2017 is a very important year here at dcs plus because we celebrate no less than 15 years of activity. It goes without saying that we are extremely happy and proud to have reached this point, but we also know that in a permanently changing environment one must keep up the pace with what is happening on the market (and the technology sector above all) and always find the means to attract and maintain trustworthy partners.
We have always invested time and effort into building up strong relations with our partners, that’s why in this celebratory year we decided to conduct a series of interviews with some of them, trying to find out how they see their collaboration with dcs plus.
Today, we are happy to introduce you into Amadeus’ universe, one of the most appreciated GDSs in the travel industry, our host being Mr Pawel Rek, GM Poland & Regional Manager Central Europe.
Hello Mr. Rek and thank you for agreeing to this interview. You’ve been with Amadeus for five years now. How does a typical day at the office look like for you?
I do not have what you would call a typical day because I travel a lot to fulfill my regional responsibilities, so there isn’t really a day that resembles another; but normally there’s a mix of internal and external meetings with my team and customers, plus lots and lots of coffee.
Working in the travel industry for quite as long time, but also being the GM for Poland & Regional Manager Central Europe at Amadeus, has allowed you to get to know our company. What are your impressions of our ongoing collaboration?
The collaboration started long time before I joined Amadeus and from what I heard from my colleagues, it started with a single product, with the back-office and mid-office system for the travel agencies (aka. TINA) and then evolved over the years.
When I joined Amadeus we’ve already had a mature collaboration, in fact at that time TINA was part of Amadeus portfolio, so it was Amadeus branded and sold to the customers across CESE (Central, Eastern and Southern Europe). This means that at that particular time we had a very tight partnership based on exclusivity, which in some respects was blocking us for the future.
But generally, to respond of what I think about our I perceive our ongoing collaboration as a really fruitful one. Over the years we have proved that we can work together on many projects and not only in Romania, where everything has started, but also internationally. I am satisfied with what we have achieved, and we are still achieving. I believe that we shall continue our collaboration on the same terms.
The most important change in our long-lasting partnership was the decision to resign from exclusivity-based cooperation to more flexible approach which created many new opportunities for both Amadeus and dcs plus.
We can now explore all the possibilities it brings to us and we are free to shape the collaboration model the best possible way. In spite of this shift in our relationship, I think we support each other substantially with different customers and that’s really important for me.
And also for us. Thank you for your kind words. In your opinion is there something that stands out, that recommends us as a company?
I think that the focus on the travel industry and the customers’ needs is what I see as the strongest dcs plus asset. This allows you to offer solutions - mid, back -office, but also others, covering travel-related needs, bringing real value to the travel agencies.
These products are really helping them to become even more successful.
I also believe that, the dcs plus management is of a great value for the company. We have had a good relationship over the years and we continue to have good relationships with Cristian and Andrei, which I believe is crucial for a prosperous cooperation.
Moving on to the next question: technology is obviously very important for Amadeus, so which are the most valued criteria when selecting your business partners?
Obviously, we look at the other capabilities of our partners, we look at the products they are offering to the market and we are extremely selective. Although the number of Amadeus’ partners is growing, we keep a structured approach for all our partnerships.
I also believe that, apart from the technical and functional elements, the size of the company and how it is structured, organized or managed, agile or not, trust is something that remains important in business.
We have always felt that Amadeus is going that extra mile to make sure that the tech providers are aligned with Amadeus’ future changes before they even happen. How do you manage to achieve this?
Well, first of all we have a big team of people working in research and development in a few R&D centers around the globe because, at Amadeus, we are really being focused on innovation. Between 2004 – 2016 Amadeus has invested 4.8bn EURO in R&D and has consistently been named an R&D investment leader by the European Union.
Furthermore, despite the fact that we cannot predict the future in 100%, we try to anticipate the main trends and how they will influence the travel industry. Amadeus collaborates with experts, futurologists and leading research as well as consulting institutions to see what are the potential scenarios of the future and how it may impact our business in the next years to come.
Here’s a simple example: for quite a long time we talked to our customers about mobile and how mobile will be important in order to be successful in travel. The research showed though that the attention span of the travelers using mobile applications, is even smaller than in case of the desktop users; if they will not see the search results in 3 to 5 seconds, they immediately shift to another application or website.
So, to bring the results almost instantly became something crucial for conversion and successful sales. This is why, a few years ago, in this rapidly changing environment, we started working on the instant search technology.
Amadeus is a technology provider for the whole travel ecosystem, not only for the travel agencies or the airlines, as it was at the very beginning, when the company started operations. We now have customers from all the travel industry - airports, rail providers, hotels and others.
