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There’s a lot going on behind the scenes at Amadeus’ Travel Intelligence business today in order to prepare for the innovations of tomorrow. I recently had the chance to sit down with Pascal Clement, who leads our travel intelligence efforts, to get his views on future innovation at Amadeus, and to describe what’s cooking in the Travel Intelligence “kitchen”
What does Travel Intelligence (TI) actually mean, and why is it central to innovation?
There is a vast amount of data available in the travel industry, but it is disconnected and separated in many silos. So travel intelligence is really about gathering this data, making it consistent, and extracting the valuable information contained within it so that we enable suppliers to deliver better service to improve their business.
In a blog post
earlier this year you mentioned Big Data as having the potential to improve the traveller experience, as travellers increasingly become the centre of interest in the industry. These days we hear the words Big Data almost every day it seems - is all the hype well deserved?
In a word, yes. A massive change is taking place at the moment in this field.
First, the amount of data which is available today is simply enormous. And this begs the question of how to make best use of it to benefit business.
The second issue is how to harness it to improve our service delivery.
But there is something else that is perhaps more important to consider: the world is growing faster than ever, with a multiplying population and strained resources, we need, now more than ever, all the support we can get from machines. We can no longer solely rely on human power leading processes to make critical decisions.
A good example to illustrate this is the credit card business, processing and managing billions of transactions every day. Banks are able to understand a person’s transactional activity in an instant as a card is assigned to an individual. They can detect whether a transaction fits into ‘normal behaviour, in which case they would accept it. If it doesn’t fit, they would introduce manual checks to decide if it was a genuine transaction, thus creating a heavy cost burden for banks. If someone has stolen a credit card and uses it in a compliant way, this will go unseen in the system - the transaction will be accepted, and the bank will lose money. But at the end of the day, the loss will be far less than the potential cost of having to put a strict control process in place.
This issue impacts all industries - there is just no feasible way to introduce human judgment into all processes. The bottom line is that we need to capitalise (and fast) on big data to improve our processes and software, empowering us all with the ability to make decisions in a faster and more reliable way. Big data is more than a buzzword - soon any company that wants to survive will have no choice but to make use of it.
What does innovation mean to you Pascal?
For me innovation is a term that means doing or creating something completely new with a certain benefit – that could be for a company or an individual. Linking innovation to travel intelligence more deliberately, it means very simply enjoying a much more personalised travel experience, driven by the ability to create custom and localised products and services.
Take this example – the traveller will often spend much of the travel experience alone – from travelling to take a flight, arriving, arranging further ground transportation, arriving at the hotel, changing currency, and so on. There is a lot of room for improvement in all of these steps, streamlining and taking the stress out of them and enhancing the ‘experience’ as a whole. Now this is where we would come in to help.
What three issues can we expect to see at the top of travellers’ agendas 5-10 years from now?
The first issue I see on the horizon is how we can really help the traveller whilst being more efficient at the same time. For example, when I book a flight to Capri, I am offered the chance to rent a car there as well, even though cars are not allowed on Capri - how can we avoid situations like this?
The second and third issues I foresee are data usage and data security. Travellers may be understandably concerned with data usage – so we need to have strong guidelines on how to manage this data, making very clear where it’s coming from, have a clear path of where the data is going, and how it will ultimately be used.
As a result of making the travel experience closer and more personal, people may have concerns about data security. IfBig Data is used incorrectly, travellers may feel that their personal lives are being impinged on.
But I see this as seeing the glass half empty or half full – there are many advantages to being able to respond to traveller information, such as providing a tailored travel experience (which is what most travellers are looking for). At the end of the day we need to establish clear rules on how we secure this data so that we minimise any concerns.
What is being done at Travel Intelligence today to plan and prepare for the innovations of tomorrow?
From a technology standpoint, we are building our TI platform in a completely innovative way compared to a classic business intelligence warehouse in order to embrace the big data world that is coming, by providing mainly service-based solutions – we believe each customer has a specific need, but already has a set of data that we need to integrate into our platform. The platform alone is not enough however - we also need a solution built specifically for the customer through a strong team composed of data scientists, and we are starting to introduce them into our industry.
This is an innovation in itself. We will not only help our customers by providing them with data and analytics, but also the capability of analysing the data in-depth – and this is a pure people skill. The next big step I see for this key TI role to prepare for the future is having a broader understanding of business aspects as well as being a data expert, and this will be the bridge between the two worlds.
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