1 November 2022, London Marriott Hotel County Hall
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
Diane Bouzebiba, who has been with travel technology firm Amadeus for 10 years, was recently appointed as its UK & Ireland managing director. Here she talks to Paul Revel about hotel distribution, effervescent technology and creating a “global retail system”
What have been priorities since taking up the role?
I’ve been concentrating on meeting our customers, and finding out how the combination of our technology and relationships can really make a business difference to them. We’ve got an effervescence of technology in Nice [Amadeus’s HQ] at the moment and I want to make sure UK customers see it first.
What new things can customers expect?
I’m focusing on four main areas at the moment. First, hotels – in terms of tools and content, we’re bringing in Travelodge and Premier Inn, and content from HRS and other aggregators. Second, a consulting approach – we have a wealth of highly skilled people around the world, and we want to make this expertise available to our UK customers. Third, optimising our self-booking tool [SBT] – moving from low-touch to no-touch travel and how we can make this work for everybody. And number four is mobile technology.
Tell us a bit more about what you’re doing with the self-booking tool.
It’s about how we can make it work for everybody – enhancing it with content and ensuring that content is not only on the travel agency desktop but also in the SBT. This is essential if we’re moving towards no-touch. It takes the pain out of fragmentation of content. Then, we work with our customers to make sure they’re making the most of the SBT. E-Travel Management is a powerful tool that can be tailored to many different scenarios, and we’re working with the corporates to see what it can do for their business, using best practice from around world.
What about your new consultancy division – what will it offer, and when will it be available to customers?
It's called Amadeus IT Consulting and Solutions. I've been talking to customers who've been saying: “We have all these pieces of technology – can you help us pull it all together?” The answer is, of course, “yes”. So our engineers will work with our customers to map all their processes, and make recommendations as to how to optimise their systems. It's something we think larger customers will use – but even for small businesses, if we spend a day with the owner-operator and IT manager, it can make a big difference. We will have launched it by the end of Q2 this year.
What is your mobile product going to offer?
We believe the multiplicity of apps is more exasperating than anything else. One single app should serve the end-user, and the travel management company [TMC] in terms of duty of care and booking within corporate policy all the way along a trip, making sure the business traveller feels loved. In my previous role in Amadeus, I did more than 70 trips in a year, and I did not feel loved – quite the opposite. This app is for our TMCs to offer their customers, putting their own “skin” on it. I’m really excited about it – it's going to be a very complete solution. It’s in beta version now, being tested by some customers in the Benelux area, and we’ll launch it in the second half of this year.
Why the wait for the phone app?
It’s a very complete mobile solution. It has to be done properly and we don’t want to bring in any inefficiencies. Sometimes it’s right not to rush to market. There are specifics in the UK market we’ve got to complete, notably in the terms of the payment module.
Regarding hotels, tell us about your recent agreement with HRS.
We’ve been working on this for several years. We started working with Hotel.de – the need came from Germany, where we had corporate buyers such as Daimler, needing access to a fragmented number of non-chain hotels around the world, in a more productive, cost-effective flow. You’d have travel agents toggling various websites, with Post-it notes all over the place. As a technology provider, it was our priority to have all that content in one single pipe. It’s taken this long to make it work, but now we’ve cracked it. We have a programme of integrating more aggregators into a highly efficient flow – HRS and Transhotel, with more in the pipeline. Watch this space in 2012.
So how do you think these developments affect the ongoing arguments over distribution costs?
I think what we’re doing is changing the argument. When you look at the multiplicity of people involved in tech development, the industry is putting cost strain on itself. We can offer a community platform of technology for suppliers and intermediaries – agents and TMCs. I’ve had hard negotiations with TMCs, but when you sit down with them and work out the costs of maintaining their own database and platform, compared to using our technology on a transaction basis, the value becomes clearer.
So what does this mean for the future of the direct connect vs global distribution system (GDS) debate?
I think in the next few years we will see a move from a GDS to a “GRS” – a global retail system. Take ancillaries: we’re supplying airlines with the technology to sell ancillaries on their direct channels, but we can say to agents – using that community platform – that you can use that technology to offer this service to your customers, enabling you to compete as a retailer. We were not first to market with ancillary services, but we were first with a robust, scaleable and industry-standard solution. So this is a kind of first-step from a GDS to a GRS. For Amadeus, it’s about how to make sure all sellers, including direct and intermediaries, have access to the technology they need. Everybody can have their commercial relationships but, for a TMC, if we don’t get that productivity and cost-efficiency in that flow, everything in the same PNR [passenger name record], right through to the invoice and service management systems, then it’s not productive.