President of strategic growth businesses at Amadeus, Stefan Ropers, shares his views with TTG MENA about some of the key challenges travel companies are facing today and the collaborative solutions that are building a pathway to recovery.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to our society as a whole, and the impact we are seeing on the travel industry is no less testing.
As we all cope with these difficult times and work to grow from this adversity, it is important to have a dual focus. Firstly, on how best to manage through current uncertainty as global travel is severely reduced, and secondly, to build the path to recovery, even if it is uncertain when that path begins.
Ultimately, travel players must take action now to help secure consumer confidence and ensure they are well positioned when demand for travel returns. Recent events have highlighted that collaboration is key. Airlines and airports, for example, will have to collaborate more closely with other industry stakeholders to work out how to manage the impact of COVID-19. Within the Strategic Growth Businesses team at Amadeus, I have seen first-hand this power of collaboration as we work together in our ambition to weather the current storm.
Providing airports with the flexibility and support they need
Due to the travel restrictions in place across the globe, airports are having to rapidly adapt as traffic volumes scale down, and airlines require greater flexibility. A key priority for airports is to support their airline customers and passengers, whether it is by ensuring they can manage ad-hoc flights as governments repatriate citizens to their home countries, or keeping routes open for essential travel to facilitate global trade and infrastructure. At the same time, airports are focusing on implementing health screening, hygienic and social distancing measures, setting up dedicated areas for health declarations or flights arriving from areas with active community transmission.
We are proactively working with our airport customers to provide them with the technology to adapt their operations with agility to the current operational needs as well as offering them remote support and servicing to ensure business continuity and resilience.
We recognise that as the industry emerges from the current uncertainty, airports will have to adapt to a ‘next normal’. We are working on a blueprint that airports will likely have to transition through on the path to full recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. This systematic approach will provide the diagnostics to identify their unique IT infrastructure needs to accelerate recovery.
Actively helping travel sellers across their payment needs
It is now more important than ever to help customers improve their cash flow when possible. This means, very literally, assisting them in getting their money into their bank accounts, as well as ensuring that the sales transactions they are making are completed.
In the last month, we have worked with many of our partners to expedite reconciliations and settlements processes for many customers.
We also identified new ways to support existing sales channels. One of our airline customers, for instance, had to close its call centers, and as a result, could not service customers through the telephone but only via email. We quickly implemented our Agent Pay solution for them, which allows the carrier to accept payments through a link to a payment page in an email to the purchaser through which the payment can be completed. This means the airline can carry on transacting and making sales whenever possible.
Supporting destinations as they plan for recovery
Our travel audience team has already launched the initiative Building a Pathway to Future Recovery, which builds a route for destinations as they begin to emerge from this crisis. Utilising Amadeus’ unique data and insights we can provide a comprehensive overview of how destinations around the world are evolving throughout this uncertainty. Based on this, we are working closely with Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) to prepare them and assess signals of recovery enabling them to start demand generation activities at the right time.
Innovation remains key
While this crisis may have put immediate ambitions on hold, perhaps it poses a real opportunity for meaningful innovation and transformation to be accelerated. This is why we continue to invest in our research and innovation capabilities and to engage with the developer community. In parallel, our researchers are further leveraging AI capabilities to automate and scale the detection of signals indicating future travel variations and predict travelers’ behaviors.
The current uncertainty is a challenge for all of us, whether in the travel sector or outside, but by working with our customers we are committed to building a pathway to recovery. The travel industry is resilient, and I have great faith in our endurance and ability to overcome this together.