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Payment solutions, a relevant and innovative hotel solution and customer support chatbots. Those are just some of the innovations Antoine Medawar, the new Senior Vice President of Amadeus Middle East & Africa, is planning to bring to Africa in the months and years to come.
Born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, Antoine moved to France when he was just 18 years old. There, he established a successful company, which he sold to Amadeus in 2004. “That’s when I became a part of Amadeus,” he tells us.
Antoine loves and enjoys life to the fullest with his wife and dog by his side. A fan of the better things in life such as good food, good wine and good cigars, Antoine enjoys lounging by the pool, going on leisurely walks and watching the sunsets. “I’m not that much into sports. I have a feeling that after 50, sport will kill you,” he laughs.
In life as in business, Antoine is direct, honest and open. “What you see is what you get. I’m straight talk, I’m a big mouth, but I’m not sarcastic and I’m not arrogant. I like talking to people and I’m very curious.”
One thing not a lot of people know about Antoine, it’s that he loves hearing a bit of gossip from time to time.
In his new position at the helm of Amadeus Africa, Antoine has ambitious plans for the continent and says it will definitely not be ‘business as usual’.
“When there’s a change in leadership, it can never be business as usual. My priority will be to give our customers in Africa more attention and care and offer them more solutions adapted to their specific needs. I want to understand our customers; speak to them directly; and more than anything listen and listen generously, not just listen politely.”
The travel industry in Africa is booming and offers a lot of promise, according to Antoine. The middle class is rising; which has led to a significant increase in travellers on the continent. Especially big markets like Nigeria are expanding at a fast pace.
Amadeus has also noticed a big step forward in the usage of mobile in Africa with over 79% of travel research now done on mobile phones. This has led to a steady increase in online bookings with close to 50% of direct online bookings being made on mobile devices. These developments have resulted in an increase in demand for technology in the African travel industry.
“As the market leader in Africa, we at Amadeus strive to demonstrate our dedication to our customers by offering them both support and innovation,” says Antoine.
Exciting times are ahead as Amadeus will bring further innovation to Africa in many different forms. Antoine reveals Amadeus will continue to develop mobile solutions for the market as well as introduce a chatbot solution that will bring faster support to the travel agency customer.
Amadeus will be looking at specific solutions for small and medium travel agencies. Antoine explains: “There are a great number of small and medium travel agencies in Africa. They too need full attention to remain in business and stand out. We want to offer them access to solutions that are most relevant to their business.”
A new hotel solutions platform, called Amadeus Value Hotel, is on the cards. This platform with bring both great content and attractive rates, allowing travel agencies to considerably boost their revenue.
Finally, payment solutions will be a focus for Amadeus in Africa, as payment and money transfers continue to be a major challenge on the continent. These solutions will first be rolled out in Ghana and Nigeria, followed by several other countries in Africa. “Watch this space,” says Antoine.
Antoine loves the African continent, and the diversity it offers. “I’m from a region in the Middle East, where people are warm and welcoming. In Africa, I see the same welcoming attitude. People here are always optimistic: no matter how important the problem, they smile and say they will fix it. There’s also an incredible drive in Africa to move forward… that’s exactly what I love.”
What is Antoine’s message for the travel industry in Africa?
“I would like to say something very simple: thank you, thank you, thank you to all the customers who have trusted us for so many years. Whatever your size, whatever your personal objective, Amadeus will continue supporting your ambitions. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”