superposition of 0 and 1. Once measured, the result will be either 0 or 1, but until this happens, a qubit exists in both states simultaneously.
A good analogy for illustrating bits and qubits is a sphere. A bit can be at the poles only. A qubit instead can be at any place on that sphere.
Let’s explore this idea further. If we combine two bits then they can be 00, 01, 10 or 11 but only one of these. Qubits instead will represent the superposition of all four possible states. In general, a quantum computer with n qubits will be in a superposition of 2^n states simultaneously. The traditional computer instead will be only in one out of these.
Quantum theory explained with a cat and Star Trek
When people talk about quantum computing, they often refer to the famous example of Schroedinger’s cat. This is a thought experiment used by physicist Schroedinger to explain his theory of quantum physics. His experiment involves an imaginary cat trapped in a metal chamber with a radioactive atom that may or may not have emitted radiation.
Until you open the chamber, you do not know if the cat is dead or alive, and so the cat, says Schroedinger, is simultaneously dead and alive, until it is observed or “measured”.
In more technical terms people often say: if you want to know that state of something, you need to measure it, but the act of measuring it will influence the result.
Schrödinger’s cat – click for source
The Trekkies among you may prefer the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle as an example. Heisenberg said that it is not possible to measure the location and speed of a particle with a desirable precision, because it is always moving and changing. One unfortunate consequence of this is that “beaming” like in Star Trek, is not technically possible. In order to achieve tele-transportation, we would need to capture the exact state, location and speed of every single atom, electron and particle of the human body. This is why in Star Trek, the transporter is built with a “Heisenberg Compensator”; its entire purpose is to invalidate the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.
We could delve further into the science of tele transportation, but since this YouTube video does it so well, we thought we could go back to the original topic of quantum computers….
Gates and transistors
OK, so all of this is fascinating, but how will this impact computing?
Consider for an instant that your computer is actually just a very advanced calculator. Things like sending and receiving emails, writing and printing documents, or creating and changing pictures are based on fundamental mathematical operations like addition or subtraction.
Traditional computers use “gates” to perform basic calculations of bits, which means they’re adding or subtracting all sorts of variations of 0s and 1s. A simple case is taking two bits as an input, to combine them into a single bit which is the output. In tech-speak this is called performing a logical operation (AND or OR) to realize a Boolean function.
Below you see the AND gate and its associated Boolean operation table. The technical realization of these logical gates is done with transistors. A modern chip of a traditional computer can contain up to 100 million transistors per square millimeter. These transistors are the foundational bricks of traditional computing.
With traditional computing, because all of the inputs are clear and well defined—they are either 0 or 1 – the results are clear and deterministic as well.
However, with quantum computing, there is some uncertainty on the input – remember, we don’t know if the cat is dead or alive until we measure it. As a result, quantum gates are a very different to the traditional ones. Instead of performing logical operations they manipulate the qubits themselves –they perform an “action” on a quantum register. The goal of that manipulation is to increase the probability of a certain outcome.
One consequence is that there are no quantum transistors. Instead, there are devices to execute an action on multiple qubits at the same time.
At the moment there are competing technologies that can perform this action. A qubit can be represented with a little magnet, and influenced with a much bigger outside magnet to change its position. A qubit can also be represented by the energy state of an atom, which will be influenced by an outside an energy impulse.
These are just a couple examples, there are several ways physicists can take an action on a quantum register to measure a qubit. The important point is that there is no singular implementation of a quantum transistor.
How will this influence the world we live in?
Because quantum computing is all about calculating probabilities, the real power of quantum computing lies in dealing with problems where many calculations must be done in parallel to lead to a single result at the end. In math speak people talk about optimization or number theory problems. Studies have shown that some problems that take years to solve with traditional computing, can be addressed with quantum computing in a matter of months or even less. The experts have created the term quantum supremacy which defines the speedup of quantum computer over a classical one in a particular field.
For example: Google published a research paper where quantum computing was 10^8 times faster than the traditional counterpart. In real numbers this means the solution was found after in less than a minute instead of after more than 30 years.
In order to build and use quantum computers a few challenges must be overcome. One is energy – it takes a vast amount of energy to power just one calculation on a quantum computer. Another challenge is how to initialize the qubits with arbitrary values, which means controlling the input to the quantum calculation. The number of qubits is still rather limited – below 100. Hence, only a few selected ones will be able to master challenges. Most of us will use quantum computing provided as a cloud service. Actually, IT giant IBM has already such an offer in its portfolio.
