Vice president – Middle East and North Africa, Amadeus, Antoine Medawar

Exclusively speaking to Natalie Hami, vice president – Middle East and North Africa, Amadeus, Antoine Medawar shares insight on the world of online travel booking, the benefits of Amadeus Selling Platform Connect and much more.

TTG: How does the strength of Internet and smartphone penetration drive travel businesses?

All Time Aviation

Businesses today have entered the next stage of evolution with a broader and more connected consumer base driving the growth of e-commerce across a multitude of segments.

A recent eMarketer’s study claims that by the end of 2015, nearly 73 per cent of the UAE’s overall population will use mobile phones. In the UAE market alone, businesses expect consumers to reach for their smartphones – rather than tablets, desktops and offline channels – as the first port of call for all purchases.

When we consider the travel industry, the advent of technology and the convenience of ‘a-click-away purchases’ have opened up different platforms that help travellers better organise their flight bookings and accommodation. Earlier, the travel business was driven by expensive brochures and offline travel agents, but today’s ‘connected’ and tech-savvy consumers are curating their own experiences by leveraging the knowledge and insights available online – across websites, mobile and social media platforms.

The increasing number of tie-ups between travel agents, hotels and taxi firms assist in providing out-of-the-box solutions to create a complete travel package for the growing population of travellers. Apart from this, innovative technologies including mobile apps that help customers connect with the portal have become key differentiators in selecting a long-term association with travel companies. A variety of airlines and travel agencies have adopted mobile technology to improve passenger efficiency, increase loyalty and drive incremental revenue.

TTG: How can one classify travellers on the basis of their payment choices?

The increasing number of tie-ups between travel agents, hotels and taxi firms assist in providing out-of-the-box solutions to create a complete travel package for the growing population of travellers. Apart from this, innovative technologies including mobile apps that help customers connect with the portal have become key differentiators in selecting a long-term association with travel companies. A variety of airlines and travel agencies have adopted mobile technology to improve passenger efficiency, increase loyalty and drive incremental revenue.

From classic travel aggregators to luxury vacation packages at a discount, the selections available online make it easy to book nearly any trip, any time. According to the Middle East Online Travel Review, commissioned by Amadeus in 2015, the UAE’s online gross bookings over the period of five years have increased approximately three-fold as a result of a burgeoning affluent middle-class with an inclination to travel nearly four times a year.

The Amadeus-commissioned report categorises travellers into three groups based on their values, behaviours and needs. The ‘Next Generation’ travellers are defined more by attitude than demographics and more by comfort level and interest in technology than age, sex or economic strata. The second group ‘Active Seniors’ are the ones that still seek the help of a travel agent, relying on face-to-face interactions rather than depending on technology to plan their travel, while the ‘Corporate Citizens’ category relies on their companies to plan their travel itinerary, with limited choices of their own. These three groups are broadly shaping the overall Middle East travel market.

TTG: In what way does Amadeus Selling Platform Connect empower travel agents?

Travellers are no longer just able to buy a ticket – they can buy a ticket, check-in baggage, ensure priority boarding and order an on-board meal. All of these transactions can take place on a different booking channel. What this means for payments, therefore, is that travel companies need to be able to deliver the right offer to the right customer on the right channel at the most flexible payment option.

Travel providers need to offer a simple payment option for transactions that are expected to take place on the mobile: entering a 16-digit credit card number, expiry date and security code is much harder on a mobile phone while walking through an airport.

To ensure simplicity of online payments, travel providers should rely on platforms that can offer the maximum choice of payment options and manage the complexity of integrating new payment options, making them available across all channels and ensuring the whole process complies with the relevant data security standards.

Recently, Amadeus has launched the upgraded version of the Amadeus Selling Platform Connect that helps travel agencies access their customers’ bookings from anywhere in the world, from any device with an internet connection. The platform is simply accessed via a user ID and password, without the installation of any software.

The distinctive platform adapts to dynamic requirements, enabling agencies to anticipate travellers’ needs while greatly reducing their overheads and running costs. All the same, the online nature of the platform also means that updates or new tools are shared instantaneously with the rest of the network. Unique in the industry, this feature is set to greatly broaden business opportunities for the travel trade.

TTG: How do you see the future of travel booking platforms?

The Middle East travel market is witnessing unprecedented growth from $71.8 billion to $98 billion in just four years’ time (from 2014 till 2018). These forecasts are aligned with the ‘GCC – Shaping the Future of Travel’ report released by Amadeus a few months ago.

We identified five effects that will boost the travel market in the short and mid-term (Diversification Effect, Infrastructures Effect, Population Effect, Communication Effect and Gateway Effect). As a technology partner of choice for the fastest growing travel markets in the world, this brings plenty of exciting opportunities to all the different suppliers to grow and expand their reach in the years to come.