CON-X interview: Fernando Cuesta, VP Retail Western Europe at Amadeus

In this interview with Fernando Cuesta, Amadeus VP Retail Western Europe, he explains how the company is making a difference in the industry and how they manage the speed of innovation in travel.

Tell us a little bit about Amadeus 

The Amadeus Group is the leading company in technology within the travel industry. Today, the brand is present in about 190 countries, has 70 offices around the world and has over 16,000 employees.

During 2018, a total of 1,853.9 million passengers worldwide enjoyed their holidays thanks to Amadeus technology; 44% of those flight tickets were bought through travel agencies and booked through its global reservation system, which manages about 2,600 million transactions per day. The company is listed on the Spanish Stock Exchange under the symbol ‘AMS.MC’ and is a component of the IBEX 35 index.

What are your biggest business challenges for 2019?

In addition to a series of challenges for this present year, Amadeus is carrying out several key projects to boost its growth, which is critical to our medium and long-term goals. Some of them, such as the NDC-X program and the development of Amadeus travel platform, combine content from all sources, guaranteeing a simple adoption in the world market of travel distribution.

The NDC-X program is part of the evolution of Amadeus travel platform and will combine all the relevant content, regardless of its origin, to be distributed through any interface and device. As for airlines companies, we are investing in marketing and personalization solutions in order to offer improved purchasing and distribution tools, and solutions to optimize revenues.

Our efforts in the R&D also focuses on the developing next-generation cloud solutions, intelligent search engines, and self-booking tools, but also improved travel expense management systems. This all adds up to to a greater booking experience for travel distributors and companies.

On the other hand, Amadeus is constantly investing on a large scale in customer implementations and its transition to new technologies (including artificial intelligence and machine learning) and cloud services, providing a flexible and robust framework to carry out a massive deployment with high transactional and data traffic.

The security, availability and reliability of the system remain a priority for Amadeus, and are also part of the company’s investment in R&D.

What about your clients, what challenges do they have to face?

Amadeus offers travel agencies the content of more than 770 airlines (including 110 hybrid and low-cost lines), 43 car rental companies (with a total of more than 36,000 offices), 53 cruise lines, an inventory of more than 650,000 hotel establishments, 233 tour operators, 90 railway operators and 29 insurance groups with a wide range of national subsidiaries. Amadeus has also partnered with 128 airlines, to whom it provides technology for shipping management and inventory.

From that perspective, and with such a broad and diverse portfolio of clients, we could agree that the main challenge for them would be to complete the total digital transformation, which is crucial to remain competitive.

A deeper knowledge of customers is also another important aspect in which we all have to persevere; a better understanding of their customers’ needs, what inspires them, how they search for travel products and how they travel, will allow companies to better tailor their services and activities to attract new travelers. For this to be possible and allow us to move further in development, we have to make use of the data taken from the intelligent analysis and detect new opportunities.

What are the fundamental elements of your value proposition when it comes to helping customers with growth?

In terms of value proposition, we rely mainly on our expansion (we are present in 190 countries), in our global mentality and local presence, in our firm purpose of diversifying our business, and in our true passion for the search for a technology that promotes outstanding trips.

At Amadeus, we are determined to help our customers, and this is therefore, the reason why we want to offer the best technology to help grow their business. Maintaining technological leadership is of vital importance to us. The company continues to invest significantly in R&D and, in fact in 2018, we have allocated 17.8% of our revenue to this activity — an increase of 1.7% more than the previous year.

According to a report conducted by the annual European R&D on 1000 companies, Amadeus is the third Spanish company that invests most in research and development and the first in the travel industry in terms of innovation. As a matter of fact, in the last decade, it has designated more than 4.8 million euros.

Let us not forget, however, that we also have an amazing team of highly trained professionals, who are passionate about this industry and committed to the success of our customers.

Can you tell us what qualities do you look for in a potential Amadeus partnership?

In our innovation strategy, we take into account that our future success in tourism technology requires a culture of collaboration with our customers, developers, startups, and partners.

For more than 30 years, Amadeus has always bet on business collaborations. We have developed our technology side by side with other industry players, and this has allowed us to make a quantum leap forward. We value diversity, synergy and teamwork, and strive for excellence.

We are convinced that the best business relationships are base on trust, commitment, and reciprocity, which are indispensable values for us, and the reason why our ideal partners are the ones who share the same vision.

How important is technology to your business and specifically, connectivity

Our core is digital, and technology is what moves us — as we have always said since the beginning. Without technology we are nothing, but without human talent and a committed team there can be no technology, and in the search for the right balance between both, lies the success of Amadeus.

However, the future for the travel and the rest of economic activities cannot be understood without the technological revolution that is already underway. In this age of connectivity, big data, artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, robotics, Internet of Things and cloud services, are just a few of newest advances that provide a flexible and robust framework to carry out a massive deployment with high transactional traffic and data. 

As you can see, there is much more to work on, and the aforementioned changes are just some of the great challenges that lie ahead in Amadeus.

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