12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
Business Travel Show Europe, presented by The BTN
21 November, London Hilton Metropole
Bouzebiba talks her first nine months as Amadeus’ UK managing director and the latest technology for the corporate travel market
What have you learnt about the UK corporate market since coming into your current role in January?
There is just so much effervescence in the UK market and there’s a lot of trendsetting here, particularly when compared to the rest of Europe.
I really want to show the more human side of technology - it can be seen as being all about “bits and bytes” but it’s important to give a more human face. What we are seeing generally is a move towards more flexibility and personalisation from a corporate perspective.
What I have been trying to achieve in the UK is to spend much more time asking questions of customers about how their businesses work. We can then act on that information and look at how we can make it easier to encourage people to follow the corporate line through our technology.
What’s the latest on the development of your self-booking tools?
We have been working on optimising online booking and over the last 18 months improving the user experience. Our goal is to make it easier for the business traveller to do things within the corporate model than doing it in any another way. We need to encourage the traveller that it’s easiest to do what the travel manager is telling them to do. This includes giving the traveller autonomy and flexibility at the same time as satisfying the corporate policy. This helps both the travel buyer and the TMC.
How are you developing your technology for smartphones for corporate travellers?
We have a mobile app which will be linked into travel management systems. We are currently trialling it with one corporate and its TMC. We plan to launch it in the fourth quarter of this year on both Android and iPhones. The big difference will be that it will allow you to book whereas most current apps only contain itinerary details and you can’t make any changes to the purchase.
It will allow road warriors to make searches and change their accommodation if their plans change during the trip – crucially all these changes will be on the corporate rate.
Similarly it will be able to show all your fare conditions and restrictions on flights should you have to make a change. The idea is that you will have all the relevant information at your fingertips.
Amadeus has decided to open up its source code to other companies – what is the idea behind doing this?
The idea is that by opening up our templates then it creates an open framework for others to use for their own applications. Through this collaborative process, we hope that TMCs, corporate travel buyers and the travellers themselves will all benefit by creating something useful by driving innovation from every part of the travel distribution chain. We are following trends as fast as we can but it is an accelerating market landscape and we hope this will provide a shorter time to market.
You recently set up a new team of consultants in the UK – how is this working so far and what are they doing?
I realised the importance of bringing people in on the ground and rolling up our sleeves. We have set up a team of local consultants who are going out and meeting clients. The idea is not to go out and say: “These are our products”, but to start with a blank piece of paper by asking them: “Where do you want to be in three years time?”, and how can we help getting you there. We have worked on some direct distribution products - such as our airline IT solution - where the technology can be harnessed in other ways.
We can also have consultants who will sit with the TMC when they are pitching for corporate business so they can ask questions. This will help us to understand the fundamentals and pain points that the final customer faces with their travel technology.
Although we do have direct relationships with some corporates, we are not in competition with TMCs for accounts. By being involved in the pitch process, we think we can enable TMCs to win more business. It’s still early days with this as we only started in June. For a TMC, which is an Amadeus customer, being in partnership can make us both stronger. We are all about the technology while it’s the TMC which has the expertise in offering service to the customer.
Some buyers may think that all GDSs are pretty much the same – what do you say about this point of view?
I recently had a long discussion with a buyer who didn’t know which GDS their TMC uses. But I think it’s important for corporate travel buyers to know which GDS they are being fulfilled on. It’s not the case that all GDSs have the same content – it’s important to know what content agreements the GDS has with suppliers and particularly if they offer the full range of airline fares and last-seat availability. It’s in the buyer’s interest to understand which GDS is sitting behind their TMC. With our airline IT platform we have a single source of data from 141 airlines giving access to the last available seat in every fare class. For us, it’s about providing the best content.
Do you think major travel tech companies will continue to work closely with airlines despite criticism of GDSs generally from the likes of IATA?
We are developing a more collaborative partnership between us and the airlines, and are working on objectives where there is common ground. The airlines recognise the value we can bring as a technology partner – for example, earlier this month, British Airways became the first airline to sign up for our new revenue accounting solution.
The GDSs have revolutionised the way you can search for travel with our content aggregation and the speed of the information flow. Our work with Easyjet is a wonderful example of an airline that has seen how they can optimise their own technology.
It shows how we can work together from a business perspective and the value we bring to their attempts to capture a greater share of the business travel market. With the debate over direct distribution, low-cost carriers are moving in the opposite direction because they realise the huge cost of acquiring a distribution channel which brings you that business.