Musings from the Skift Tech Forum: How to empower, inspire and delight travelers

Marion Mesnage

Head of Innovation & Research

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Technology has always been fascinating, hasn’t it? Nowadays, it can enable almost anything: driverless cars, home delivery by drones, remote surgery, augmented reality in operating rooms…and many more mind-blowing creations!

As society becomes more technologically advanced, it’s increasingly important that innovation focuses on the benefits to people’s lives and businesses’ abilities. Travel is no different than any other industry. If anything, it’s even more demanding. This very special business we are in is all about emotion which is why we need to ask ourselves this question every day: how are we improving people’s ability to explore the world through travel?

Recently, I attended the Skift Tech Forumin San Francisco. This event brings together companies across hospitality, tourism, and transportation to explore how technology is driving their businesses and helping them differentiate while getting closer to their customers.

Data and customer centricity were at the top of mind. Everyone - from Expedia to Alaska Airlines to Carnival Cruise Line - is continuously exploring how to elevate the customer experience based on what they know about their customers. All speakers agreed that there’s no shortage of data – the task at hand is in how to harness it to add value at the multiple touchpoints companies have with their customers.

Artificial intelligence was also repeatedly mentioned throughout the conference. While this technology is recognized for its ability to simplify processes, several reminders were raised that the need for human intervention remains critical to ensure enhancements from technology are useful and thoughtful.

Listening to startups like TrustStamp, who are leveraging facial biometrics for identity authentication, or LocusLabs, who are creating contextual location experiences similar to Google Maps for indoor locations, was certainly inspiring. I see Amadeus with a privileged position of influencing every sector and touch point across a traveler’s journey.

Skift Research Head Haixia Wangmade a wild guess that in a year’s time there will be upwards of 4000 technology companies and growing focus on travel. It’s an industry ripe for disruption across sectors where consumers are looking for choice and willing to share their personal data provided it enhances their experience.

The importance of empowering, inspiring and delighting travelers was one of the key takeaways of the event. Alongside companies such as Google, Uber or Expedia, I got to share Amadeus’ vision on this topic on stage as well as some of the trends on the horizon with journalist Sean O’Neill.

We are indeed facing a new generation of travelers who are more empowered than ever. Fueled by their digital appetite, they expect choice, unique and seamless experiences, transparency in pricing, differentiation and personalization. At Amadeus, we are striving to empower end-to-end stress-less travel and ensure ‘peace of mind’ by removing or mitigating the inconvenience caused by unexpected problems.

So, how can companies like ours – and beyond - meet those new expectations and standards? The truth is these shifts in traveler behavior coupled with advances in technology are actually opening up a myriad of possibilities for individuals and the brands that serve them.

For example, at Amadeus, we are exploring how Artificial Intelligence can serve as a means to better inspire the traveler and help travel companies ‘know’ their customers. By modeling traveler’s choices, we can provide them with the relevant offer. Powered by this technology, we can not only better predict customer behavior but also potential disruption thus identifying actions to mitigate it.

With the number of travelers set to double by 2036, airport infrastructure will be limited – hence the need to provide quicker, secure and frictionless experiences in these spaces. That’s why, Amadeus is keeping a close eye on identity management. Imagine if your face could be your passport - you would no longer need to prove your identity repeatedly throughout the journey. We are experimenting with biometric technologyand so far, the results are encouraging. Our goal? To minimize or even remove these pain points making travel as easy as a walk in your neighborhood.

And finally, we are also looking at the Internet of Things (IoT). We’ve identified several areas where this technology can be leveraged such as connected airports, smart cities and asset tracking. For example, according to SITA, 24.8 million bags were ‘mishandled’ in 2018. There are few things which can be more frustrating for a traveler than seeing everyone else around you pick up their luggage except for you. But, with very challenge comes an opportunity. We believe IoT can help airlines and airports improve asset tracking throughout the journey.

It is hard to predict what travel will look like in ten years but one thing I am certain of is that it will be even more fascinating than it is today!