There is no doubt that quantum computing age has started to become real. It will still take a few years until we will manage large scale quantum computers. But for some specific problems the so-called quantum supremacy is already achieved at the order of 50 qubits. In the meantime, Amadeus is preparing itself for this eventuality by reading the latest research, and discussing this topic with our chief technology leaders.
Stay tuned for our next post, where we will talk about how quantum computing could impact the travel industry and Amadeus in particular.
It was the theme, the buzzword, and perhaps the most over used term at the Skift Tech Forum in Silicon Valley – personalization. Nevertheless, it is one of the single most important things happening in travel.
There is great interest from travel providers to fully embrace personalization, as this door leads to loyalty and better margins. On the flip side, travelers are yet to truly see the value and, according to Skift research, travelers also have various privacy concerns on how their data will be used.
Throughout the event, much was discussed about how we’re going to bridge this gap. Personalization is a reality in other industries. So how will it work in travel? How can we work together as an industry and create a win-win for travelers and providers? Here are some key takeaways of the conversation around this.
At the heart of personalization in the travel industry is bringing relevant offers via the channels that travelers use every day. And it’s not only about what’s happening in the travel industry, but also in the wider context of travelers themselves. For example, the restaurants they go to when traveling. Being relevant is everything. This is the only way to engage people.
A lot was discussed at the event about what constitutes a relevant offer. Is it business vs. leisure or, what everyone called a very overused and cliché term, bleisure? What event speakers agreed is that context is everything. Depending on this context, companies – whether airline, hotel, restaurant, or any other in-destination service – the level of personalization per experience needs to be relevant. Sometimes it might not be worth the investment to deploy technology for the sake of technology. There has to be an added value.
From a pure technology perspective, one of the consistent comments from speakers was that relevancy also means simplicity and practicality. We should be clear about the problems we are solving, and many times those problems aren’t complex. Technology can create significant experiences to solve simple problems.
It was clear throughout many discussions that tech needs to keep up with the pace of this change. But it also needs to ensure stability and ease of use for all those who engage with it. Tech is the enabler to bring personalization. It should be invisible in the background. And there is so much innovation happening: around voice search to bringing your own devices to the next generation of mobile apps to chatbots.
One thing was clear to the nearly 400 attendees from over 200 different industries and 20 different countries. Personalization is more than just a buzzword – it is a reality. To this end, collaboration is key and trust is important when it comes to embracing adoption of the technology of the future.
This was a thought-provoking event and it was great to have the opportunity to discuss with Skift’s Sean O’Neill, as well as with industry leaders, some of the exciting times ahead in our industry. You can find out more about some of the topics I discussed on my panel here.
Svend Leirvaag (center) at the Indaba Trade Fair in Durban
At the very core of everything we do at Amadeus, is a commitment to transformational, sustainable and inclusive growth of global travel and tourism. This is why we are excited about being part of the innovative model for private-public collaboration announced at the Indaba Trade Fair in Durban yesterday. This new approach aspires to deliver new technology and data solutions, services and training solutions to meet the growing needs of South Africa’s travel and tourism industry.
The new partnership with the National Department of Tourism and the South African tourism industry, with support from the Department of Trade and Industry, is a long-term commitment by the industry to work together for the greater good. The aim is to develop several programs, including a National Tourism Visitor Information System (NTVIS) and a Travel and Tourism Training Academy, to drive inclusive and transformational growth.
The NTVIS will be a new online platform through which South Africa will develop and commercialize an expanded tourism offering, curate and analyze tourism data for valuable insights into the services and business needs of industry players and better service the needs of visitors. It will build on and improve what already exists, as well as develop completely new solutions, and focus on creating new opportunities for small medium and micro enterprises in the travel industry.
With a special emphasis on the skills that the travel industry requires, and the use of digital and virtual training facilities, the active involvement of the industry in the Travel and Tourism Training Academy will ensure that training leads to employability or employment for young South Africans, with a special focus on women. It will also bring much-needed professional skills and technology solutions to boost small and medium businesses in the tourism sector, especially in rural areas.
The announcement is the result of two years of intensive dialogue among all the stake holders. It coincides well with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call for the private sector to create jobs as the country embarks on the path to economic recovery.
This is the start of a new journey for the travel and tourism industry in South Africa, with a unique model for public-private collaboration to meet the challenges of tomorrow. It will not be easy, and no one should expect miracles, but with everyone’s continued commitment, we believe it can radically change how industry growth contributes to inclusive social and economic development. We also hope that it can be an example to follow.