So, we can find many synergies as well as learn from experience gained in one sector of the travel industry and evaluate how it could be applied in the other sectors. A good example of it is our Community Platform which Amadeus built for Airline industry and now we are applying a similar model to airports and rail. Ultimately, our goal is to provide seamless and best possible travel experience for our passengers on the one hand, and guarantee secure, and agile IT systems best suiting the needs of our customers, on the other.
And since we are on this topic, which are the main challenges you happen to face when working with tech providers?
There are different sort of challenges. First of all, when you work with a partner you cannot control his decisions. You must acknowledge the fact that they are independent entity, so you can only try to influence, or convince but you do not control everything. And that can sometimes be challenging.
This is true especially when both parties have different priorities. And this happens even internally, in Amadeus. We are big organization, with over 14 000 employees around the world and we sometimes are competing internally for the same resources for development and others. This can also be the case when working with partners. Sometimes, our priorities are not matching, and we need to acknowledge this and be more convincing, persistent but also patient.
And another challenge we’ve seen for quite some time now, and dcs plus is no different here, is that most of our partners are also our competitors. There is nothing wrong with this, because it is really good to have competitors on the same marketplace, as it fosters innovation and progress in general.
However, this also needs to be understood well. In most of the cases, when we partner with a tech provider, we also compete because Amadeus was focused on the core products in the past and now we are expanding to other areas to serve our customers better.
If we look at, let’s say TravList, Amadeus has Amadeus Mobile, so sometimes we may be approaching the same customers. But there is nothing wrong with this, it is quite natural.
This year you are celebrating 30 years of activity, so I believe happy anniversary is in order …
Thank you very much!
… in your opinion which technology has made the most impact on the travel industry in the last 30 years?
The internet. Definitely. The worldwide network where everything is connected, everything can be checked in a matter of seconds and where everyone has a voice and can share with the others their opinions.
In fact, internet and online sales of airlines and the travel agencies really demystified the work of the travel agent. Because previously, it was very secret knowledge. You had to know all the codes, the system was showing you availability and air fares and you were providing this to the passenger.
The world we know now is completely different. Everyone is questioning everything, and people are much more independent. Today, the travelers can check all sorts of details regarding their trip, plan it, book it and they often do not need a face-to-face interaction to do so. They also rely most on the opinions of other travelers that in fact are influencing to great extent their choices. So, the consultative role of the travel agent has diminished. We are increasingly entering into new possibilities and new use of internet when we travel - before, during and after the trip.
We are not going to ask you how you see the future of the travel industry in the next 30 years, because everything is changing so fast, but we are going to ask you how you see it in the next five years.
Travel industry overall is growing, now it represents 10% of the global GDP so it’s quite an important industry and we expect it to grow. Travelling became more accessible to more people because they can simply afford it. But also the cultural and technological shift made them want to do explore other cultures and places, and on the other end, global economy made travelling means to an end. There are also factors that are restricting travelling, like the geopolitical situation in some regions or the terrorism. However, it rather impacts certain areas or destinations, but it will not influence the need of people to travel in a mid-long term.
For a long time, we talked about business trips and how teleconferences will change the way people do business because they will not travel as much. To a certain extent it’s true, but I see this replacing the regular phone calls, correspondence or e-mails, rather than eliminating travelling because it’s still needed in the global economy.
So, we see travel industry as a one that will grow dynamically in the next years, as people are getting richer and business as well as economies are getting more interdependent. In a few years from now middle class worldwide will be taking a dominant position and especially in the emerging markets such as China, India, Brazil or Africa we will see a lot of growth. And it will be increasingly supported by technology. So, 5 years from now we will not recognize the industry because the automation will be taking over and what was sci-fi a few years ago, is becoming a science fact now.
OK, so let’s continue now with some lighter questions.
Tell us something about Amadeus that we don’t know. Something that we won’t find online or in any presentation paper.
I was thinking about that, because you already know so much about Amadeus, so I don’t think there is really anything else to say, but I lately heard that Amadeus …first of all we are really keen and looking forward to providing our products and services to the variety of players in the travel industry so I’m sure you know we are delivering IT services to airlines, airports, hotels, travel agencies etc. but perhaps you didn’t know that we also provide our software to the casinos in Las Vegas.
And this takes us to the last question: do you have any recommendations for us?
First, I would like to congratulate you on your 15-years anniversary. Well done and I wish 10 times more! As a recommendation, I think that you should stay focused on travel, that would be the first one. And the second one: continue working on those technologies which are really game-changers – where the future is.
Mainly with mobile I would say in your case. Of course, it is very important to find out the right balance between what is required and appreciated now by the customers and what will be important for the future. I realize this may seem a bit vague, but I think you know what I’m talking about.
Think carefully where to invest and invest in those projects where you see the good return in the future.