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BW Businessworld

Personalised Travel

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Amadeus IT Group is a 3.4 billion euro travel technology company. The firm's annual growth is about 7 per cent and it has generated 20 per cent in net profit.  Amadeus has been in business for the past 27 years. It was established by four airlines -- Air France, Lufthansa, Iberia and Scandinavian Airlines -- who wanted to create a system to distribute their tickets and share in profits of that distribution. The company was set up in Bangalore almost a decade ago and has now scaled up to more than 1000 people. Bangalore is its key R&D centre and is already building technology that can help airlines track the mobile customer. 

It is hoping to build an ecosystem of data collection that can be linked to the entire travel life cycle of the customer. It includes hotels, cabs, airports and airlines connected on your device with all associated travel components such as shopping and leisure. Its R&D global head, Herve Couturier, runs a 4500 R&D team spread across the world, 16 countries to be precise. He spoke to BW | Businessworld’s Vishal Krishna about the changing world of IT in the travel industry and the opportunity it presents to large airlines to adapt to new technology:
How is IT changing in the world of travel and where does Amadeus technology fit in?
The first one is the traditional market which is the distribution of tickets. Whether you are going directly or to a website, of an airline, the airline data is connected with travel agents, online and physical entities. Amadeus will provide them all the information of the origin and destinations, the pricing, the time of departure, arrival time and finally it allows them to help customers to buy tickets and finally close the loop through the payment. So that’s the distribution aspect. 
The second aspect is about serving the passenger. You need to connect all the airline data to help the passenger travel peacefully and it is possible with our suite called Altea. Basically, we take care of the passenger from the minute he buys tickets, with the reservation system and we manage the travel schedule to create an experience till he boards the aircraft. The mobile device is an important piece here. He can use the mobile device to connect to the hotel room and also get the rental car. 
The third activity is the enable airlines to use this data to win the customer. The travel world is changing dynamically because consumers are on mobile devices and the travel ecosystem has to adapt to this change. 
What is Bangalore R&D centres role?
Bangalore will play a central role in creating that change towards using data faster. This research and development facility will help us increase our footprint in Asia as business is expanding faster. Our historical footprint is Europe and now we are picking up in two regions, Asia and America. This centre will support the expansion in Asia. 
Bangalore will be able to support any type of customer activity and any type of project development that the group needs. From Bangalore we support web customers ranging from various airline companies. Japan Airlines, Korean Airlines are our customers. The team will support a high transaction, high volume and high resiliency business. We are moving into areas where we are building new applications, new functionalities and new solutions from this centre. It is important to connect the ecosystem. For instance, I am leaving home and I am going to take the taxi, the taxi will take me to the station, the rail station will take me to the airport, the airport takes me to the destination and back. So how I do make sure that this entire ecosystem works. The Bangalore team will connect all those players through the day and allow companies to plan marketing campaigns around people’s behaviour. 
Our vision or trend is that we want to be able to serve all of those type of customers who are on the go. Technology solves these challenges of being able to the entire ecosystem.
How important is it to have the lights on in the travel industry?
It has to be available 99 per cent. In fact, 99 per cent is not enough and we need to have systems running perfectly all the time. You have to automate the system to handle redundancies. The applications must be available all the time, tens of billions of dollars are wasted every year because the planes got delayed, for any reasons, whether it was weather, traffic congestions, mechanical failures or even IT related problems. Of the size of the travel industry 10 per cent is wasted because of IT related disruptions. It’s a lot of money and the only way you can solve the disruption problem is by addressing all the new technological changes and one must be able to get all the data parameter right. 
You know what happened in Boston recently. People expected a storm in New York and it landed in Boston. The city had two meters of snow one night and 10,000 people were stuck and the entire system to connecting to hotels, taxis and cancelling flights was messed up. The IT ecosystem there was not ready to face such disruption. So our ambition is to be able to solve or to help to contribute to be prepared for such problems. 
It is personalized IT that we are talking about now?
Yes it is personalized for the enterprise and the customer. The system should be secured too so that passengers and enterprises do not have hacks on their mobile phones. Today we have almost all the major airlines working with us. Imaging the power when they have all the information in their fingertips to make better travel decisions. Say your flight is delayed. The airline must deal with this quickly. It must know who you are and cannot blind engage with you. It must first apologise. But then the next response would be to say we have another flight that we have booked you on.
The system must give options. Then if it knows you are travelling with family the flight manager knows that it could delay your vacation and he can arrange for a pleasant stay somewhere. This is possible only when the airline has all the data at the finger tips can it become personalized. This is the future of the travel industry.